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Pennsylvania House of Representatives
https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=H&SPick=20170&cosponId=23765
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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: April 26, 2017 03:55 PM
From: Representative Rosita C. Youngblood
To: All House members
Subject: Sibling visitation rights
 
In the near future, I plan to re-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 would provide standing in court to siblings who wish to petition for visitation rights, with some limitations to help protect the delicate nature of court proceedings relating to family and 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.

A few years ago, 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, "...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.

Over the last few years, I have worked with stakeholders and made some necessary adjustments to versions of this bill introduced in previous sessions in order to alleviate some of the concerns expressed by stakeholders.

I hope that you join me in recognizing sibling relationships, and offer your support for this legislation.

Previous cosponsors include: YOUNGBLOOD, DAWKINS, BISHOP, CRUZ, O'BRIEN, PICKETT, V. BROWN, C. PARKER, COHEN, KINSEY, THOMAS, DONATUCCI, CALTAGIRONE, MILLARD, KORTZ, BROWNLEE, RAPP, ROZZI, McCARTER, McNEILL, READSHAW, MURT, TRUITT, TALLMAN, QUINN, ACOSTA, FABRIZIO, SIMS, D. COSTA, TOOHIL AND KIRKLAND.

If you have any questions or concerns, please call my Harrisburg office at 717-772-9920.



Introduced as HB1768