Children living in foster care placements are often denied opportunities for normalcy – the opportunity to participate in age appropriate activities that are normally available to children and youth as they grow (e.g. participating in extracurricular activities, having friends over to visit or spending the night at a friend’s house).
The National Foster Care Youth & Alumni Council has defined normalcy as “the opportunity for children and youth in out-of-home placement to participate in and experience age and culturally appropriate activities, responsibilities and life events that promote normal growth and development.”[i] The Department of Family and Protective Services encourages normalcy for children in care, however, foster families can receive very mixed messages and often fear regulatory repercussions if a child is allowed to participate in an activity not specifically included in the child’s service plan.
The Texas CASA Mental Health Task Force (funded through a Hogg Foundation grant) has convened many times during the current biennium to develop strategies to improve the mental wellness of children in state care. The recommendations below were developed by the taskforce and are supported by the Hogg Foundation.
- Require caregivers, staff, and licensing to receive training on normalcy.
- Address service plan limitations by listing normalcy activities and/or experiences the child has or is participating in rather than listing activities as a limited list of activities in which a child can participate.
Mandate that caregivers and child placing agencies are not held liable for harm caused to a child during a normalcy activity where a “reasonable and prudent parenting standard” was used.
[i] National Foster Youth & Alumni Policy Council. (2013, April 16). Improving Well-Being by Addressing Normalcy for Foster Youth. Retrieved from http://nfyapc.drupalgardens.com/content/normalcy-recommendations