Gov. signs foster parents bill into law

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Gov. Rick Scott has signed into law a bill that gives foster parents more freedom to make decisions for the children they take care of.

Scott signed the bill (SB 164) on Thursday. It changes foster care's legal standard to what a "reasonable and prudent parent" would do.

That means caregivers can approve certain activities without the prior approval of the state's Department of Children and Families or the courts.

The governor explained that the law lets foster parents sign off on their foster kids joining a soccer team and going on school field trips. It also allows foster parents to teach teenagers how to drive.

Stephen Satchell was a sprinter in high school. He was also a foster kid. When his team made the finals, Satchell couldn't go because laws meant to protect foster kids often keep them from living normal lives.

"My case worker didn't schedule the court appearance in time and I wasn't able to get the court order to attend, and it was really devastating because we made nationals that year," Satchell said.

Stephen is part of Florida Youth SHINE, a foster care advocacy group helping change state law. On Thursday in Tallahassee, they shared stories of how red tape keeps foster kids down.

"In seventh grade, I had a best friend and I wasn't able to go to her house," FYS co-chair Danielle McMahan said.

"In elementary school, a lot of the kids were able to go out to do these youth programs for the church, and I was never allowed to go because I was in a group home," Ti'erra Carter said.

A simple right of passage like getting a driver's license at 16 couldn't be done without a case worker, or in some cases a court order.

The laws are meant to protect foster kids from dangerous situations, but they were keeping the kids from harmless activities. Not anymore.

Now decisions about sports, sleepovers and field trips can be made by foster parents, not case workers and courts. And even though it's too late to help current child advocates, they're still rejoicing.

"Florida Youth Shine is awesome and I feel like it's really unreal," McMahan said.

"It's a really big day," Carter said.

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