Child welfare system moves to build on safety progress
Haag praises ‘Let Kids be Kids’ bill signed by governor
Apr 12, 2013
By MARGIE MENZEL
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

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TALLAHASSEE (NSF) – The state foster care system is about to loosen up a little on kids who want to live more normal lives, but may soon also offer more protection to those nervous of stepping out of its protective wrap.

Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday signed “Let Kids be Kids” legislation that is aimed at reducing bureaucratic hoops for foster kids and their families who would no longer need approval for certain activities enjoyed by other kids.

Meanwhile, a Senate committee unanimously passed a bill (SB 1036) extending foster care to age 21 to avoid simply throwing out some kids who still feel they need some protection.

“I’m in foster care because I was sexually abused for four or five years by my father, so interacting with people can be really difficult for me,” Manushka Gilet told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services. “And it’s scary to know that in just a few months, I’m going to be 18 and I’m just going to be – alone.”

Gilet was speaking for the bill extending foster care to 21. If it passes, foster kids could still “age out” of state care at 18 if they choose, but they could also stay. The bill now goes to the Senate floor.

Gov. Rick Scott gives a pen to Sen. Nancy Detert after signing her bill, the Quality Parenting for Children in Foster Care Act. Rep. Ben Albritton, the House sponsor looks on. NSF photo by Margie Menzel
“Your future is incredibly, incredibly bright,” Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, told several young advocates. “Keep proving all the people wrong throughout your whole life who told you that this day wouldn’t happen.”

Children who have long been marginalized were also the focus at Scott’s bill-signing ceremony for what many lawmakers called the “normalcy bill” (HB 215/SB 164). It allows foster parents to use their own judgment on extracurricular activities for the kids in their care. Before, state concerns about liability kept foster kids from driving a car or taking trips with their families, classmates or teams.

First Lady Ann Scott was on hand for its signing and made a plea for more foster parents.

“The sacrifices foster parents make are great, but the rewards are even greater,” she said. “I encourage more Floridians to consider sharing their homes and their hearts with children in need.”

Related Coverage:

2013 Legislative Session

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