Foster Care Bill of Rights is now a law

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. There are thousands of kids in Missouri who have been taken out of their homes and are waiting to find out where they’ll end up. Now, those foster children have a new set of rights.

The Foster Care Bill of Rights became a law on Thursday. We talked with people who know the foster care system here in Springfield about why that’s going to help the kids work through a traumatic time.

“I think it’s a good step in the right direction,” said Stephanie Daniels

She says she has fostered five children, and she adopted two of them.

“They’ve obviously come into care because of some pretty bad times, and when we get to be part of a happy ending, that’s great,” said Daniels.

She says the Foster Care Bill of Rights is important because it makes sure the children's best interests are prioritized. Under the law, the children’s division is required to try and reunite the children with their parents when it’s appropriate, or try to find a relative for the child to live with.

Danielle Conti, Executive Director of Foster Adopt Connect in Springfield, said, “The truth is that it’s incredibly traumatic for these kids to be in abusive and neglectful situations. But it is equally traumatic for them to be taken out of those situations, and away from their family.”

Conti says their organization has been working hard to make sure this bill became a law.

“Before, some people were doing these things and some people weren’t. And now it’s legislation, and you have to do it. And that means a lot,” she said.

Conti says sibling groups of three or four are fairly common in the foster care system. This law ensures that siblings stay together through the foster care process, if possible, or they at least get to visit each other if they’re separated.

Every school-aged foster child will go through an orientation to help them understand their rights. But Conti says there’s still work to be done.

“I don’t think we have it worked out yet to where we have a perfect system by any means,” said Conti.

She says Missouri’s reimbursement rates for foster parents are low in comparison to other states, and she says many foster parents don’t last long after they sign up to help.

“So you put in a whole lot of time, and then you don’t make it very long as a foster family. So we need to find out why that is. What can we do to retain, to recruit… and to really take care of the families that we have. And that’s what we’re working on,” Conti explained.

Daniels says being a foster parent can emotionally draining.

“It is but it’s part of it, and when they get the chance that chance to go to family, or go back to their parents that are doing better, it’s an amazing thing,” she said.

Despite the challenges, Daniels recommends foster parenting to anyone with an open mind.

“I do all the time. I know people get tired of hearing it. But I do feel like people put foster parents on a pedestal, and they think, ‘I can never do that.’ But you might be surprised what you can do,” said Daniels.

The law also added a new restriction for people convicted of endangering the welfare of a child and sex crimes against children. Now people convicted of those crimes cannot be within 500 feet of a children's museum. Before the restriction only included public parks and swimming pools.