A new bill in Arizona would bolster the state’s commitment to prioritize placing foster youth with kin and strengthen the rights afforded to youth in foster care.
Senate Bill 1186, introduced by Republican state Sen. Ken Bennett, would add language to existing legislation outlining foster parent rights to ensure that kinship caregivers receive the same protections. It states that foster and kinship parents must be informed when adoptive parents are being sought for a child currently or formerly in their care. It also grants all children the right to live in kinship settings when doing so is in their best interest.
Arizona has dramatically increased its use of kinship care in recent years, in keeping with the widely accepted belief that children separated from their parents do best when they can stay with family. The percentage of Arizona foster youth living with relatives has spiked by 20% — from 32% in 2010 to 52% in 2020, according to data collected by The Imprint — significantly higher than the national average of 36%.
The bill would add new rights for youth in foster care, including the right to live as close as possible to their siblings, the right to participate in extracurricular activities and protection from “unauthorized discipline methods.” It lowers the age at which youth in foster care can participate in transition planning and services, like career training and adult life skills classes, from 16 to 14.
It would also enshrine children’s rights to receive medical and dental care, and be represented by an attorney in all foster care proceedings.
The bill also outlines rights for birth families to be informed of any allegation against them, have an attorney present during child welfare investigations, and refuse to submit to a home inspection, drug test or mental health evaluation barring a court order.