DCF Signs Sibling Bill of Rights for Children & Youth in State Custody
Posted: April 4th, 2012
Essex, VT — At the 2012 Youth Conference held today at Johnson State College, DCF Commissioner Dave Yacovone signed a Sibling Bill of Rights — formally recognizing the value of sibling relationships and reinforcing the department’s commitment to preserving these important connections for children and youth in state care. Family Services Division Deputy Commissioner Cindy Walcott, Youth Development Committee Board President Nick Gee, State Youth Development Program Coordinator Katherine Boise, and Americorps VISTA member Quinn Lockwood also signed the bill.
The Sibling Bill of Rights was created jointly by the New England Association of Child Welfare Commissioners and Directors (NEACWCD) and the New England Youth Coalition (NEYC). The coalition serves as an advisory group to NEACWCD — identifying systemic issues that need to be improved from the perspective of foster youth.
The coalition spearheaded the bill’s creation because of their strong belief that child welfare systems throughout New England needed to do more to preserve the bond between siblings. The bill was inspired by the stories of youth in foster care across the region, many of whom had permanently lost touch with their brothers and sisters.
“At a couple of points in my life, I had no idea where my brother was,” said former foster youth Kara Woodard. “That really affected how I acted at my placement and affected my treatment in a negative way. It would have been really important for me to have that connection and at least know that he was okay.”
Vermont’s Youth Advisory Board has already begun pulling together a group of youth leaders who will sit down with youth, gather their input, and work with DCF to craft a policy that will guide implementation of the rights outlined in the bill.
“One of the best things about this bill is the fact that it was youth-driven from the start,” said Americorps VISTA member Quinn Lockwood. “It’s a great feeling to know that policy will be created with direct involvement from the youth it will affect.”
The bill outlines ten basic rights for foster children — beginning with the basic tenet that siblings should be placed together whenever possible and then laying out specific ways to nurture and sustain sibling relationships when that is not possible.
“The Department for Children and Families fully embraces the values expressed in the Sibling Bill of Rights,” said DCF Commissioner Dave Yacovone. “It is now time for us to put words into action, and DCF is fully committed to working with Vermont youth leaders on the bill’s implementation. We applaud the New England Youth Coalition for their advocacy and hard work moving this bill forward and thank the Americorp VISTA Program for supporting our youth.”
“The importance of sibling bonds cannot be overestimated,” said Cindy Walcott, Deputy Commissioner of DCF-Family Services Division and current President of NEACWCD. “All too often in the past, children in foster care lost access to their siblings, losing a vital source of support and identity — not only during their childhoods but throughout their lives. Child welfare leaders in New England are committed to doing all we can to ensure these bonds are not only preserved but also strengthened.”
To view the Sibling Bill of Rights, click here.
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The New England Association of Child Welfare Commissioners and Directors is a consortium of child welfare agency leaders and staff members from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Agency leaders created the association to develop policies that promote competent child welfare practices, share information, discuss mutual issues and concerns, and learn from each other's experience.
The New England Youth Coalition consists of current and former foster youth and adult partners who work together to better the quality of life for youth involved with the foster care system through education, advocacy, and improvement of policy and practice. It has been meeting since 2008, and draws its members from youth advisory boards in all six New England States. Vermont has been an allied partner with the coalition since the coalition’s founding year.
Released: April 4, 2012