Hickernell Bill Making it Easier for Foster Children to Participate in Out-of-Home Activities Passes House
HARRISBURG – Today, legislation authored by Rep. Dave Hickernell (R-Lancaster/Dauphin) to benefit foster children was approved by the House of Representatives. The bill would authorize the caregivers of children and youth who are in out-of-home placement (i.e., foster care) to approve or disapprove their foster child’s participation in age-appropriate extracurricular, family and social activities without prior approval or disapproval of that participation from the county child welfare agency, private placement agency, or the court.
House Bill 477, known as the Activities and Experiences for Children in Out-of-Home Placement Act, is designed to help children and youth who are in Pennsylvania’s foster care system live more normal lives.
“Children in foster care are entitled to and should be encouraged to participate in activities that offer opportunities for healthy childhood and adolescent development,” Hickernell said. “However, things that other children take for granted, such as playing on an athletic team, joining the marching band, going on a field trip, getting a driver’s license learner’s permit, or going on a family vacation are often difficult to arrange for children in foster care because of the need for prior, formal approval from the county child welfare agency or private agency that has legal custody of the child.”
In many instances, by the time formal approval makes its way through the chain-of-command bureaucracy, it’s too late for the child to participate in the event or activity. Other times, the steps necessary to gain that formal approval can alienate the child’s friends or their families, further stigmatizing the child.
This legislation would empower caregivers in out-of-home placements (i.e., foster parents) to make those day-to-day decisions regarding their foster child’s participation in such activities without prior approval from the county child welfare agency, a private agency, or the court, provided that the caregiver’s decision is based on a “reasonable and prudent parental standard” and provided that the decision is in accordance with all court orders, Individual Service Plans and Family Service Plans.
“I have long been an advocate for measures to assist foster children and foster parents,” Hickernell said. “Adoption and encouraging adoption is something that we should do as a community, but ensuring these parents and children can interact with others without any stigma brings our communities closer together.”
Representative Dave Hickernell
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Charles Lardner