Legislature Passes Foster Care Bill of Rights
Did you know there are more than 13,000 children in Missouri’s foster care system? While they may come from different backgrounds and have faced different challenges, they’ve all experienced the pain of being separated from their families. These children deserve to grow up in a safe, loving and nurturing home, and that’s exactly what foster care tries to provide while a child’s biological parents receive the help and services they need to regain custody.
I believe the state has a duty to give kids in our foster care system the ability to have, as much as can be, a normalized childhood and to be involved in the discussions about their future. In 2016, I sponsored legislation to better achieve these goals. Although my bill didn’t cross the finish line, I’m pleased to say this year a different measure to improve the lives of Missouri’s foster children did make it to the governor’s desk and has been signed into law.
Among other provisions, Senate Bill 160 establishes the Foster Care Bill of Rights, which takes particular care to highlight the importance of familial stability and relationships and states that the best interests of the child shall be the first priority of the Children’s Division in all circumstances. It also requires the Children’s Division to work with each child to develop a permanency plan and a case plan within 12 months of the child’s entrance into state custody. The permanency plan includes the child’s immediate and long-term placement goals, while the case plan addresses a child’s specific medical and emotional needs.
In addition, SB 160 allows foster children who are at least 12 years old to attend any hearings pertaining to their placement, custody or care. This will provide older children with the opportunity to have more direct involvement in the critical decisions impacting their lives. The measure also requires the Foster Care Bill of Rights to be made available to every school-aged foster child and his or her foster parent with an age-appropriate orientation and explanation, as well as posted in every facility or agency involved in the care and placement of foster children.
As always, please feel free to call, email, or write with your ideas or concerns. My Capitol office number is (573) 751-1415, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org and my mailing address is Room 332, State Capitol Building, Jefferson City, MO 65101.
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