LANSING — A bill introduced by state Rep. Terry J. Sabo (D-Muskegon) as part of a three-bill package addressing foster children needs passed out of the House Judiciary Committee last week. The bipartisan package would create the Children’s Assurance of Quality Foster Care Policy, effectively creating a foster children’s bill of rights. This is Rep. Sabo’s first bill to pass out of committee.

 “I spent 25 years as a police officer and firefighter in Muskegon Heights,” said Rep. Sabo. “As a first responder, one of my many responsibilities was to escort and assist child protective service staff when removing children. These kids were often fearful and deeply traumatized. I know from firsthand experience that despite these hardships, they are often their own best advocate if they have a full understanding of the system. That’s why this package is so important.”

Many former foster children, now adults, testified that a bill of rights for children was needed. Some of the provisions in HB 5121 include:

  • Placement with relatives and siblings when appropriate.
  • Inventory and security of the foster child’s personal belongings.
  • Access to advocacy services for children in foster care with disabilities.
  • Timely enrollment in school with consistent placement in the same school.
  • Access to necessary medical, emotional, psychological, psychiatric and educational evaluations and treatment.
  • Access to food, necessities, shelter including special dietary needs, school supplies, clothing and hygiene products.

Fourteen other states have passed laws in some version reflective of this effort.

“It is critical that every effort be made to ensure the safety and well-being of children in the foster care system,” said Rep. Sabo. “That includes taking steps to fully inform children and youth about their care and what rights they’re entitled to, and providing them with opportunities to express their wishes. I am hopeful this package is taken up quickly on the floor so it can move forward in the legislative process.”