Foster parents fighting for 'bill of rights'

Some Massachusetts foster parents say they don't have a voice in the system and are fighting for their own bill of rights.

"We're tired of feeling like they're taking advantage of us…like we're a babysitter,” said Quira Deng, a former foster parent.

The foster parents said common sense information they should know before a child is placed in their home, like health problems or safety concerns, is not being shared.

“We don’t feel like we're part of a team we don’t feel...like nobody regards us at all,” said Deng.

MORE: Local family sues DCF after foster child sexually assaults 4-year-old

Some of the parents testified Tuesday at the Statehouse, seeking a foster parents' "bill of rights."

One of the key issues in the bill is better communication, requiring the Department of Children and Families to provide information on a child's behavior, family background, health, and how many times the child's been moved before placement.

READ: Click here to read the bill's text

"There's been a number of cases where medical information or history of an individual's behaviors have not been appropriately shared," said Rep. Joseph McKenna, D-Worcester.

McKenna, co-sponsor of the bill, said not disclosing that information can have serious consequences.

Earlier this month, 25 Investigates reported on a Lowell area foster parent who said a foster child placed in her home sexually assaulted her then 4-year-old daughter. We aren't identifying the family to protect the child.

>>MORE: Local family sues DCF after foster child sexually assaults 4-year-old

The mother is suing DCF, claiming the case worker knowingly placed a sexual offender in her home without disclosing the risks. The case is pending.

Boston 25 News asked DCF about the foster parents’ bill of rights, a spokesperson told us, in part, "We are actively recruiting foster homes and adoptive families across the state and strive to build a large, diverse community of foster parents statewide."

The need exists, according to DCF data obtained by 25 investigates. As of June, there are 3,900 licensed foster homes and about 9,300 children in state care.

“The money has already been spent on licensing homes that were actively serving the children in the commonwealth's care. DCF is doing nothing to retain good foster parent homes,” said Barbara Papile, a former foster parent.

There are also bills establishing a foster care review system, independent of DCF. Advocates say it will help keep children from bouncing from home to home and falling through the cracks.

>>MORE: 1-year after death of Auburn foster child, the search for answers continues

DCF told Boston 25 News the administration will review any legislation that hits the governor’s desk.

FULL STATEMENT FROM DCF

“Foster parents play a vital role in the Department of Children and Families’ primary duty to keep children safe.  We are pleased to have added 15 new staff dedicated to foster parent recruitment statewide. We are actively recruiting foster homes and adoptive families across the state and strive to build a large, diverse community of foster parents statewide so there are always safe homes for children in the cities and towns where they live and go to school. With the addition of the foster care recruiters, the Department has increased its capacity to recruit at community events, make personal contact with prospective foster parents and assist prospective foster parents with the application process. The administration will carefully review any legislation that comes to the Governor’s desk.”

–Andrea Grossman, DCF spokesperson