Should young people in foster care have the right to access their own records? Who should be responsible for making sure they get copies of critical documents like their birth certificate or social security card? Check out this recent article from the Sun Sentinel in Florida, then tell us what you think.
Foster Kids Need a Chance at Open Government Too
THE ISSUE: Give foster care kids access to their own records
• Mar 21, 2009 • FL -
You'd think a teenager in the state's foster-care system would be able to get a copy of his or her records, those important documents needed to obtain a driver's license, apartment or job. Not so in Florida, and the irony is striking. Access to foster care records is legal, but extremely difficult. One literally needs a judge's order to make the information public.
So it's ironic that during the week Florida celebrated the 100th anniversary of its landmark open meetings and public records laws, supporters of an initiative to make it easier for foster kids, their attorneys, caregivers, guardians ad litem and prospective adoptive parents to obtain foster-care records have seen their efforts sputter in the Florida Legislature. HB 1439 and SB 126 are stalled in their respective chambers and time to move them is running out. In the Florida House, committee deliberations on legislation will end this week, leaving most bills that haven't been heard by a panel to languish. HB 1439, unfortunately, is one of those bills.
The Senate sponsor, Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, has tried to broker a compromise between two state agencies that have opposing views on her bill. The Florida Department of Children & Families supports more open access while the state's Guardian Ad Litem office does not. Gov. Charlie Crist could end this bureaucratic impasse in a heartbeat, but he's been MIA on this one. That's a shame for a governor who has championed open-records initiatives, and it doesn't say much about state lawmakers who seem content to let this important legislation die on the proverbial vine.
The measure deserves quick passage so that foster kids, who rank among the more disadvantaged youths in our state, can have easy access to their records — and the public will have a better understanding of how well foster care really works.
BOTTOM LINE: Approve the legislation so they can become law.