Thursday, February 7, 2008


Gov. Bill Ritter today signed into law the first bill of the 2008 legislative session to reach his desk, requiring counties to arrange visits between foster children and their siblings if they have been separated and want to stay connected.
House Bill 08-1006 was sponsored by Rep. Cheri Jahn and Sen. Paula Sandoval and received unanimous bipartisan support from the legislature. With the help of Mile High United Way's "Bridging the Gap" program, a group of young adults who recently transitioned out of foster care wrote the legislation and testified on its behalf during committee hearings.
On any given day in Colorado, 6,800 children are in a foster-care setting. Often, it's hard for a foster child to stay in contact with their brothers or sisters. This bill requires counties to make arrangements for sibling visits. 
"A group of former foster children identified this as something that needed to be addressed," Gov. Ritter said. "They wrote the legislation, they found sponsors, they testified in front of committees and they won unanimous support from the legislature.
"When it comes to foster care and foster children, we know from experience that permanence and connections to family can make a tremendous difference," Gov. Ritter added. "A sibling may be the only sense of permanence, safety or family that a foster child has. So when a foster child makes a request to see their brother or sister, we should listen and put it at the top of the priority list. It might seem like a little thing, but it's not."
Joining Gov. Ritter at today's bill-signing ceremony were two of the former foster children who provided the inspiration for HB 1006, 22-year-olds Tony Corley and Renee Manke. Tony has four siblings and currently mentors children in foster care. Renee was placed in foster care at age 17 and lost contact with her younger sister. She plans on attending college this summer to get a degree in early childhood development and eventually become a kindergarten teacher.