Rick Scott Bill-Signing Lets Foster Kids Be Kids

By: DAVE HELLER AND NANCY SMITH | Posted: April 11, 2013 2:40 PM

Rep. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula | Credit: Dave HellerHide
Foster children in Florida have to live by different rules than a typical kid. They can’t just go to the beach with friends, without getting approval from the state, or they can’t join a soccer team without consulting their case manager.

The children and their foster parents thought the rules went too far.

That all changed today as House Bill 215, the “Normalcy Bill,” became law.

Gov. Rick Scott and first lady Ann Scott were joined on Thursday by Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins, foster child advocate Tanya Wilkins, Guardian Ad Litem Executive Director Alan Abramowitz, Rep. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, and Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters to sign the bill that reduces rules and regulations currently limiting the activity of children in foster care.

“When children are alone and against the world, foster parents give them time to rebuild their lives. Foster parents provide needed structure, a listening ear for a hurt soul, and help our children get ready for the real world,” said Tanya Wilkins, Florida’s advocate for foster care and adoption. “These changes will allow foster parents to encourage sports and music, slumber parties or even part-time jobs – activities that build self-esteem, develop friendships and help define a child.”

Said Scott, “Florida families have always been my top priority, and I believe that this legislation will help foster families and group homes become an even stronger family setting.”
Around the State

Foster children and their parents also gathered at the state Capitol to celebrate the legislation.

Albritton said Florida tried to bubble-wrap foster children into a prison of safety and they could not lead normal lives.

The new law encourages foster parents to make choices under a new standard called “reasonable and prudent,” that will make it easier for them to participate in normal activities.

Albritton said Florida’s foster system is changed forever.

“Today is the beginning of a new day. It’s the beginning of a new freedom and a new opportunity for kids to be able to live their lives to the maximum like they’re supposed to be able to do.”

Said Detert, “You don’t want the words ‘foster care’ stamped on your head. You don’t want to be a foster care kid. You just want to be a regular kid and this bill will help you do that.”

Scott said he has his own name for the bill. “I’ve heard this bill can be called many different names from the Quality Parenting Act to the Permission to Parent Act. However, I think the right title should be the ‘Let Kids be Kids Bill.”

Sponsors Albritton and Detert credited children and parents in the foster system for coming up with the idea for the legislation.

There are about 4,000 families across Florida caring for 8,000 foster children.

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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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