In 2013, Florida lawmakers chose to implement the Normalcy Act; a law that requires their state government to allow foster parents to have the right to make decisions about allowing foster children to do simple things such as attend school outings and participate in sports.
In this article, the Florida Department of Children and Families called this the “Let Kids Be Kids” Law.
Most people who I’ve talked to even some child welfare professionals are unaware that such restrictions ever existed. I get to travel the country on a regular basis speaking to judges, lawyers, social workers, foster parents, CASA workers, and foster youth so I have talked to a large amount of these populations.
In actuality, these restrictions causing a foster child to jump through hoops just for permission to attend a school outing still exist in most places. Sometimes they even have to go all the way back to a judge through social workers and case workers prior to getting a permission slip signed. This Salt Lake City, UT article shares about a teen girl who had to battle just to be able to join her teammates at a state cheer competition earlier in 2014.
When I was in care, I ended up with a biological aunt who allowed me to forge my mother’s signature to avoid this process. Although some people may not think that is right, I am ever so grateful for that common sense move that she made to simplify my complicated childhood.
But not everyone has such an advocate on their side who is willing (or legally able) to do what is truly in the best interest of a child without serious reprimand. Therefore, this issue shows up with almost every group of foster youth that I speak to.
After speaking to them to inspire hope for their future, they usually want to take photos with me, but if they are under the age of 18 they can’t because it takes too long to get signed permission for a “media release”.
After a while, I got sick of seeing disappointed faces when a program director would tell kids they can’t take a photo with me. So, one time in South Dakota, while touring with the Unified Judicial System, I found a way to work around the system.
I asked the entire group of kids to stand facing the wall and I stood in front of them facing the camera. All of them proceeded to hold up “peace” and “love signs, giving birth to the #PeaceAndLove Movement.
Here is the original group of foster youth who started this movement:
I now do this Peace And Love activity with almost every audience I speak to. You can see several of the audiences that have already faced the wall and joined the movement in 4 other states by clicking this link (scroll to the bottom of the page to see all of the photos) In these photos you will find college students, fortune 500 corporate executives from businesses like Luxotica and Ray Ban, as well as foster parents, judges, and lawyers.
This #PeaceAndLove Movement needs awareness. The next time you’re with a group, large or small, ask them to turn around and hold their Peace And Love signs up with both hands, as high as they can. And then take a photo of yourself standing in front of them then add the hash tag #PeaceAndLove.