NORMALCY, by Brenda Sayers Wilkins
In Sept. 2014, our federal government passed a bill cited as the "Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act". Within this act, subtitle B, is "Improving Opportunities for Children in Foster Care and Supporting Permanency". This fairly recent act supports a "reasonable and prudent parent standard" for children in foster care, group homes or residential settings. Prudent Parenting allows these children the right to participate in extracurricular, enrichment, cultural and social activities, with careful and sensible parental decisions based on health, safety and best interest of the child.
Each state is now in the process of implementing this new federal standard or has already done so. Though the state of Virginia will soon begin the implementation and training of this bill, renamed "Normalcy", its interesting to note that our state licensure guidelines will not have to be altered to meet this federal law. Meaning, we could have been practicing it all along. Many localities have already been doing it with great success.
Essentially, Normalcy allows for foster children to be treated more like they belong to your family and less with the stigmatism of being in care with all the restrictions that apply. Of course, there are many things to take into consideration when applying Normalcy such as age, mental/emotional stability, history, risk factors, developmental growth, family rules, bio-family wishes, the child's case plan, etc. but Normalcy allows for these decisions to be made on an individual basis, empowering caregivers to make everyday decisions regarding the activities of the foster youth in their care.
Decisions such as the child's involvement in....
- Social media
- Enrollment in driver's training
- Social outings such as birthday parties, activities with friends, etc
- Normal school and community activities like field trips, scout camp outs, dating, church activities
- Overnight / planned outings
- Foster parents may have outside caregivers of their choice to provide short term babysitting
- Youth are permitted to babysit (consistent with their care plan)
- In accordance with the child's case plan, the child shall be given permission or encouraged to a) have contact with bio family members b) have access to a phone c) have reasonable curfews d) travel with other youth or adults e) haves their picture taken for publication in news or yearbook f) receive public recognition for accomplishments g) participation in school or after school organizations or clubs h) participation in sports or community events.
Though these standards allow for more leniency and decision making by foster parents (or group and residential staff), some decisions may include the social worker, TFC worker, treatment team and bio family. All decisions will be based on the individual youth's needs, health and best interest.
The Virginia Department of Social Services will soon begin assimilating information and trainings through their website and by traveling throughout the state giving presentations with Q and A time. They will target county localities, privatized foster agencies, group and residential staff and foster parents. The hope is these changes will further assist families in providing normal experiences for their youth in preparation for independent skills and living.