Bills helping foster kids become law

 

Gov. John Carney, center, and Executive Director of the Murphy School, Mike Kopp holds bills that were signed that will give more opportunity to children from the school.( Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Gov. John Carney signed into law Thursday two bills giving foster children expanded opportunities.

Senate Bill 56 provides liability protections for foster parents and guardians, while Senate Bill 42 allows individuals to add foster children to their car insurance.

“It’s one more way that a foster kid can achieve some level of normalcy in his or her life,” main sponsor Sen. Brian Bushweller, D-Dover, said at the bill-signing.

The two bills passed without opposition and were referred to by Gov. Carney as “common sense.”

Senate Bill 42 is designed to make it easier for foster children to learn to drive, while Senate Bill 58 adds to the Delaware Code language stating a foster parent or guardian “is not liable for harm caused to a child who participates in an activity or experience approved by the caregiver” as long as the activity is reasonable, the caregiver has finished the necessary training and the activity being approved is not forbidden by a court order.

Foster children must deal with “unique obstacles,” Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families Secretary Josette Manning said. The two bills are designed to help remove those stumbling blocks.

Children who are placed in foster care are those who have been removed from their parents or guardians due to abuse or neglect. In most cases, the state intends to return the children to their original home, although that may not always be possible, such as if a child’s mother, his or her only living relative, has been abusive.

The Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families places children in homes like the Murphey School when needed, while caregivers work to provide normalcy for the children. Simple things like getting a child a haircut are much more complex for foster parents, who — until now — could be sued by the original parents or guardians if the child ends up being harmed as a result.

Because of those limitations, the guardian was required to contact a DSCYF caseworker for approval first. Senate Bill 58 prevents that from being an issue.

“It empowers our foster parents to do the best job that they can do,” Ms. Manning said.

Thursday’s ceremony took place at the Murphey School, an institution that cares for foster children. Located in central Dover, the Murphey School has seen more than 5,000 children pass through its doors since 1922.

The school is “a very valuable part of the fabric of Dover life,” Sen. Bushweller said.

It currently has about 32 to 35 children who reside there, with each one having their own room. The children attend public schools and some have jobs, said Executive Director Mike Kopp, who first brought the issues addressed by the bills to Sen. Bushweller’s attention.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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