LANSING — State Rep. Terry J. Sabo’s (D-Muskegon) first bill to win House approval will codify protections for foster children to ensure their safety and well-being. House Bill 5121 is part of a three-bill package addressing foster children’s needs. HB 5121, the main bill in the package, and the other bills now head to the state Senate for consideration. The bipartisan package would create the Children’s Assurance of Quality Foster Care Policy, effectively creating a foster children’s bill of rights.

 “As a police officer and firefighter in Muskegon Heights for 25 years, I went along with many child protective services staff when they had to remove a child from his or her home,” said Sabo. “That is a difficult situation for everyone involved, but even more so for a child or teenager whose life is upended when they are taken from their home. But kids know and understand more than we sometimes give them credit for, and we should explain to them what is happening and listen to what they have to say. I thank my House colleagues for approving these bills to make sure that we do what is best for each child entering the foster care system.”

Many former foster children, now adults, testified that a bill of rights for children was also 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 with disabilities in foster care.

·        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.

If approved by the Senate and signed by the governor, Michigan would join 14 other states with similar laws to protect foster children.

“Foster care should be a better situation for these children, and this package of bills will help ensure that it is,” said Rep. Sabo. “I hope we can continue to do right by these kids and see this package move quickly through the Senate so that we start 2018 with new laws on the books to better protect our kids in foster care.”

The other bills in the package are House Bills 5122, sponsored by state Rep. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) and House Bill 5123, sponsored by state Rep. Pamela Hornberger (R-Chesterfield Township).