Foster-parent bill ‘lets kids be kids’

By Jennifer Curington, Tallahassee Bureau

TALLAHASSEE—Foster parents can now “let kids be kids,” in the words of Gov. Rick Scott, who Thursday signed a bill freeing these parents from restrictions that saw them sometimes have to go to court over something as minor as a change in hairstyle or signing up for a soccer team.

HB 215 allows foster parents to make decisions for their foster child based on a “reasonable and prudent parent” standard. The bill also removes parental liability if their foster child is injured while taking part in age-appropriate activities, such as riding a bike.

“This new law recognizes the importance of allowing children in foster care the ability to take part in everyday activities without the involvement of case managers, provider agencies or the court system,” Scott said.

“I’ve heard this bill can be called many different names…however I think the right title should be the ‘Let Kids Be Kids’ bill.”

Currently, foster parents must go to court to get permission for things such as a new haircut or signing up for sports to make sure that the child’s biological parent approves, according to Glen Casel, CEO of Community Based Care of Central Florida. Casle said foster parents have more discretion if a biological parent is not in the picture. But, even with that leniency, things such as out of state trips must be approved by the court, he added.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, and Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, and unanimously passed both the House and Senate. It takes effect July 1.

“Floridians, foster care folks, kids in the foster care system…today is the beginning of a new day. It’s the beginning of a new freedom and new opportunity for kids to be able to live their lives to the maximum, like they’re supposed to be able to do ,” Albritton said.

Cole Carritz from Carabelle went into the foster care system at age 15 and has since aged out. Before Scott signed the bill, Carritz told the crowd that had gathered how important it is to feel like a normal child.

“Foster parents have given me a life I only knew in books and movies,” Carritz said. “I was placed with a really good woman and she had two sons already. Within two weeks I started calling her mom…I was able to learn a lesson that it is not the quantity of time, but rather the quality of time you spend with a child.”

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Alexia Nechayev

FYS Events & Meeting Chair
(Palm Beach)

Hello, My name is Alexia Nechayev. I am 25 years old and I am an alumna of Florida International University where I received my B.A. in Psychology. My future career goal is to be a Lawyer. I was in care for about one year from age 17 to 18. Prior to entering care, I only knew about the negative stigma regarding foster care and while in care that narrative was unfortunately my experience.

In school I felt like I was on display because my status in care was broadcast to other students and in my placement behavior was leveraged for “privileges” that should be a natural right of all children. Because I did not know my rights I did not know that what I was experiencing was wrong. Today this is exactly why I advocate, because I don’t want this to be the same for other youth who are experiencing foster care.

This is my second year on the FYS Statewide Board and I’m happy to be the Events and Meetings Chair this year because my main goal through advocacy is to reach as many people as possible. My favorite thing as a board member is to see how comfortable members become while working together. The community needs to know that youth in foster care are real people, going through some of the hardest moments of their life and youth need to know that their voice is powerful. I believe that we have to speak up and bring these issues to people’s attention so that they do not forget us. Advocacy, education and consistency is the only way.

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