Young people in foster care often lack access to many of the everyday experiences and activities available to their non-system involved peers. Research demonstrates that “normalcy” is essential for healthy social, emotional, and cognitive development of young people. “Normalcy” is also important in supporting youth in care to achieve permanency – lifelong connections with committed and caring adults.
However, system imposed barriers often impede the ability of youth in care to have normal relationships with family and friends inside and outside of the system, participate in extracurricular, enrichment or social activities, or experience many of the milestones non-system involved peers take for granted. Liability, confidentiality and other system concerns condition county placing agencies to impose barriers that prevent youth in care from accessing and participating in team sports, overnight field trips, proms, driver’s education, family vacations, carpools, and other activities.
California was one of the first states to pass laws to promote “normalcy” for foster youth and remove unnecessary system barriers to experiencing typical childhood and adolescent activities. AB 899 (Liu 2001) established the Foster Youth Bill of Rights that enumerated twenty-one specific rights including the rights to contact family and friends inside and outside of the system and to participate in extracurricular, enrichment or social activities. Two years later, AB 408 (Steinberg 2003) clarified the right of foster youth to participate in age and developmentally appropriate enrichment and social activities and established the prudent parent standard for foster parents in making the parenting decisions related to participation in those activities. SB 358 (Scott 2005) added “reasonable” to the prudent parent” standard, defined, and extended the standard to parenting decisions related to the use of short-term babysitters. Subsequent bills expanded and clarified these provisions to encourage the development of approaches including the use of the reasonable and prudent parent standard in day-to-day parenting decisions to ensure young people, whether supervised by child welfare or probation, in foster care are able to live as “normal” a life as possible.