MEDFORD, Ore. – Foster parents across the state are celebrating the unanimous passage of Oregon’s first Foster Youth Bill of Rights.
The bill, signed into law last week, guarantees basic rights to the state’s 13,000 kids in foster care – including clothing, food, contact with siblings, and more.
Parents say foster kids already face a number of challenges, most of which coming from poor family lives.
“They have had lots of exposure to drugs and neglect,” said Dana Sherman, referring to her three foster kids. “And so for them, life was just not having any consistency.”
Like Dana’s children, many of Oregon’s foster kids are able to get the love and care they need with their new parents. But the Oregon Foster Parent Association says sometimes their situation doesn’t get better.
That’s where the bill of rights comes in.
“They have to go along with what the adults deem their fate is going to be,” said Foster Parent Association President Bill Faust. “[This] gives them the ability to speak for themselves.”
That means when Dana’s kids are old enough, they’ll have their rights explicitly explained to them.
They’ll now have a care worker in Salem whose sole responsibility is to be a contact for them to report violation.
And they’ll have a say in their own care… theoretically.
“There’s lots of things that aren’t black and white yet, so we don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Faust.
The DHS says they support the bill, although they aren’t yet sure how it will affect them day-to-day. Meanwhile, the Foster Parent Association says there are questions to be answered – most notably, how the new case worker position in Salem will be funded.