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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Scott signs foster care bill to give kids more normal lives



Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday signed a bill that will help children in the foster care system lead a more normal life.

Surrounded by legislators, advocates, and dozens of kids who are either now or have been in foster care, the governor said that under this new law, "foster parents who apply the reasonable and prudent parent standard will be able to give their foster children permission to join a soccer team, ride in the car with their best friend -- some of the things we all take for granted -- take a trip to the beach without state involvement.

"As a father and now grandfather," Scott said, "I know how important it is for children to experience things outside of the home, develop relationships and learn skills that are imperitive for developing independence, like driving a car. Currently, only 3 percent of 18-year-old children who leave foster care do so with a driver's license, Scott said.

The idea, he said "is to let kids be kids."

SB 164, signed during Children’s Week at the Capitol, entrusts licensed caregivers to decide whether a child could go to the beach, or the mall or sleep over at a friend’s house instead of needing a court order, background checks or the input of a case worker.  

Of the state’s nearly 19,000 kids in foster care, about 9,000 live in foster care homes or group homes.

“Too many times our network of DCF (Department of Children and Families) and community-based care just puts all these controls over kids,” said DCF Secretary David Wilkins. “A child under state’s care ought to have every right that every other kid has. That’s what this bill does.”

Wilkins said the new law will make it easier for kids to participate in extracurricular activities and allow foster parents to "take kids to all their sporting events, dance classes and all their afterschool events, take them on vacations and field trips and not feel they have to go to court to get approvals or do background checks on people. ... Teenagers who want to go on a sleepover don't want to be ostracized from their friends, knowing that their friends are going to be background checked before they go over there."

The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, and Rep. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula. Detert said it reflects “the wishes of foster care kids themselves and guardian ad litems.”

Manushka Gilet, 17, one of more than two dozen members of the foster care advocacy group Florida Youth Shine who attended the pres conference, said the law "will make a big difference in our lives."

[Last modified: Thursday, April 11, 2013 4:22pm]


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