(April 10) – A package of bills to enhance Colorado’s foster care system advanced today in the House Public Health Care & Human Services Committee.
The four bills would improve foster care and help to address a shortage of foster families in Colorado. As the state has grown, so has the number of children needing foster care, who in 2017 topped 6,500 for the first time.
“This is a strong package that make some overdue changes to our foster care system,” said Rep. Jonathan Singer, the Public Health Care & Human Services chairman and former child welfare worker who is sponsoring three of the four bills.
Passing the House Public Health Care & Human Services Committee today were:
- HB18-1306, sponsored by Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City, which would provide transportation support to help keep foster youth in the schools they’ve been attending. The idea is to make foster kids’ transition less disruptive. “With a 23 percent four-year high school graduation rate and 9 percent of our foster youth just dropping out of school altogether, I believe it is time for us to take a good hard look and invest in our foster youth,” Rep. Michaelson Jenet told the committee. “This bill will help foster youth continue their education and stay on the path to graduation.” It passed 7-4 on its way to the Appropriations Committee.
- HB18-1319, sponsored by Reps. Singer, D-Longmont, and Dave Young, D-Greeley, which would allow 18- to 20-year-olds who leave the foster care system to continue to receive services to help them be successful, such as educational support, mental health care and employment guidance. “This important bill will help ensure that foster youth have the tools they need to become successful adults,” Rep. Young said. The bill passed 8-2 and is headed to the Appropriations Committee.
- HB18-1346, sponsored by Reps. Singer and Lois Landgraf, R-Fountain, which increases protections for 18- to 20-year-olds involved with Child Welfare or the Division of Youth Services who are also in foster care. Once they turn 18, a variety of laws to protect foster children from abuse or neglect no longer apply. The bill eliminates that loophole. “Regardless of their age, we need to protect kids in our system,” Rep. Singer said. The bill passed 7-2 and will go to the House floor.
- HB18-1348, also sponsored by Reps. Singer and Landgraf, which would allow the state to increase disclosure to foster parents about the case files of the children placed in their care. “Many foster parents aren’t fully informed about critical issues involving the kids they’re parenting,” Rep. Singer said. “This bill strikes a better balance and will help foster parents provide the best, most appropriate care to their foster children.” The bill passed 9-1 and also goes to the House floor.