Bill that expands rights for foster children goes to Oregon Senate

Jackson County foster family, Mar. 20th 2017, (KTVL/Megan Allison)

MEDFORD -- House Bill 2216 makes it easier for siblings to get placed together, and creates contact plans for when children are apart.

Sharon Ashker is a foster parent, and also an adopted parent to former foster child Cayleigh. The nine-year-old loves to read and play with barbies, but Ashker said Cayleigh wouldn't be the same if she didn't have a relationship with her siblings.

"She gets depressed and she doesn't want to talk about it because she doesn't know how to express herself. I don't know how much she's missed them until I see them come together," Ashker said.

The foster parent tries to create a sense of normalcy in her home, but she said it's not always easy. A former foster child of hers ended up moving back in with siblings.

"It was a huge sacrifice for me and we had her start visiting back and forth and finally she transitioned into that home. And she's doing great and I'm now grandma," Ashker said.

Ashker said this would have been much easier if the siblings had been placed together to begin with. Kelsey Mundfrom is on the board for the Jackson County Foster Parent Association. She said these relationships are often the one point of stability for foster children.

"That's totally unnatural and it's crazy and hectic so any way you can keep some kind of normalcy and have them still be able to see their siblings and family that's huge for them and helps them to have some kind of stability or normalcy throughout a crazy process," Mundfrom said.

But the board member said it's encouraging to see multiple bills aimed at foster families in the Oregon Legislature, and said representative Duane Stark is largely to thank.

"He's totally championed the way for foster parents here and it's so appreciated because a lot of times people think about foster care but not a lot gets done and Oregon really needs a lot of help right now," Mundfrom said.

Other bills look at allowing foster children to change their assigned case workers, and creating more funding for Court Appointed Special Advocates.

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