State Representative Sean Morrison won the election & is back for more!
Representative Morrison has worked tirelessly to bring attention & change to the
child welfare system in NH.
Making Progress in Foster Care
In September of 2017, FOSTERING CHANGE: Alliance for NH Foster Parents set out to make a difference in the lives of foster children, foster parents and foster caregivers for children in care throughout our state. Individuals, such as State Representative Sean Morrison (R), a foster parent in Epping, joined forces with the “Alliance” and became a strong advocate dedicated to improving our child welfare system.
Representative Morrison has publically expressed his outrage at the lack of respect he has seen for foster parents throughout the state, and persevered after the House Children and Family Law Committee shut down his proposed foster parent bill of rights last winter. “This issue was too important not to continue fighting for,” said Morrison who is campaigning to be re-elected again for another term in the legislature.
Instead of accepting defeat, Representative Morrison went back to the drawing board with members of the Alliance to draft a bill that was more likely to get passed. Not only did the Senate approve the changes, they added a line from the previously proposed bill to the House to ensure that foster parents had a representative from DCYF available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to answer questions about the acute needs of a foster child. The end result? On June 25, 2018, Governor Sununu passed the first laws (170-E:51 & 52) in the state exclusive to foster parents that highlight collaboration between the state and those who care for foster children. Finally, the General Court of New Hampshire recognized that foster parents, “play an integral, indispensable, and vital role in the department's effort to care for dependent children displaced from their homes” (170-E:51).
Unfortunately, foster parents say that not much has changed, despite the fact that the law says that the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) should be acknowledging foster parents as active and participating members of this system. Currently, less than 27% of foster parents and relative caregivers feel as if their role as an “active member” of a child’s care team is being recognized, despite the new law and the fact that the Federal Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) established in 1997, is clear that foster parents have the right to receive notice of a child’s court proceedings.
So what’s next for Representative Morrison if re-elected? “I’m hoping that Senator Sharon Carson, co-sponsor of the foster parent bill of rights, will be returning to the State House, as well as Senator Jeb Bradley, Senator Kevin Avard and the other Senators of the Senate Committee. They understand the value behind giving foster parents a voice in foster care.” When asked what he sees as his biggest challenge moving forward with foster care reform, Morrison stated, “Without a doubt, we need to make sure that the best interests of the children becomes the driving force behind the decisions being made by DCYF and the Courts.” What does this mean exactly? Morrison says, “Other states have clearly defined the best interests of the child and New Hampshire has fallen behind the times, just like they had with the foster parent bill of rights. We need to get much better at meeting a child’s developmental needs and not causing more trauma to children in foster care. It’s about time the judges know what is really going on behind the scenes so they can make more informed decisions for all these kids.”
According to Debbie Deary a foster parent in Epping, "Representative Morrison believes the needs of foster children should be put first. I know he will continue to fight for their rights and safety. He has always said to contact him if a child in care needs anything and to call him day or night.” The time has come to develop a stronger, unified value-centered approach to foster care, and it appears Representative Morrison is just getting started in his pledge to ensure that every dependent child in foster care receives the best possible care for the best possible future.
On Nov. 6th let’s be sure you cast your ballot for the legislators who are committed to foster care reform and making a difference in the lives of children and families throughout our state.
Educator & Former NH Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)