Winger bill aimed at improving lives of foster kids advances

Rep. Christine Winger advanced legislation on Tuesday that would instill a little normalcy in the lives of Illinois foster children.

Spending time at a friend’s house, taking school trips, attending prom, holding a summer job, even having a Facebook page are normal activities for many Illinois youth. “Most would agree these experiences help young people develop interests, acquire skills, understand cultural differences and build relationships,” explained Winger. “While we take these experiences for granted, it is not the case for Illinois foster kids.”

Although most children need to get permission from their parents to participate in activities outside of the home, foster children need to obtain approval from the state – a daunting task at best – and impossible for anything spontaneous. Simply put, government bureaucracy and red tape prevent foster children from having the same opportunities to gain the rich and important developmental experiences as other children.

Winger’s legislation would remove these bureaucratic barriers to normalcy for children in the care of the state by giving foster parents the same ability to make parenting decisions for their foster children as other Illinois parents. House Bill 5665 requires caregivers to use the reasonable and prudent parent standard in determining whether to give permission for a child to participate in appropriate extracurricular, enrichment, cultural, and social activities.

“We want foster children to have the right to engage on a regular basis in extracurricular and social activities – with the permission and guidance of their foster parents,” said Winger. “This bill gives foster parents the support and freedom to parent responsibly and with each child’s needs and preferences in mind.”

House Bill 5665 passed the Human Services committee unanimously and now heads to the House for consideration by the entire chamber.