Legislation sponsored by Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) that aims to bring normalcy to the lives of children in Illinois’ foster system has passed the Illinois Senate.
“Part of being a kid is enjoying things like sleepovers, sports and trips to the zoo. Unfortunately, kids who are wards of DCFS have to go through a long and cumbersome process to secure permission for these types of activities,” said Radogno, “Today, we got one step closer to changing that.”
Current state law requires foster parents to get approval from the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) for children under their care to participate in various extracurricular activities. For example, to obtain permission for a sleepover, the foster parent must call their caseworker and have a background check completed for the foster child’s friend’s parents.
Radogno’s legislation, Senate Bill 3041, is based on Federal law and 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.
When Radogno’s legislation passed the Senate Human Services Committee in March, she was joined by Jeremy Harvey, a current DCFS employee that grew up in the foster system. Harvey advocated for the legislation and discussed how these restrictions 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 approval for out of state travel fast enough. These were things that were normal to me, being deprived of essential childhood experiences.”
This legislation is part of an ongoing effort to overhaul DCFS under the agency’s new director, George Sheldon. DCFS has made real progress in the last year, having 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.
Additionally, DCFS has plans to implement a number of new pilot programs throughout the state that will further reduce the use of residential facilities, and utilize mobile technology to make it easier for investigators and caseworkers to do their jobs in the field.
“There is still a great deal of work to be done as we work to overhaul DCFS, but in a short time the Department has made great strides under Director Sheldon,” said Radogno, “I look forward to continuing to be a part of this effort.”
Senate Bill 3041 passed unanimously in the Senate on April 14. It next heads to the Illinois House for consideration in that chamber.