Delaware Public Media
A new foster children’s ‘bill of rights’ will be given to kids entering the system under new legislation adopted Wednesday.
Gov. Jack Markell (D) signed the bill that includes provisions that ensure kids in the foster system have regular access to their caseworker and are protected from retaliation when reporting any violations of their rights.
Former state Rep. Michael Barbieri (D-Newark) sponsored the bill and says many of the 14 listed rights were happening in practice.
But Barbieri says making it official in state law shows kids they have a say in carving their path through life.
“A lot of these young people have felt like they’ve just been abused and dumped on the system and have no control over their life,” said Barbieri. “This says you do have control and you do have a part in the decision making, so I think it helps to make them feel better about themselves and, hopefully, see how they can direct their future.”
The plan was developed with the Delaware Youth Advisory Council, a group formed by current and former foster care children.
In his talks with the council, Barbieri also notes more needs to be done to reduce turnover within the system, though he won’t return to the General Assembly in January after assuming his new duties as head of the state Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.
“Many of these young people, when you talk to them, have been bounced around from house to house to house, saying they may have gone through ten or more families in their history and that’s ridiculous and that’s unacceptable, so we have to figure out a way that we can reduce the number of moves,” Barbieri said.
The bill signing was held in front of the Delaware Youth Advisory Council’s annual meeting at Delaware State University.