Gov. Rick Scott signs foster care bill backed by advocates

04/11/2013 4:28 PM

04/11/2013 4:29 PM

Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday signed a bill that will help children in the foster care system lead a more normal life.

Surrounded by legislators, advocates and dozens of kids who either are or have been in foster care, the governor said that “foster parents who apply the reasonable and prudent parent standard will be able to give their foster children permission to join a soccer team, ride in the car with their best friend — some of the things we all take for granted ... without state involvement.

“As a father and now grandfather,” Scott said, “I know how important it is for children to experience things outside of the home, develop relationships and learn skills that are imperative for developing independence, like driving a car.”

The idea, Scott said, “is to let kids be kids.”

SB 164, signed during Children’s Week at the Capitol, allows licensed caregivers to make decisions based on the standard of what a “reasonable and prudent parent” would do. Foster care parents would be entrusted to decide whether a child could go to the beach, or the mall or sleep over at a friend’s house instead of needing a court order, background checks or the input of a case worker.

Of the state’s nearly 19,000 kids in foster care, about 9,000 live in foster care homes or group homes.

“Too many times our network of DCF (Department of Children and Families) and community-based care just puts all these controls over kids,” said DCF Secretary David Wilkins. “A child under state’s care ought to have every right that every other kid has. That’s what this bill does.”

The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, and Rep. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula. Detert said it reflects “the wishes of foster care kids themselves and guardian ad litems.”

Manushka Gilet, 17, one of more than two-dozen members of the foster care advocacy group Florida Youth Shine at the news conference, said the law “will make a big difference in our lives.”

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