The Indiana Department of Child Services is one of four groups in the country selected to participate in a new pilot project to reach out to non-resident fathers whose children are involved in the child welfare system.
DCS, in collaboration with Indiana Fathers and Families Center and the Indiana University School of Social Work, will receive nearly $500,000 in each of the next four years from the Administration of Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The project will be piloted in Marion County and is designed to bring non-resident fathers – those not living within Marion County limits – into a relationship with their children in the state’s child welfare system, said Jeff Lozer, spokesperson for DCS. The project aims to learn whether fathers can be re-engaged to support their children through an extensive curriculum, support, research, and evaluation.
The fathers can be living in Indiana or out-of-state, and typically the children will be in Marion County if they are wards of the state.
“Our target is to try to get 120 fathers re-engaged” by the end of the project, Lozer said.
The project is still in its infancy, and he isn’t sure what the curriculum will entail and the means by which the information will be transmitted. The DCS will contact extended-family members who have relatives in the child welfare system to identify the missing fathers.
By re-engaging fathers, the department is hopeful it can increase the number of families reunified, but Lozer stressed reunification would happen only if the child would be placed in a safe home.