By: Whitney Ray
Florida foster kids face an uphill battle. Some are shuttled from home to home. Others live in group homes hoping to be reunited with their parents. As Whitney Ray tells us, Governor Rick Scott signed legislation today to give foster kids more normal lives.
Stephen Satchell was a sprinter in high school. He was also a foster kid. When his team made the finals Stephen 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,” said Stephen.
Stephen is part of Florida Youth SHINE, a foster care advocacy group helping change state law. Thursday in Tallahassee they shared stories of how red tape keeps foster kids down.
“In 7th grade I had a best friend and I wasn’t able to go to her house,” said Danielle McMahan.
“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,” said Ti’erra Carter.
And a simple right of passage like getting a drivers 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.
“What a momentous day today is,” proclaimed DCF Secretary David Wilkins.
With the stroke of a pen Governor Rick Scott eliminated the barriers. 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 these child advocates, they’re still rejoicing.
“Florida Youth SHINE is awesome and I feel like it’s really unreal,” said Danielle.
“It’s a really big day,” said Ti’erra.
One more victory for the advocacy group and more opportunity for foster kids.
According to a legislative study just 10 percent of eligible Florida foster kids have received a learners permit and just three percent a drivers license. Now the decision about when the teens can apply for their licenses will be solely in the hands of their foster parents.