|Posted:||January 22, 2015 03:50 PM|
|From:||Representative Rosita C. Youngblood and Rep. Jason Dawkins|
|To:||All House members|
|Subject:||Providing standing to siblings for visitation rights (former HB 642)|
|In the near future, we plan to introduce legislation that would strengthen sibling visitation rights in Pennsylvania, and recognize the importance of these relationships on the emotional and psychological development of children.
The proposal, which was introduced last session as House Bill 642 by Rep. Youngblood, would provide standing in court to siblings who wish to petition for visitation rights. The proposal would add some requirements and limitations, which would help to protect the delicate nature of court proceedings relating to domestic relations. The decision to grant visitation rights for siblings would still rest in the hands of a judge, and would have to meet specific requirements outlined in law.
Studies have shown the increasing importance of sibling relationships in the development and growth of children. The bond between siblings is unique and powerful, and provides a structure that is different from other relationships that are critical to a child's social advancement – including the relationships between children and their parents, friends and peers. It is vital that we recognize the importance of these relationships, and simply allow siblings who may be separated from their brother or sister as a result of divorce, or death of a parent, to have an opportunity to go before a judge and seek visitation rights.
Last session, the House Children and Youth Committee held a public hearing on former HB 642, and heard testimony from Dr. Avidan Milevsky, who is an associate professor of psychology at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. A leading expert in the fields of family issues, parenting and siblings, and author of “Sibling relationships in childhood and adolescence: Predictors and outcomes,” Dr. Milevsky said the importance of siblings throughout life is becoming more evident as researchers focus on understanding this often neglected relationship. He added that public policy that integrates our knowledge about the crucial role played by siblings can go a long way in creating an atmosphere that is in the best interest of the child.
Once sibling relationships are established, the bond is an essential part of a child's life, and we need to make sure that they have an opportunity to keep that relationship. We have made reference to the importance of sibling relationships with regard to adoption and foster care, yet we have failed to understand the complexity of “traditional” family structures in today’s world. Those siblings who may be separated because of divorce, or even more tragically, the death of a parent, must have the opportunity to remain close with their brother or sister.
Based on the outcome of the public hearing held last session, we made some necessary adjustments to last session's bill in order to alleviate some of the concerns expressed by stakeholders.
Co-sponsors from last session include: YOUNGBLOOD, PICKETT, KORTZ, CLAY, O'BRIEN, COHEN, THOMAS, MILLARD, TRUITT, TALLMAN, V. BROWN, RAPP, BROWNLEE, KINSEY, QUINN, MURT, FLECK, PARKER, NEILSON, CRUZ, D. COSTA AND DONATUCCI
I hope that you will join us in cosponsoring this important legislation.
Introduced as HB338