Improving the lives of foster children

The Senate Human Services Committee advanced legislation this week intended to infuse some normalcy into the lives of children in Illinois’ foster system.

Senate Bill 3041 was introduced by Leader Radogno to make it easier for foster kids to participate in commonplace extracurricular activities, like sleepovers, sports-related functions and other social outings.

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 parents must call their caseworker and have a background check completed for the friends’ parents when they want to have a sleepover. Proponents of the legislation explained it can be a long process to secure permission for their wards to participate in these types of experiences, and in many instances those requests are denied.

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’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.

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 Human Services Committee on March 16 and next heads to the full Senate for consideration.

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