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February 2015Vol. 16, No. 1New Law's Provision Promotes Well-Being for Youth in Care

Research has shown that engaging in extracurricular, social, and cultural activities helps promote a sense of normalcy among youth in foster care. While these activities have been shown to support their social, cognitive, and emotional development, youth in care often face legal barriers to participating in certain activities in the same ways their classmates and other peers do. Among the provisions of the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (P.L. 113-183), signed into law September 29, 2014, is a requirement for States to implement a "reasonable and prudent parent standard" that will empower foster parents or other designated decision-makers to make decisions to allow youth in foster care to participate in healthy and developmentally appropriate activities such as field trips, sleepovers, and other extracurricular activities. This standard is intended to expand opportunities for youth in care to engage in activities that will promote their well-being.

A new issue brief from the Center for the Study of Social Policy discusses how the appropriate implementation of the standard can support the healthy development of all youth in care. Some of their specific recommendations include the following:

  • Incorporate "nurturing" into the definition of a reasonable and prudent parent so that a caregiver is able to support a youth's emotional development
  • Include protective and promotive factors in the requirements for reasonable and prudent decision-making
  • Ensure that healthy sexual development is addressed in efforts to promote well-being
  • Leverage existing financing structures to fund programs that support well-being

In addition, the brief examines how implementation can be tailored to meet the needs of youth with special needs, particularly two subgroups of youth: expectant and parenting youth in foster care and youth in care who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ). For expectant and parenting youth, recommendations include supporting their emotional and developmental needs, including and supporting young fathers, and providing parent training and education. For LGBTQ youth, the importance of providing safe and nurturing spaces for youth to explore their sexuality and providing training for caregivers is stressed. A list of resources is also included.

Promoting Well-Being Through the Reasonable and Prudent Parent Standard: A Guide for States Implementing the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (H.R. 4980) is available at (961 KB).