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Bennett advances foster care legislation

Legislation unveiled Tuesday by a state representative is meant to strengthen relationships between foster children.

District 27A Rep. Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea, presented the bill to the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee. The legislation would create guidelines to help foster children stay connected with their siblings by promoting beneficial connections, such as visits, phone calls and taking part in important celebrations like birthdays.

“This bill seeks to help those children who are among the most vulnerable in our society — our foster kids,” Bennett said in a press release. “We all know how important our siblings are to each of us, and foster kids are no different. Children in foster care already face difficulties that are tough to imagine, and I think this bill can help ease these hardships and promote healthy growth by assisting these kids in staying connected to their siblings as much as possible.”

Sasha Martin and Vivianna Castillo-Roybal, who have both been in the foster care system, testified in favor of the bill Tuesday.

“Sasha and Vivianna were so brave to come to St. Paul to tell their story and to advocate for this bill,” Bennett said. “Their testimony helped drive home how important this legislation is in helping out young people in foster care maintain the important family relationships with their siblings.”

She said she was approached by a group of foster children who expressed support to introduce such legislation.

“They’re in a tough place and are going through times, and anything I can do to help make their lives a little bit better … it’s kind of an honor to do that,” Bennett said.

“They’re a good group to work with.”

Bennett has met with local foster parents who she said do good work and anticipates the legislation will benefit the area.

“This kind of builds on what they are doing — the wonderful work they are doing,” she said.

“We have lots of foster kids in the area, and this will impact them in a positive way.”

The bill passed the Human Services Reform Committee and was referred to the Health and Human Services Committee, where Bennett is requesting a hearing.