SPRINGFIELD -- Licensed foster homes in Illinois will likely have to comply with a host of new rules starting later this year, including strict vaccination and no-smoking policies. The state Department of Children and Family Services announced the proposed rules July 12, when they were published in the Illinois Register, the official state document for public notices of rule-making by state agencies.
Jassen Strokosch, a spokesperson for DCFS, said the proposed new rules are meant to comply with new National Model Foster Family Home Licensing Standards adopted in February by the Children's Bureau of the Administration for Children and Families, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The proposed new rules, which are not spelled out in current rules, include:
• Foster homes would, at a minimum, have to be equipped with a stove, oven, refrigerator and sink in the kitchen; a properly functioning toilet, sink, shower and tub in the bathroom; and a first aid kit and supplies.
• No person would be allowed to smoke inside a foster family home or in any vehicle used to transport a foster child.
• Swimming pools would have to be equipped with a government-approved lifesaving device such as a life preserver or life jacket and would have to have a working pump and filtering system if the pool cannot be emptied after each use.
• Foster parents would have to ensure they have access to safe, legal and reliable transportation.
• All children living in the foster home and all adult caregivers would be required to have up-to-date vaccinations, unless their primary care physician recommends otherwise.
• At least one adult in the foster home would have to be able to read and write at a level necessary to meet the needs of youth in care, such as the ability to read medication labels.
• All individuals in the foster family over age 18 would have to undergo background checks.
• Any individual applying for a foster home license would have to provide the name and address of at least one relative who can attest to the applicant's ability to care for a child or children. That's in addition to the three character references from unrelated individuals that are already required.
Under the state's Administrative Procedures Act, the July 12 publication in the Illinois Register constitutes "first notice" of the proposed new rules. DCFS could be required to have a public hearing on the rules if one is requested within 14 days by either the governor, an affected local government, 25 interested individuals, or an association of at least 100 interested individuals, which Strokosch said is unlikely. Sometime after a 45-day public comment period, which expires Aug. 26, DCFS will publish a second notice that may include changes recommended during the comment period, and it will submit that notice to the General Assembly's Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. If approved there, DCFS would be free to finalize the new rules.