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Massachusetts foster parents hope newly signed 'Bill of Rights' will help recruit more families into system

The Tarjick family of Cheshire, Massachusetts.
Karen Brown
/
NEPM
The Tarjick family of Cheshire, Massachusetts, has included many foster and adopted children.

Some Massachusetts child advocates believe the state’s newly signed Foster Parent Bill of Rights could improve foster care and help recruit new families into an over-stretched system.

The bill of rights, signed by former Gov. Charlie Baker before he left office in January, promises foster parents will be given background information on the children in their home, offered training and resources, and be given more authority in both major and routine decisions.

“So that foster children can go to birthday parties without having background checks,” said Missy Tarjick with the Massachusetts Alliance for Foster Families. “They can go to appropriate sleepovers. They might be able to ride their bike to school with a group of kids. And it really just takes away from that stigma that kids experience going into foster care.”

Tarjick and her husband have fostered and adopted nine children over the years in their Cheshire home; six adopted children still live with them. She said the new document should help foster families feel more a part of the social work team.

“They know the child very well, oftentimes having that child in their home 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Tarjick said. “They want the department to understand that they have a perspective and that that should be listened to.

Tarjick knows families and the department will not always be in agreement, but they should be a part of the conversation.

"I think that being heard is very important to foster parents,” she added.

By making foster parents feel more respected, Tarjick said, more people are likely to take in children who’ve been removed from their biological families, which can be traumatic.

“If things are going well and foster parents are saying things are going well, it really impacts and makes people step up and decide to foster,” Tarjick said. “We need more foster parents because obviously the larger the pool, the better it is for kids to be matched to the best homes for them.”

Tarjick has previously advocated for the state to do more to keep siblings together after they are removed from their biological parents.

Karen Brown is a radio and print journalist who focuses on health care, mental health, children’s issues, and other topics about the human condition. She has been a full-time radio reporter for NEPM since 1998.