"Sibling Bill of Rights" Becomes Law in Colorado
May 22, 2019
An initiative of the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center, project Foster Power is a group of current and former foster youth, ages 15 to 25+, working to improve the child welfare system through youth-led organizing and advocacy. Of the many system issues that youth identified in their 2018 “Listening Tour”, one stood out above the rest - the shared experience of youth who feel or felt disconnected from their siblings while in care. So many youth talked about how important their siblings have been in their lives – they are their first friends, the people who understand them best, the ones they look to for support – and yet, so many also have described living in separate foster homes, not being allowed to have regular face-to-face visits or phone calls, and being left to wonder how their siblings were doing day-to-day.
Based on these all-too-common experiences, the members of project Foster Power voted to make Sibling Connections the focus of their 2019 legislative and public awareness efforts.
project Foster Power believes:
- Foster care should not change their status as siblings. Siblings share a history and have a lifelong bond.
- Relationships with siblings benefit their mental and emotional well-being.
- Siblings should be placed together when it is in their best interests.
- If siblings are not placed together, they should receive regular updates about each other and have consistent and frequent contact/communication.
Based on these beliefs, the group took action through robust advocacy in the 2019 legislative session. project Foster Power youth worked closely with legislators, particularly prime sponsors Representative Jonathan Singer (D), Representative Monica Duran (D), Senator Rhonda Fields (D), and Senator Larry Crowder (R), as well as community stakeholders, to propose HB19-1288, or the “Foster Youth Sibling Bill of Rights.” The bill outlines protections that siblings should receive, when in the best interests of each sibling, including being placed together, having regular contact, and otherwise having their relationships encouraged while in foster care. The bill received much support and success as it has made its way through the legislative process, and ultimately passed through the General Assembly with unanimous approval. This afternoon, Governor Jared Polis officially signed the Sibling Bill of Rights into law, ushering in long-overdue policies that fully value and embrace the importance of the sibling relationship for youth in foster care.