Ways and Means Leader Urges Focus on Normalcy for Foster Youth

A group of Congressmen on the House Ways and Means Committee urged state child welfare administrators to find ways to normalize the lives of foster youth, and hinted at the prospect of federal legislation to address the issue.

“We recognize the paramount need for safety for children in care, but our quest for safety should not stifle the normal development of young people,” said a letter to the administrators, signed by Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Human Resources, and 10 other members of the subcommittee.

The letter was born of a May subcommittee hearing in which foster youths and child welfare leaders discussing policies that limited the opportunities of children in foster care, who are often precluded from the activities of other youths due to privacy and liability concerns.

“We tie the hands of foster parents by over-regulating for safety and restrictive interpretations of those safety regulations,” said one of the witnesses, Irene Clements, president of the National Foster Parent Association. “We must balance safety with opportunity in order to get to child well-being.”

Reichert’s letter notes playing organized sports, sleeping over at friends’ houses, going to summer camp and getting a driver’s license among the list of things he was surprised to hear were often unavailable to foster youth.

The subcommittee also heard from Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins about a recently passed state law that rewrote foster care licensing to allow for more youth participation in activities.

Reichert closed the letter by urging state administrators to read the testimony, and also welcomed them to provide input on “how federal laws or policies could better promote access to normal activities for young people in care.”

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