LANSING — Testimony was taken Wednesday on a bipartisan package of three bills that would improve the care of foster children in the House Families, Children and Seniors Committee. The bills, House Bills 5849-5851, would create a Children’s Assurance of Quality Foster Care and require that children in foster care be informed of their rights in an age-appropriate manner.

“t any time, there are about 13,000 Michigan children in foster care, and these vulnerable kids deserve the absolute best we can give them,” Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright (D-Muskegon) said. “These bills create standards of care, and take steps to make sure that kids in foster care understand their rights and will know what to do if they aren’t receiving the care and services they deserve.”

Rep. Hovey-Wright’s bill, HB 5849, lists the components to be included in a Childrens’ Assurance of Quality Foster Care Policy. They include items such as requiring a child to be placed with relatives unless prohibited by the president judge; ongoing contact with parents, relatives and friends when permissible; access to medical, emotional, psychological, educational and other services; access to and participation in cultural or religious activities; and a permanency plan designed to facilitate children in a permanent placement or return them to their homes in a timely manner.

House Bill 5850 (Rep. Cindy Denby) would require the policy to address a foster child’s access procedures and services such as regular contact with caseworkers, attorneys and advocates; attendance at hearings and ability to speak with a judge regarding his or her case; involvement in the development of his or her own case plan; the ability to review his or her own case records; and an assurance that the child’s privacy and confidentiality will be protected. These services will be offered to foster children in an age-appropriate basis.

House Bill 5851 from Rep. George T. Darany (D-Dearborn) would require foster children to be explained these rights in an age-appropriate manner, and inform foster children about how to seek help if they believe the policy has been violated.

“Children are placed into foster care after enduring abuse or neglect, and we owe it to them to make sure they get the love, care and services they need to move forward in their lives,” Darany said. “These bills create a standard and assurance of care, and let Michigan’s foster children know that they deserve the best from us. I am hopeful that this bipartisan package will see swift action in the Legislature, so that our foster kids can get the help they need as soon as possible.”