Engaging in normal, age-appropriate activities and experiences is a critical component of healthy child development. However, experiencing abuse or neglect and being removed from a family to foster care is not “normal.” Although foster care may be safer for a child or youth, cultivating normal childhood experiences while in foster care is a challenge. Providing normalcy in foster care includes managing risk, giving children the opportunity to act like children, and encouraging the development of a child’s interests and strengths. Normalcy is just one of many considerations for children in care. It is important that normalcy is viewed through a holistic lens, in tandem with education, medical, mental health, and other considerations. 

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The Children’s Commission held a Round Table in January 2019 to discuss normalcy for children and youth experiencing foster care. A Round Table report was issued in May 2019, and Commission staff made presentations about normalcy to various stakeholders in May, June, and September 2019. In October 2019, the Children’s Commission granted funding to Texas CASA to create a role-based Normalcy Guide. The Guide will be published in FY2020.

Texas Bar Journal October coverIn November 2018, the Texas Bar Journal offered the Children’s Commission the opportunity to submit content for its October 2019 journal which was dedicated to children and juveniles. The Children’s Commission co-authored a Texas Bar Journal article with the Texas RioGrande Legal Aid Foster Youth Justice Project entitled “Representing Youth and Young Adults,” which focused on the transition to adulthood for youth who are under the care and conservatorship of the state of Texas, which can involve significant challenges to experiencing normalcy, attaining independence, and developing skills for a successful adulthood. The article acknowledged that lawyers play a critical role in representing teenagers in foster care by ensuring the complex framework of laws that cover health care, education, runaway issues, and transition planning are addressed in addition to advocating for safety, permanency, and well-being. Additionally, the article discussed how lawyers can help teenage clients navigate the critical decision about whether to remain in foster care beyond their 18th birthday to access additional resources and support, including a Supervised Independent Living program. The article also underscored the importance of youth participation in the decisions that impact their lives.