Hunter on Foster CareSPRINGFIELD – More than 13,000 children will reap the benefits of improved foster care under legislation signed into law, sponsored by State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago).

Currently, foster parents considered unfit to raise children are allowed to re-apply one year after losing their fostering license. House Bill 4966 would ensure that past performance of a foster home is taken into account before a new license is granted.

"I am pleased this legislation passed. All children, no matter their circumstance, deserve quality care and a loving home,” Hunter said. “Wards deserve the same quality households as their peers who live with their biological families, and it is our responsibility to ensure that happens. This bill will prevent neglectful and sometimes abusive foster parents from harming our children."

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services oversees about 15,000 children, with the majority living in foster homes across the state. In recent years, news reports have uncovered systemic abuse and neglect of children under the department's care.

House Bill 4966 is a part of lawmakers' efforts to reform the department and address the dedication the state has to its children and their well-being.

Other states have strengthened their requirements for foster care license renewal. For example, North Carolina requires a five-year period before an applicant can re-apply, and Minnesota requires a five-year wait if revoked and two years if denied.

New York and Florida both require that past performance of fostering care be a determining factor in the re-application process, which is what Illinois has modeled its system after.

The legislation becomes effective January 1, 2017.