Today, state Senators Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and Tina Maharath (D-Canal Winchester) held a press conference to discuss the introduction of Senate Bill 254, their bill to create the Foster Youth Bill of Rights.
“Growing up in the foster care system is never easy for a child,” said Senator Maharath, who spent time as a child in the foster care system. “However, I believe that we, as a state, have an obligation to make the process as positive as possible for foster youth and ensure that their fundamental rights are not violated. This is at the heart of this legislation.”
Under S. B. 254, foster youth would be informed of why they are in foster care and how the process works. They would also be required to be informed of their rights when they are placed in custody of the state. These include the right to remain free from physical, verbal and emotional abuse and harm; the right to privacy; and the right to have a clean and safe living environment.
“Foster children’s lack of stability and support can make them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation,” Senator Fedor said. “By providing foster youth with the proper knowledge and resources, we will help make them less susceptible to traffickers who prey on the unmet needs of others. The rights outlined in this bill are a foundation we can build on to best prepare foster youth for success.”
According to the National Foster Youth Institute, an estimated 60% of child victims of commercial sexual exploitation have a history in the child welfare system. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimated that 60% of youth reported missing, and who were also likely victims of sex trafficking, were in foster care or group homes when they ran away. Senators Fedor and Maharath hope that S. B. 254 – which informs foster youth of their right to be protected against sexual exploitation and all forms of discrimination and harassment on the basis of race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion, ethnicity or nationality – will help prevent foster youth from further abuse.
Twenty states, as well as Puerto Rico, currently have some form of a bill of rights for foster youth.
The full list of rights included in the bill can be found here
A full recording of the press conference can be found here