Scott signs Foster Care Records Act into law

Vermont Business Magazine On Wednesday, Governor Scott signed H.644 (an act relating to access to records by individuals who were in foster care) into law as Act 173. The passage of this bill marks an important development in the ability for Vermont’s youth who were formerly in foster care to access their state records, allowing them to understand and share their personal histories. 

“Until now, former foster children have not had access to these files – hampering their ability to process the reasons that may have led to them being placed in care to begin with, and to understand the scope of their experience from their time in state custody,” said Aryka Radke, Deputy Commissioner of the Department for Children and Families, Family Services Division. “This is especially important as we continue to grapple with the legacy of institutions like St. Joseph’s Orphanage, which housed some 13,000 children over more than a century. Many of these former residents have since come forward with horrible accounts of abuse suffered at the hands of those entrusted with their care. While state investigators were able to look at the school’s records during their process, the survivors – hampered by state law – could not.” 

The Department believes strongly that people deserve to know their own history, including events that may have occurred during their time in state custody. 

“This new law hands power back to children and youth to access their stories in the way they feel is best, once they become legal adults,” said Matthew Bernstein of the Office of the Child, Youth, and Family Advocate. “With this groundbreaking legislation, Vermont now leads the nation in providing former foster youth access to both their court and their DCF records. We hope this law becomes a model for other states who want to empower former foster youth. The OCYFA looks forward to partnering with impacted people, DCF, the state archives, and others to ensure the law’s timely and full implementation.” 

"This bill is a great example of how the legislative process should work. It is the result of intense collaboration between stakeholders both from within State government, as well as external advocates,” said DCF Commissioner Chris Winters." The Department for Children and Families, the Office of the Child, Youth, and Family Advocate, and the Vermont State Archives and Records Administration all look forward to partnering together, alongside the multitude of impacted individuals from Vermont’s foster care system, to ensure the timely and effective implementation of this law.” 

If you or someone you know was previously in foster care, and they would like access to their records, please visit the Department for Children and Families website for more information, or email [email protected].   

The Office of the Child, Youth, and Family Advocate may be contacted at [email protected].  

The Vermont Department for Children and Families delivers a wide array of programs and services to Vermonters in areas such as child care, child development, child protection, child support, disability determination, and economic benefits that help meet basic needs.  

Source: 6.14.2024. Waterbury, VT -Vermont Department for Children and Families 

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