On September 29, 2014, Congress passed the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (P.L. 113-183/HR 4980). This federal law recognizes the tragic link between foster care involvement and becoming a victim of sex trafficking. Many provisions of the bill are targeted at directly preventing foster youth from becoming victims of sex trafficking. However, there are also several provisions aimed at improving the well-being of youth while they’re in foster care (to help prevent them from running away from their placements and becoming sex trafficking victims) and improve their outcomes when they leave care.
Advocates for Children and Youth has been training judges and other court personnel, children’s attorneys, Local Department of Social Services caseworkers and their attorneys, and Court Appointed Special Advocates on the provisions of the federal law that impact child welfare cases in Maryland as they go into effect.
Click here to see ACY’s presentation for the Challengers’ Independent Living Programs staff from October 26, 2016.
Here is ACY’s presentation from October 7, 2016 at the Maryland Association of Resources for Children and Family (MARFY) Annual Conference in Ocean City, Maryland.
Questions from the Bench
Click here to read about all of the new provisions of the Strengthening Families Act that went into effect in September 2015 and questions judges can ask to ensure the provisions are being implemented effectively.
A key factor in passing the Strengthening Families Act was the impact foster youth from around the country who met with their representatives in Congress had on the Senators and Representatives. One of the issues that resonated with the legislators was the lack of normalcy in foster youth’s lives. Unlike non-system involved young people, they rarely get to participate in sports, learn how to play musical instruments, or even have sleepovers at friends’ houses. Click here to see our infographic illustrating these provisions.
Reasonable and Prudent Parent Standard
One way the Strengthening Families Act tries to create increased normalcy for foster youth is through the “Reasonable and Prudent Parent Standard.” It empowers foster parents and staff at residential care facilities to make the same kind of reasonable and prudent decisions parents make for their children regularly. For more information about the Reasonable and Prudent Parent Standard, click here.
Empowering Older Foster Youth in Case Planning
The Strengthening Families Act requires that all foster youth be actively engaged in their case planning and the planning around their transition to adulthood. More specifically, it requires child welfare agencies to:
- Consult with youth age 14 and older in the development of their case plan and allow youth to invite two other members identified by the youth (not including a foster parent or his/her caseworker) to be a part of the case planning team;
- Provide a written “List of Rights” document to youth 14 or older outlining their rights in care related to education, health care, visitations, court hearings/participation, and the right to stay safe, and documentation from the youth that they received a copy of these rights and that they were explained in an age-appropriate way; and
- Provide youth 14 and older with a free annual credit report and help resolve any inaccuracies on the report.
To read more about empowering foster youth, click here.