Normalcy for Youth in Foster Care

NE_Appleseed_Icons_ChildrensHealth-200For many, when we think of our childhood, we are fortunate to be filled with memories of spending time at camp, going on field trips, participating in sports, and having sleepovers with best friends. But for many youth in foster care, their childhood and adolescent years are filled with upheaval, challenges, and even trauma. Adding to the stigma that children in foster care already face, these young people may have to wait for background checks, or seek multiple levels of permission just to participate in everyday activities with their friends.

The term normalcy does not imply there is a single “normal” childhood, but it does refer to the “age-and developmentally-appropriate activities and experiences that allow children and youth to grow.” These activities not only provide enjoyment, they are also crucial to youth brain development, skill-building, and for the growth of healthy relationships with peers and supportive adults. It’s actually very important to let kids be kids.

The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (SFA) is a new federal law that addresses the urgent need to remove unnecessary barriers for youth in foster care. The SFA requires states to implement the Reasonable and Prudent Parent Standard which allows foster parents to make their best judgement decisions as to what activities the youth should be able to take part in, just as they would with their own children. The goal is for youth in foster care to be able to take part in normal activities and for foster parents to not fear liability if the child were to break a bone in dance class, for example. In the coming months, we will be working together with local stakeholders to make recommendations and advocate for a strong implementation of the SFA in Nebraska.

Read more on the requirements of the SFA in this guide from the Juvenile Law Center and stay tuned for more news as we work to ensure that youth in foster care have opportunities to take part in the fun and beneficial activities associated with growing up.

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