Youth Advisory Board scores legislative victory
The DCF Youth Advisory Board is an assembly of extraordinary young people who provide the Department with great advice and policy recommendations from the viewpoint of youths that are involved in the child welfare system. They promote that youth should be given voice in their care, be afforded dignity, have their personal beliefs be respected and nurture relationships with their siblings. These concepts became reality with the passage of Public Act 19-44, An Act Concerning a Children in Care Bill of Rights and Expectations and the Sibling Bill of Rights.
Public Act 19-44, sponsored by the Youth Advisory Board, establishes a bill of rights and expectations for children placed by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) in out-of-home care. It requires each child’s caseworker to meet with the child and provide and explain these rights annually and at any time the child is placed in a new out-of-home placement. The bill also requires the caseworker to provide and explain the Sibling Bill of Rights annually and at any time the child is placed in a new out-of-home placement.
The bill gives children the right to maintain their own values and identity, including racial, sexual, religious and gender identity; visitation with parents, siblings, family and friends; and meaningful participation in their case plan and contact with their caseworker. The bill of rights also requires guardians to be respectful of the child’s goals and identity and assist them in participating in therapy sessions, building life skills, extracurricular activities, and other activities that are age appropriate for the child.
The Sibling Bill of Rights lists ways to protect the relationships of siblings separated as a result of DCF intervention. This bill of rights, which is incorporated in DCF policy, gives siblings certain rights, including the right to placement with siblings, consistent and regular contact with siblings and notification of a sibling’s change of placement.
Their initiative to provide other youths with the tools necessary to advocate for themselves by becoming knowledgeable of their rights is remarkable.