‘Emotional bill’ aimed at reuniting Colorado foster care children with their families

The House Bill focuses on increasing family togetherness.
Published: May. 21, 2023 at 11:04 PM MDT|Updated: May. 22, 2023 at 4:57 AM MDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - A bill impacting over 3,000 children and their families is on Gov. Jared Polis’ desk.

The House bill focuses on increasing family togetherness. It aims to keep families united even without the sole care provider present.

“This was a very, very emotional bill for a lot of folks, for family members especially and for the foster advocates,” said Sen. Tony Exum Sr. (D-Colorado Springs), one of the primary sponsors of the bill. “We heard testimony from them. But we also heard testimony from kids that were in the foster care system.”

Exum said the bill is also about ensuring kids end up in a safe and loving environment.

According to House Bill 1024, it provides several measures to protect the best interests of a child or youth.

“This bill is looking for creating an opportunity for families to reengage and create a safe and loving environment for those children if next of kin or the parents have an opportunity to reengage,” Exum said.

Within those regulations, a child can reunite with family -- even if temporarily placed outside the family home in foster care.

“You just can’t come up and say, ‘Well, I am the grandmother, or I’m the grandfather or the auntie, and I’d like to have the child,’” Senator Exum Sr. said. “You’d have to go through, you know, background checks, go through the court system [...] and the judge would make the determination based on what’s best for the child.”

If passed, the court and child in question would be able to choose which family member would be best. The bill explicitly references a strong consideration of the kid’s mental, physical and emotional needs.

“I don’t want to see kids moved around,” Senator Exum Sr. said. “Sometimes they get moved around in foster in the foster systems, and sometimes kids get moved around within their own family.”

He also told 11 News that the House listened to testimonies from foster care advocates and individuals who experienced the foster care system.

In honoring the love and care many foster care families offer these children, the bill allows for kids in the care of a foster family for 12 months or more the opportunity to continue to contribute to the protection of the child. And according to the bill, that looks like providing information or knowledge concerning the child’s needs.

“There was a number of amendments, and I think most of them were really around making sure that through the process, the foster parent still had a voice,” Senator Exum Sr. said.

The Colorado Department of Human Services cites data from last year, with 3,735 children and youth living with Colorado’s nearly 2,000 certified foster families.

The bill would take effect 90 days after signature, assuming no referendum petition is filed.