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For immediate release: January 20, 2015
Contact: Casey McNulty
Phone: 518-402-3130

New York State 'Bill of Rights' Empowers Foster Care Youth and Children

State’s new document gives a voice to, and lists rights of,
young New Yorkers in foster care

The New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) has released a New York State Bill of Rights for Children and Youth in Foster Care. The document, which was developed through a collaborative effort by young New Yorkers in foster care and OCFS staff, empowers children and youth in foster care by explicitly listing their rights to safe, nurturing, and healthy environments. Click here to read the Bill of Rights in its entirety in English or in Spanish.

“This Bill of Rights gives foster children and youth a voice in their own permanency goals, and affords them the ability to play a role in their own advocacy,” said OCFS Acting Commissioner Roberto Velez. “Our agency went right to the experts -- foster care youth -- to understand their hopes and fears, and to equip them with a tool that addresses their biggest concerns. The Bill of Rights is an important step OCFS is taking toward its vision of improving the well-being of New York’s children and families.”

The document includes, but is not limited to, the following rights:

  • Fair treatment and freedom from discrimination.
  • Enough food and adequate clothing.
  • Visitation with birth or adoptive parents, if it is in the child’s best interest.
  • Placement with brothers or sisters, if it is in the child’s best interest.
  • Contact with their caseworker, caseworker’s supervisor, and their lawyer.
  • Records and personal information will be shared only with those who have a legal right to see them.
  • Regular dental, medical, vision, mental, and behavioral health services as needed.
  • Free and appropriate public education and the ability to request assistance in applying to colleges.
  • Access to age- and developmentally-appropriate activities.

There is also a section at the end of the Bill of Rights that instructs children and youth how to obtain help if they feel their rights are not being respected.

New York State proposed the creation of the document to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a proposal for a child welfare demonstration project designed to increase permanency by reducing time in foster care, increasing positive outcomes for children and families, and preventing maltreatment and re-entry into foster care. The two-page Bill of Rights has been distributed to local departments of social services and voluntary authorized agencies, which will implement it with children and youth who are currently in or entering foster care over the age of five, along with caseworkers and other responsible parties.

New York State continues to be a leader in finding permanent, safe and nurturing homes for our children. The number of children in foster care in New York State has decreased from 53,902 children at the end of 1995 to 19,391 at the end of 2013, a significant reversal of trends dating back decades.

Foster parents play an essential role in providing temporary, safe, and nurturing homes to children. If you are considering becoming a foster parent, visit the “Requirements to Become a Foster Parent” section of the OCFS website.