OLR Research Report


December 29, 2009

 

2009-R-0464

STATES WITH FOSTER CHILDREN'S BILLS OF RIGHTS

By: Susan Price, Senior Legislative Attorney

You asked us to compare Connecticut's foster children's bill of rights with similar statutes from other states.

In addition to Connecticut, we found two states (California and Florida) that have passed statutes enumerating rights of children in state care. A third state (Texas) has a comprehensive bill that passed the Senate and is currently before the House. Table 1 compares bill of rights provisions side by side. If a state does not have an equivalent provision, its cell is designated “N/A.” Copies of the laws and bill are attached.

Although we found no other statutory children's bills of rights, many of the provisions listed in Table 1 are mandated by state and federal law, regulation, or policy, but have not been consolidated into a statutory bill of rights.

Table 1: Comparison of State's Foster Children's Bill's of Rights

 

 

CALIFORNIA

(Welfare and Institution Code 16001.9)

CONNECTICUT

(CGS 17a-16)

FLORIDA

(Title V 39.4805)

TEXAS

(SB 1052)

Health & Safety

To a safe, healthy, and comfortable home where the child is treated with respect

To be free from physical, sexual, emotional, or other abuse or corporal punishment

To humane and dignified treatment at all times, with full respect for personal dignity and the right to privacy, consistent with the child's treatment plan as determined by the Department of Children and Families commissioner

To be given a copy of the bill of rights and to have the child's rights explained every time he or she moves to a different placement

To enjoy individual dignity, liberty, pursuit of happiness, and the protection of the child's civil and legal rights as persons in the custody of the state

To live in a safe, healthy, and comfortable home where the child is treated with respect

To be free from physical, sexual, emotional, and other abuse, including corporal punishment and any form of discipline that humiliates or demeans the child

N/A

To receive adequate and healthy food and adequate clothing

N/A

To receive adequate and healthy food

To receive and keep adequate clothing suitable to the child's age and size and comparable to the clothing of other children in the community

Protective Services

N/A

N/A

To have service providers who are sufficiently qualified and experienced to assess the risk children face prior to removal from their homes and to meet their needs once they are in the custody of the child protection agency

To have the child's photograph and fingerprints included in the case management file

To remain in the custody of the child's parents or legal custodians unless a qualified person exercising competent professional judgment determines that removal is necessary to protect the child's physical, mental, or emotional health or safety

To be placed in a home where the shelter or foster caregiver is aware of and understands the child's history, needs, and risk factors

To be placed in a home with no more than one other child, unless he or she is part of a sibling group

N/A

N/A

N/A

To be the subject of a plan developed by the counselor and the shelter or foster caregiver to deal with identified behaviors that may present a risk to the child or others

To be placed away from other children known to pose a threat of harm to the child, either because of the child's own risk factors, or those of another child

N/A

Property Protections

To have storage space for private use

To not be deprived of any personal property or civil rights except in accordance with due process of law

To have the child's property protected and have his or her belongings transported with the child

To have a private space in the home or facility to store the child's personal belongings

To not be subjected to unreasonable searches of personal belongings

N/A

N/A

N/A

To receive information about the child's foster parent or other foster care provider consistent with his or her age and developmental level

To receive care and treatment in the least restrictive environment that is most like a family setting, consistent with the best interests of the child

Social Contacts

To have social contact with people outside of the foster care system, such as teachers, church members, mentors, and friends

N/A

N/A

N/A

 

 

CALIFORNIA

(Welfare and Institution Code 16001.9)

CONNECTICUT

(CGS 17a-16)

FLORIDA

(Title V 39.4805)

TEXAS

(SB 1052)

Disability Protections

N/A

N/A

N/A

If the child has a disability, to be informed, in writing, of the name; existence; purpose; telephone number; and address of the state's protection and advocacy system established under the applicable federal developmental disability laws for the purpose of advocating for and protecting the rights of people with that disability

Education

To attend school and participate in extracurricular, cultural, and personal enrichment activities consistent with the child's age and developmental level

N/A

To receive a free and appropriate education and have necessary information shared between the child protection agency and school board, including information on attendance and educational progress

To have minimal disruption to the child's education and remain at his or her home school

