I think this seems like a pretty good idea. Everyone should have rights and everyone should know their rights.  A bit surprising that the newspaper article doesn’t actually say what the rights are.  What do you think?

Texas drafts bill of rights for foster children

Similar list of rights failed in 2007 legislative session.


AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Saturday, January 26, 2008A proposed bill of rights for Texas’ 17,000 foster children died in the Texas House last year after a contentious debate that one opponent said would have children demanding designer jeans. But the head of the state agency that oversees the foster care system has been quietly working to make that list of rights a reality.

Shortly after the legislative session ended in May, Commissioner Carey Cockerell of the Department of Family and Protective Services decided the agency would draft such a list, a spokesman said. That quick action came as a shock to state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, the Austin Democrat who sponsored the bill in the House and watched it get derailed on a technicality.

“I have to admit, I was very surprised — and obviously quite pleased — to hear of the department’s plans,” Rodriguez wrote in a letter to Cockerell last summer.

The agency’s list of 32 rights — plus 13 more for those 16 and older — is similar to the list in the failed legislation.

Starting in the next couple of months, foster children will be told of their right to, for example, live in a safe, healthy and comfortable place, officials said.

The children, their caregivers and their case workers will sign a form saying they have read and understand the rights.

And the state is planning to design a coloring book this summer to communicate the rights to young children, according to a draft state plan.

Texas officials say these are rights foster children already had under state law.

“The idea was, let’s collect them all and package them together and label them a bill of rights and make sure that when every child comes into care, he or she has a copy of this so there’s no misunderstanding and there’s full disclosure about what rights a child actually has and doesn’t have,” said Cockerell spokesman Patrick Crimmins.

The bill of rights made it through the Senate last year but encountered criticism in the House. State Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, took issue with a provision that guarantees freedom from corporal punishment and another that guarantees foster children clothing comparable to that of other children in the community. Riddle, who said she has been a foster parent, suggested at the time that a child might “wave their bill of rights and say, ‘It is my right to have designer jeans because the neighbors have it.’ ”

But Rodriguez said that critics were simply afraid children would sue foster parents.

He said Tuesday the bill of rights would have been stronger as a state law rather than what it is now — a rule from a state agency. But he said the purpose is the same. “They have (these rights); they just don’t know that they have them,” he said.

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