The Senate passed a bill Wednesday to give children in Department of Children and Families custody more visitation rights with their separated siblings.
The department currently facilitates one visit a month between separated siblings. The bill would allow siblings at least weekly visits as long as they live within 50 miles of each other.
In October, Alixes Rosado was among a group of youth advisers to make recommendations to lawmakers about how to improve the foster care experience for children. One of the things advocated by Rosado, a former foster child, was more contact between siblings who have been placed in separate homes.
On Wednesday, Rosado commended lawmakers for acting on the recommendations. He said he was separated from his three siblings while he was in foster care, but he longed for a closer relationship with them.
“It was rough growing up for us because we never had the opportunity to be together, to have a relationship. DCF facilitated our monthly visits but it was not enough to build or maintain our relationship,” he said.
“Bills like this are very important because they are giving our youth the opportunity to have that relationship with their siblings,” Rosado said.
The bill passed on the Senate’s consent calendar, meaning no lawmaker opposed the measure. Sen. Terry Gerratana, D-New Britain, said it will have a wonderful impact on children who have been removed from their homes and don’t have enough contact with their brothers and sisters.
“This is monumental because . . . it means we’re devoted to families, keeping families intact,” Gerratana said.
The bill will still have to be acted upon by the House before the legislative session ends in a week. Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, said the bill will help kids who have already undergone a lot of stress in their lives.
“I’m very hopeful that we will be able to move on this bill and build families in the state of Connecticut, instead of separating families,” she said.
DCF Commissioner Joette Katz said that when the bill goes into effect in 2014 it will apply to around 35 children. Currently, there are around 200 who are separated from their siblings but the department is in the process of rolling out other initiatives aimed at placing children with family members. The bill’s fiscal note anticipates the measure will cost the state around $91,000.