Friday, February 8, 2008

Ritter Signs Foster Kid Sibling Visit Bill

Gov. Bill Ritter signed the first bill of the session into law Thursday, approving a measure that guarantees foster children the right to have visits with their siblings.

HB 1003, which was suggested to its sponsors by a group of foster children, requires social service agencies to arrange the visits unless there is a reasonable basis to believe a visit would not be in the best interest of the foster child or his or her siblings.

"When it comes to foster care and foster children, we know from experience that permanence and connections to family can make a tremendous difference," Ritter said. "A sibling may be the only sense of permanence, safety or family that a foster child has. So when a foster child makes a request to see their brother or sister, we should listen and put it at the top of the priority list. It might seem like a little thing, but it's not."

There are about 6,800 children in foster care in Colorado.

Joining Ritter at the Capitol signing ceremony were two of the former foster children who provided the inspiration for the bill, 22-year-olds Tony Corley and Renee Manke.

Tony has four siblings and currently mentors children in foster care. Renee was placed in foster care at age 17 and lost contact with her younger sister. She plans on attending college this summer to get a degree in early childhood development and eventually become a kindergarten teacher.

HB 1006 was sponsored in the House by Rep. Cheri Jahn, D-Golden, and in the Senate by Sen. Paula Sandoval, D-Denver. It passed both chambers with unanimous bipartisan support.