We are thrilled that Gov. Mary Fallin approved the Foster Child Bill of Rights on April 15, 2018.

House Bill 2552 by Rep. Pat Ownbey establishes certain rights for children in Department of Human Services’ (DHS) custody with regard to their placement, safety, privacy, communication, and personal growth. The measure also directs DHS and child-placing agencies to develop grievance procedures for children in custody.

“The governor’s signature on this important piece of legislation means children across our state will now have a statutorily enforced set of rights that are found in one place,” said Ownbey, R-Ardmore. “Before this measure, most of these rights were found in policies at one agency or another, but now children and foster parents will have easy access to this information.”

The Office of Client Advocacy will establish procedures to ensure grievances are resolved no more than 60 days after they are filed. Children who are age-appropriate will receive notification on procedures and how to file complaints.

Foster children and parents will receive a statement of the bill of rights each year.

“I’m honored to have worked with so many experts as we strengthened our child protection laws,” Ownbey said. “This group is made up of members of DHS, law enforcement, Court Appointed Special Advocates – or CASA – and a number of other stakeholders.

The legislation passed unanimously in both the House of Representatives and the state Senate. It will take effect Nov. 1, 2018.

In 2017 and 2018, the Child Protection Coalition’s Advocacy Committee is tackling an important topic for abused children in foster care: the Foster Child Bill of Rights.

For many years, there has been a Foster Parent Bill of Rights, and the Child Protection Coalition feels strongly that children will be well-served by having all their rights in one place so that they, their attorney, their caseworkers, Court Appointed Special Advocate, foster parents, and anyone else involved in the process can have the child’s rights laid out concisely.

The Child Protection Coalition’s Advocacy Committee is chaired by Maura Guten, executive director of Tulsa CASA. Committee members include Timothy Michaels-Johnson, assistant director of Tulsa Lawyers for Children; Carrie Little, director of external relations for The Parent Child Center of Tulsa; Donna Mathews, chief operating officer of Domestic Violence Intervention Services; Chris Siemens, executive director of Tulsa Advocates for the Protection of Children; and Steve Lewis, who serves as the Coalition’s legislative liaison.

The bill is being authored by Rep. Pat Ownbey in the House of Representatives and by Sen. AJ Griffin in the Senate.