Governor Murphy Signs Bill Establishing New Jersey Siblings’ Bill of Rights
TRENTON – In an effort to maintain sibling relationships in the child welfare system, Governor Phil Murphy today signed S1034/A1357, establishing the Siblings’ Bill of Rights in New Jersey. The bill, which will take effect immediately, will supplement the Child Placement Bill of Rights, adding a number of provisions to strengthen sibling bonds in the child welfare system and during placement. The bill aims to ensure children involved with the Division of Child Protection & Permanency in the Department of Children and Families (DCF) who wish to maintain relationships with their siblings are supported by the department in doing so. The bill recognizes that children placed outside their home have several rights related to maintaining sibling relationships, including the right to remain actively involved in the lives of their siblings, and, where appropriate, to have their voice heard in the permanency planning process for their siblings.
In January 2020, the Department of Children and Families’ (DCF) Office of Family Voice (OFV) convened a Youth Council consisting of 24 members ages 14-23 who are or were previously involved with one of DCF’s programs (such as Child Protection & Permanency or the Children’s System of Care). During those convenings, the Youth Council worked collaboratively with DCF and its leadership to identify issues and priorities based on the lived experience of child-welfare-involved youth. These youth consistently stressed that sibling relationships were crucial for maintaining stability and ensuring future success. The Youth Council ultimately developed recommendations that were shared with the Governor and the Legislature, and highlighted in a video presentation from the Council to legislators.