Senate committee hears testimony for Foster Care Child Bill of Rights

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CONCORD, NH – On January 11, 2018 the Senators of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee heard testimony from state representatives, stakeholders, child advocates, DCYF and Fostering Change: Alliance for NH Foster Parents. Members of the committee asked many thoughtful questions of each speaker to learn about the needs of foster children and to better understand the need for a Foster Care Child Bill of Rights in NH.

One of the state’s foster parent associations provided the following written testimony to the committee in support of this bill.

The Alliance empowers foster parents to help make changes in foster care. Our mission and who we are embodies the “assumptions, beliefs, and goals” that guide this foster care children’s bill of rights. Section I. of this bill highlights the need for children of all ages to be protected from all forms of trauma and abuse, while safeguarding “healthy growth and development.” Infants and toddlers are the most vulnerable when permanency cannot be established in a timely manner. This bill helps ensure that children will be given a permanent home as soon as possible, whether by reunification or adoption.

Time is of the essence in establishing permanency within the twelve-month requirement, as stated in the Federal Adoption & Safe Families Act (ASFA, 1997). Passing this bill is important because failing to do so, increases a child’s risk for irreparable physiological and psychological damage. Children under three years of age are most susceptible, as their brains are more formable during this period of development.

Trauma experts maintain that trauma is initiated by the very act of removing a child from their home. Dismissing or ignoring child growth and development theories in any permanency process imposes great harm, yet all too often this is happening in New Hampshire. A long-term foster placement compounds the likelihood of increased damage and contributes to additional trauma, especially for young children. We support Section II.b of this bill that all children, youth and adolescents need and deserve “permanency” and a life of “well-being.”

The evidence-based research indicates that even toddlers who experience emotionally related trauma have difficulties learning to trust and to form secure and healthy relationships for years to come. This is absolutely preventable. SB385 captures the essential need for developmentally focused trauma informed care for children of all ages. We need you to help prevent children from being re-traumatized while in state care by passing this bill.

The inclusion of 170-G:20 Reasonable and Prudent Parent Standard will state that the rights of children in foster care exist within the context of the reasonable and prudent parent standards. Incorporating this language ensures that a foster parent’s observations and information about their foster child will maintain the health, safety, and best interests of that child.

We’re asking the Senate Committee to vote for this bill and make it possible for children to receive the most optimal care and protection in a timely manner. Thank for your commitment to improving the quality of lives for New Hampshire’s children, youth and adolescents.

NH citizens can also support the Foster Care Child Bill of Rights by signing a petition that will be used for further testimony as the bill progresses through legislation.

Fostering Change: Alliance for NH Foster Parents is an independent foster parent association in the Granite State that is dedicated to improving NH’s child welfare system. They aim to give foster parents a stronger voice in child abuse and neglect cases in efforts to help children return home to safe and healthy environments.

Find them on Facebook or Twitter to learn more and to help support foster care reform.