To attend school and participate in sports, clubs, and other school-related extracurricular activities consistent with the child's age and developmental level

To the extent possible, to have minimal disruption in the child's education, including the right to attend the same school if placed with an alternative foster care provider unless otherwise ordered by the court

N/A

N/A

To be referred to the a child study team, if appropriate, to determine the child's needs

To receive all special education services, including, where appropriate, the appointment of a surrogate parent

If the child participates in a special education program, to meet and consult with the surrogate parent assigned to the child in accordance with federal law, regarding his or her individualized education program prior to each admission; review; and dismissal committee meeting

 

Outside Contacts

To contact family members unless prohibited by court order and social workers, attorneys, foster youth advocates and supporters, court-appointed special advocates, and probation officers

To be permitted to communicate with any individual, group, or agency consistent with his or her treatment objectives as determined by the DCF commissioner

To receive regular communication with a caseworker, at least once a month, which includes meeting with the child alone and conferring with the shelter or foster caregiver

To communicate with caseworkers; judges; attorneys; court-,appointed special advocates; foster parents; and other providers in the child's primary language, including in sign language

N/A

N/A

To organize as a group to ensure that the child receives the services and living conditions to which he or she is entitled and to provide support for other group members while in the custody of the department protection agency

To participate in an organization that advocates for or on behalf of foster youth

       

To participate in community activities, including recreational and social activities, consistent with the child's age and developmental level

Permanency

N/A

N/A

To receive meaningful case management and planning that will quickly return the child to his or her family or move the child on to other forms of permanency

N/A

Phone Calls and Letters

N/A

To be provided with writing materials and postage

N/A

N/A

To make and receive confidential telephone calls and send and receive unopened mail unless prohibited by court order

To make and receive phone calls to or from the child's attorneys at any reasonable time

To send and receive unopened mail unless a judge orders otherwise; To make phone calls at reasonable times unless a judge orders otherwise

To make and receive confidential telephone calls and receive unopened mail unless prohibited by court order or the child's caseworker or a department supervisor determines that it is not in the child's best interest and the caseworker or supervisor, as applicable, includes the reason for that determination is the child's case records

Restraint and Seclusion

N/A

To have DCF adopt regulations for each facility concerning (1) the use of restraints, seclusion, and force; (2) when DCF can intercept and return unopened mail; and (3) when the agency head can restrict telephone calls

N/A

To not be physically restrained for longer than one minute unless other less restrictive behavioral interventions have been unsuccessful and restraint is necessary to: (1) prevent substantial physical harm or imminent, probable death to the child; (2) imminent physical harm to another person; or (3) administer medication or provide medical treatment prescribed by a physician

To not be physically restrained for any period (1) as punishment, retribution, retaliation; or discipline; (2) to obtain compliance from the child; (3) for the convenience of the foster parent or other foster care provider; or (4) as a substitute for effective treatment or rehabilitation

Restraint and Seclusion (cont.)

To not be locked in any room, building, or facility premises, unless placed at a community treatment facility

N/A

N/A

To not be locked or otherwise confined in any room, building, or facility or placed in an area where the child is physically prevented from leaving unless the confinement or restriction is based on the written orders of a psychiatrist, psychologist, or physician or is used in an emergency in accordance with the department's minimum standards for emergency behavior interventions

Special Visitors

N/A

To receive clergymen and attorneys at any reasonable time

To have the child's guardian ad litem and attorney given immediate and unlimited access to the child they represent

To have all of the child's records available for review by his or her guardian ad litem and attorney ad litem if they deem it necessary

N/A

Non-Discrimination

To not be subjected to discrimination or harassment on the basis of actual or perceived race, ethnic group identification, ancestry, national origin, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, mental or physical disability, or HIV status

To not be denied employment; housing; civil service rank; any license or permit, including a professional license; or any other civil or legal right, solely because of a present or past placement with DCF except as provided by statute

N/A

To be free from discrimination or harassment on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, or HIV status

Health Care and Medication

N/A

To counsel of the child's own choice and his or her right to receive visits from physicians and mental health professionals as may be arranged by counsel

To have a guardian ad litem appointed to represent, within reason, the child's best interests and, where appropriate, an attorney appointed to represent the his or her legal interests;

