A bill that would create a de facto bill of rights for children in Florida’s foster care system passed a Senate subcommittee with bipartisan support Tuesday.
The bill, SB 792, is sponsored by North Florida Democratic Sen. Loranne Ausley. The Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs heard the bill Tuesday. The committee’s Chair, Miami Republican Sen. Ileana Garcia, co-sponsored the bill.
“The purpose of this bill is to place all of the rights that are already in law into one place to ensure every child in out-of-home-care can be easily informed of their basic rights,” Ausley said. “Currently, they’re spread all throughout our statutes.”
The bill doesn’t add or take away any rights, Ausley said. It puts them in one place and clearly establishes children’s physical, mental and emotional health as statutory priorities.
Rebecca Baer was in foster care from the age of 16 until she aged out at 18. She said it felt like she lost about 90% of her rights the day she entered the system but bills like SB 792 could’ve helped.
Baer was removed from school without warning. She thought she’d be returning so she left her backpack in the classroom.
“I was pulled from school out of the classroom,” Baer said. “I was told by a lady with two large cops next to her that I was going to have a conversation with her in her office and then I was going to be returned home to my dad and my brother.”
She never went home. She spent the next 12 hours locked in a room until she was transferred to a group home. Baer had to wear the same dirty clothes for nearly a week before she was able to get clean clothes dropped off. She missed three weeks of school and failed a class she would’ve otherwise have passed with an A.
“I lost all rights to see my siblings and all of my family members and essentially all sense of normalcy,” Baer said. “At the end of the day, I believe this bill will help youth not go through the same situations that I did.”
The bill passed the committee with unanimous support.