Bringing some normalcy to the lives of children in Illinois’ foster system is the goal of legislation sponsored by Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont). Radogno presented Senate Bill 3041 in the Senate Human Services Committee on March 16.
“Many kids get to go to sleepovers, participate in sports and various outings. Children who are wards of DCFS, however, have to go through a long process to secure permission for that to happen, and in many instances they are denied those experiences,” said Radogno.
Under current state law, foster parents must get approval from the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) for children under their care to participate in activities like sleepovers and visits to the zoo. The foster parent must call their caseworker and have a background check completed for the friend’s parents when they want to have a sleepover.
Senate Bill 3041, which is based on a federal law,
allows foster parents to grant permission to children under their care to enjoy extracurricular, enrichment, cultural, and social activities. It establishes that a caregiver must use the “Reasonable and Prudent Parent Standard” when granting permission.
Radogno was joined in committee by Jeremy Harvey, a current DCFS employee that grew up in the foster system, who discussed how this impacted his life growing up.
“I missed out on sporting events because authorization from the Department couldn’t get done fast enough,” said Harvey. “It meant that I couldn’t go on my eighth grade trip to Washington DC because I couldn’t get out of state travel fast enough. These were things that were normal to me, being deprived of essential childhood experiences.”
Radogno’s legislation is part of a larger effort to overhaul DCFS under the agency’s new Director George Sheldon. In the last year, the agency has reduced the number of youth in shelter care by more than 50 percent. DCFS also currently has the fewest number of youth in residential facilities in recent history, an accomplishment Radogno says is a testament to their work to ensure that youth are in the least restrictive, most appropriate placements possible.
“While there’s still so much left to do, the Department has made great strides in a short amount of time,” said Radogno.
DCFS plans to implement a number of new pilot programs throughout the state that will further reduce the use of residential facilities, and harness the power of mobile technology to make it easier for investigators and caseworkers to do their jobs in the field.
Senate Bill 3041 was approved by the Senate Human Services Committee on March 16. It next heads to the Senate floor for consideration from the full Senate.