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Testimony: Public Hearing on Foster Youth Rights Amendment Act 2013

Executive director Judith Sandalow testified at a public hearing on the Foster Youth Rights Amendment Act of 2012, Bill 19-803. Read a summary of her comments below or review her full testimony (PDF) as submitted.

The proposed legislation is too vague to truly understand what its impact might be. The bill does not clearly define “rights,” which makes it difficult to know what DC’s Child and Family Services Agency is being required to incorporate into municipal regulations. “Youth” is also undefined, and with this omission the bill makes no distinction between a 3-year-old and a 17-year-old. In addition, a specific provision requires youth to be given their vital records within 30 days after leaving care – which is too late, as youth need the opportunity to review these documents with their guardian ad litem and caregiver before leaving care.

The bill also calls for CFSA to create a mechanism to report violations of foster youth’s rights, and establish penalties and remedies for such actions. However, other processes – including the guardian ad litem system, which assigns a lawyer to represent the best interests of each child in the foster care system – already exist to address violations of law. “We are concerned that the new provisions of the Act will lead to confusing, unneccesary and expensive additional bureaucracy,” Sandalow testified. “We think the focus should be on assessing the flaws in the current system and correcting those before creating an additional system.”