FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
State Rep. Tim Briggs
Briggs' foster care sibling placement bill signed into law
HARRISBURG, Nov. 24 – Legislation sponsored by state Rep. Tim Briggs, D-Montgomery, to improve the lives of hundreds of children in the Pennsylvania foster care system has been signed in to law by Gov. Ed Rendell.
Briggs introduced the legislation (Act No. 115) earlier this year. He said his goal with this bill, which is his first signed into law, was to provide stability for young people in foster care by ensuring that all efforts are made to keep siblings together whenever possible.
"It is important to do everything we can to give these children the opportunity to grow up with the love and support that comes from having a close sibling," Briggs said. "Many studies show that keeping children together when they enter foster care is extremely important for their well-being and now under this new law, even more kids will get the chance to grow up with their brother or sister."
The new law will require county children and youth agencies to make every reasonable effort to place siblings together in foster care, unless doing so is contrary to the safety and well-being of any sibling.
Briggs said this measure incorporates into state law recent changes in federal law dealing with foster care. He said current state law and regulations do not provide for sibling placement and visitation. Including these provisions in the Juvenile Act ensures effective implementation of the new federal requirements.
Briggs said his legislation was supported statewide by Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children and the Juvenile Law Center.
Joan Benso, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, said the legislation is vital to keeping siblings together in the foster care system and protecting these important lifelong relationships.
"I commend Representative Briggs and his colleagues in the legislature for understanding the strong ties between siblings and working to address the challenges they face when placed in foster care," Benso said. "Siblings are the family members we typically have in our lives the longest."
Jennifer Pokempner, supervising attorney at the Juvenile Law Center, also supported this legislation.
"Foster children experience a great deal of trauma when they are removed from their homes," Pokempner said. "The additional loss of contact with siblings can be devastating. [This law] reduces unnecessary trauma for foster children and is an important step forward in promoting positive outcomes for Pennsylvania's children."