As youth in foster care, we want to feel “normal.” Unfortunately, many of us feel far from normal when we are unable to engage in the same activities as our friends who are not in foster care.
In fact, many of us in foster care miss out on critical mile-stones which are instrumental in our self-development, learning, and overall happiness. So whether it’s playing school sports, having access to the internet or a cell phone, getting a job, attending cultural events, field trips or hanging out with our friends, these activities and privileges help us build and practice lifelong skills needed for a successful adulthood.
But there is good news about normalcy and foster care that we want other youth and their adult caregivers to know about. It’s a new Federal law called the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (SFA). SFA requires states to implement “normalcy” requirements into their own state laws and regulations in an effort to better ensure permanency, positive development and overall well-being for those of us in foster care.
We have the right to participate in the same age and developmentally appropriate activities that our non-foster care peers participate in. Examples include:
How does this play out in real life? Lets say you are 16 years old and you want to get your driver’s license. Even though this falls under a “normal” life experience, several factors must be taken into consideration before a caregiver can give approval. Questions you and your caregiver may discuss are; how can you cover the costs of a driver’s education training course, driving permit, and associated fees? Can you drive the caregiver’s vehicle to obtain your permit? Can you drive the caregiver’s vehicle once you get your license? How do you obtain insurance and how will the costs be covered?
Talk with your DCS Case Specialist, caregiver(s), lawyer or GAL and also the judge about what normalcy related activities you want to take part in and ask that they be included in your case plan. If you feel like these everyday activities are not being supported or are denied unjustly, talk to your team about the reasons. If you’ve exhausted all your resources and still disagree with the decision, you always have the right to file a complaint/grievance. A complaint (or grievance) is a written or verbal expression of dissatisfaction about services, actions or lack of actions or manner of treatment by the Arizona Department of Child Safety or its staff affecting you or your case. You can file a grievance with the Arizona Department Of Child Safety Family Advocacy Office at 1-877-527-0765 or 602-364-0777. Visit here.
Still have questions? Check out “7 Ways to Advocate for your Rights in Foster Care”.
It means that you as foster parents, caregivers and group home providers have more flexibility to say “yes” to youth to engage in activities that promote and ensure normalcy. It means saying “yes” without having to navigating multiple level of permission and authorization through your licensing agency or the Department of Child Safety to make decisions on behalf of the youth in your care.
Arizona has taken steps to implement the SFA using the already existing state law- A.R.S. § 8-513. Also, the Arizona Department of Child Safety has embedded pieces of the SFA requirements into their Foster Home Licensing Rules (Article 3, R21-6-307) and created a Reasonable And Prudent Parenting Standard (Chapter 4, Section 14) in their Policy and Procedure Manual.
According to the Department of Child Safety, “The Department supports out-of-home caregivers to use normalcy standards and, specifically, apply a Reasonable and Prudent Parent Standard (RPPS) to determine whether to allow a child to participate in extracurricular, enrichment, cultural, and social activities. The Department also provides an “ADCS Caregiver Procedures for Reasonable and Prudent Parenting (RPPS)” to assist caregivers in better understanding what decisions can be made without consulting the Department of Child Safety as well as when the Department must be notified for approval or consultation.”
Additionally, the Department of Child Safety is currently working with community stakeholder groups to incorporate the RPPS into the Residential Group Care Facilities (Group Home) Rules. Stay tuned for details!
Discuss what “normal” experiences means to you. This could include activities many people take for granted including using the internet or having a cell phone, going on a weekend trip, playing a sport or going to a movie with friends.
Be up-to-date on requirements and trainings to implement the Reasonable and Prudent Parenting Standard for foster parents, caregivers and group care providers. This includes what decisions can be made by caregivers without consulting the Department of Child Safety as well as when the Department must be notified for approval or consultation. For an overview of the Arizona Department of Child Safety Caregiver Procedures for Reasonable and Prudent Parenting Standard (RPPS) click here.
Check out our video and hear from the experts, young adults who have experienced foster care, on what normalcy means to them.
Watch videos now about Normalcy in Foster Care: