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Community leaders seek improved support of foster kids in Indiana

Advocates hope their proposal will set the stage for required legal representation for foster children.

INDIANAPOLIS — Community leaders are pushing for change across the state to offer better support for foster kids in Indiana.

"You could really set them up for success if they give them all the tools they need to develop agency and independence," said Josh Oswald.

Oswald and Alex Oleson with the nonprofit All in Fostering Futures are hoping a bill they are working on will set the stage in Indiana to require legal representation for foster children. 

"These young people navigating the foster system, we need to put them in the driver's seat of their own lives and their own plan where they are going to go when they age out of foster care," Oswald, the organization's director of strategic partnerships.

Currently, foster children in Indiana have access to court-appointed special advocates and guardians but have to request legal representation. Oleson said having an attorney can make it easier for young people to navigate the system.

"Without legal representation, it can be really hard for young people to get their legal documents, their birth certificates, their social security card, even the file for their case," said Oswald. 

RELATED: More Indiana homes prepare to host foster children; statewide need remains high

Oswald is a former foster child. It took him three years to obtain his legal documents. He believes he could have found a permanent home faster if he had known his rights.

Credit: WTHR

"When I was growing up in foster care, I never knew I could request an attorney," he said. 

A lawyer could amplify the child's voice in ways an advocate cannot.

RELATED: Thousands of kids await Indiana foster homes: Here's how you can help

"Youth voice is important," Oleson said. "It's important to ask a young person what they want and help achieve that." 

In the U.S., 20,000 foster kids age out annually without a place to call home. One in four become homeless. Oleson believes this bill becoming law could make a huge impact.

"Everyone wants to feel loved and needs positive people around them to support them," said Oleson. 

There is more information here about the mission of  All In Fostering Futures. 

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