Foster children work with Drake Law students to pass unique sibling visitation law in
Law school students and faculty at
The legislation the foster children and law students are working to get passed would mandate visitation rights for siblings who are split up and placed into foster homes, and ensure that foster parents receive training about the need to accommodate those visits.
Jerry Foxhoven, director of the
“It was absolutely unanimous that they wanted to do something on this issue,” Foxhoven says.
If the bill passes,
“Very few states have sibling visitation laws,” he says. “Most would say ‘We try to do that already.’ The young people we’ve worked with are saying states need to do more than try. They want to know why they’re not being given regular visitation with their siblings, and they think foster parents need training to make sure those visits happen.”
Although courts try to keep children together when they are taken away from their parents and placed in foster homes, “We forget that focus when siblings are separated,” he says.
California is the only other state Foxhoven is aware of that has a sibling visitation law, and Iowa is the only one that will have foster children themselves lobbying for the proposed legislation, which he estimates has a 90 percent chance of passing.
Foxhoven doesn’t limit using foster children to lobby legislators. Recognizing that children evoke sympathy and empathy in a juvenile justice system that often depersonalizes them, he also deploys them strategically in other settings, having them deliver presentations to judges, social workers, teachers and anyone else who works with children in the legal system.