To request an attorney or guardian ad litem be appointed to represent the child if he or she is not already represented

To be appointed an attorney who is competent and provides zealous representation of the child's interests, and to meet, in person, with his or her attorney before each hearing involving the child

To receive medical, dental, vision, and mental health services

To be free of the administration of medication or chemical substances unless authorized by a physician

N/A

To have a full risk, health, educational, medical, and psycho- logical screening and, if needed, assessment and testing upon adjudication into foster care

To be offered prompt access to all available state and federal programs, including, but not limited to: Early Periodic Screening Diagnostic and Testing and developmental services, Medicare and supplementary security income, Children's Medical Services, and programs for severely emotionally disturbed children

To not be unnecessarily or excessively medicated

To receive appropriate medical, dental, vision, and mental health services

If the child is at least age 14, to request a medical review of his or her, medical care, including a review of the medications prescribed to the child and to receive a copy of the results of any medical review

Health Care and Medication (cont.)

N/A

N/A

N/A

To be informed before the child is age 16 that the child may request a court hearing to determine if the child has the capacity to consent to medical care

If the child is at least age 16, to consent to all or some medical care, as authorized by the court

N/A

To a fair hearing before being involuntarily transferred from DCF to an out-of-state facility

N/A

To not be admitted as a voluntary inpatient to a mental health facility unless the child consents

Family Visitation

To visit and contact brothers and sisters, unless prohibited by court order

N/A

To enjoy regular visitation, at least once a week, with the child's siblings unless the court orders otherwise

To enjoy regular visitation with the child's parents, at least once a month unless the court orders otherwise

To never be denied contact or visitation with siblings or other family members as a form of discipline

 

Religion

To attend religious services and activities of the child's choice

N/A

N/A

To attend religious services and activities of the child's choice

Personal Finances

For youth living in group homes, to have an allowance

To maintain an emancipation bank account and manage personal income, consistent with the child's age and developmental level, unless prohibited by the case plan

N/A

N/A

To receive an age-appropriate allowance, in an amount determined by the foster parent or other foster care provider, to develop money management skills, using money from the foster care payments made by the department for the care of the child

To maintain a personal bank account and manage personal income consistent with the child's age and developmental level unless prohibited by the child's service plan

Permanency Planning

To be involved and incorporated, where appropriate, in the development of the case plan, to have a case plan which will address their specific needs, and to object to any provisions of the case plan

To review the child's own case plan if he or she is over age 12 and to receive information about his or her out-of-home placement, care, treatment, and benefits

N/A

N/A

If the child is at least age 12, to participate in the development of his or her service plan and permanency plan

N/A

 

N/A

N/A

If the child is at least age 12, to review and receive information regarding his or her service plan and permanency plan including any changes made to the plans

Siblings

N/A

N/A

N/A

To be placed in foster care with the child's siblings unless that placement is not in the best interests of the child or the child's siblings

To regularly visit and regularly contact siblings and to regularly contact other family members, unless prohibited by court order or the child's caseworker or a department supervisor determines that it is not in the child's best interests and the caseworker or supervisor, as applicable, includes the reason for that determination in the child's case records

N/A

N/A

N/A

If a sibling of the child is not placed in foster care with the child, to be informed in writing of the name, address, and telephone number of the home or facility in which the sibling is placed, unless prohibited by court order or the child's caseworker or a department supervisor determines that is in not in the child's best interests and the caseworker or supervisor as applicable includes the reason for that determination in the child's case record

Court Attendance

To attend court hearings and speak to the judge

N/A

To be heard by the court, if appropriate, at all review hearings

To attend court hearings that affect conservatorship or placement including status; permanency; and placement review hearings

If the child is at least age 14, to remain in the courtroom during a court hearings that affect him or her

Regardless of the child's age, to speak privately to the judge at court hearings that affect the conservatorship or placement of the child

Preparation for Aging Out

To work and develop job skills at an age-appropriate level, consistent with state law

To attend Independent Living Program classes and activities if the child meets age requirements

N/A

N/A

To work and develop job skills consistent with the child's age in accordance with state and federal law

To attend classes and receive other services provided under the Preparation for Adult Living Program

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