May is National Foster Care Month, established to raise awareness around the challenges faced by foster care youth and acknowledge foster parents, mentors, volunteers, and child welfare professionals who help foster youth make permanent connections. Over the next few weeks, we will release a series of blogs about challenges and opportunities related to foster care so stay tuned. 

foster monthParents and caregivers make decisions for children in order to keep them safe but also to ensure enriching experiences such as participating in a school club or sports. Although foster parents care for a child temporarily, they are expected to do the same. Unfortunately, the rules and misunderstandings around the rules intended to keep foster youth safe sometimes inhibit foster parents’ abilities to let kids just be kids. All youth need the opportunity to participate in “normal” youth activities such as after-school programs, sleepovers with friends, or working at a job. These opportunities help youth to take reasonable risks and practice good decision-making.

National and state groups focused on improving child well-being are increasingly using the term ‘normalcy’ when talking about foster youth and foster parents, with good reason. The federal law, Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014, requires states to establish normalcy provisions, or a “reasonable and prudent parent standard” for decisions made by a foster parent or designated person in a facility or group home. States are expected to enact rules for this new standard by September 2015.

What does a “reasonable and prudent parent standard” actually mean? It means that foster parents need the flexibility to make decisions for the children in their care about participation in extra-curricular, enrichment, cultural and social activities while still ensuring their safety, health and best interests.

Foster youth should be allowed to experience the same opportunities as their non-foster youth peers because those experiences promote social and emotional well-being.

Foster parents try their best to create a home for youth who need one. Foster youth try their best to adjust to a new home and a new situation. Implementing normalcy provisions will reduce obstacles for families who already have several challenges to overcome. Groups like the National Foster Youth and Alumni Policy Council created recommendations to help states implement normalcy provisions with the perspective of current and former foster youth.

Foster families can ensure they have the right information about what is allowed and what is not by referring to the Kentucky Parent Resource Handbook. Foster parents can also contact their state social worker (SSW) with any questions.

If you are considering opening your home and heart to a child in need or have questions about becoming a foster parent, see the Cabinet for Health and Family Services website for more information.