Lawmakers to consider therapy dogs, other benefits for foster children

By Lynnsey Gardner - Investigative reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Therapy dogs in court and free family access to state parks are among provisions pending before the Florida Legislature next year to help foster children. 

Alan Abromowitz, executive director for the state's guardian ad litem program, said he thinks having dogs with children who have to go through the justice system will be helpful.

"It makes a big difference in kids being able to testify," Abromowitz said. "The courts love it, but most important, it reduces trauma."

State Sen. Aaron Bean sponsored two of three proposed bills next session aimed at helping those in the state's foster-care system to grow and thrive.

Bean calls the state park fee waiver a win-win.

"It's a small token to say, 'Thank you,'" Bean said. "We know going to a park is a great way to bond with your family."

Bean is also supporting helping foster families with expenses when the children turn 15 and qualify to start driving.

"I have a driver in my household, and it increases your insurance. It increases the wear and tear on a vehicle," Bean said. 

Abromowitz said this bill, called the Keys to Independence Act, is already in use for select families and he's hopeful it will gain statewide traction.

"It was pilot, and we want to make it permanent, and Aaron Bean is a champion for kids, so we’re excited about him taking on these two issues," Abromowitz said.

The 2017 legislative session begins March 7.
 

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