IN PHOTO: From left, Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee, Rep. Jason Knight, Rep. Deborah Ruggiero, Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne, Sen. Louis P. DiPalma, Coalition for Children and Families Board Chairman Benedict F. Lessing Jr., Coalition Executive Director Tanja Kubas-Meyer and Lisa Tomasso and Darlene Allen, Coalition Legislative Committee chairwomen.

 Sen. Louis P. DiPalma, Rep. Deborah Ruggiero, Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne, Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee and Rep. Jason Knight were honored this week by the Rhode Island Coalition for Children and Families for their sponsorship of legislation to protect children.

The coalition honored the legislators for their advocacy of measures to protect children by instituting background checks on volunteers at youth and religious organizations and by extending services to youth in state care up to age 21.

Senator Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence), Representative Knight (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren) and Representative McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett) were honored for advocacy for child protection for their sponsorship of bills (2017-S661A/2017-H 6059A2018-S1025/2017-H 5229A) enacted last year to enable religious organizations to require background checks of employees and volunteers who work with children, and to require all agencies that serve youth to require background checks of volunteers.

Representative Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown) and Senator DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Newport, Little Compton, Tiverton) were honored for youth success advocacy for their leadership during and after the 2017 legislative session and the current session working with the Department of Children, Youth and Families, Family Court, House and Senate staff, and advocates through the summer and fall on the Voluntary Extension of Care Act (2018-H 7110/2018-S 2022). The act would restore Rhode Island’s commitment to serving foster youth in the care of DCYF until age 21. Up until 2007, Rhode Island provided care to this age group, however in 2007 the limit for receiving foster care services and support was rolled back to the youth’s 18th birthday. Both legislators have reintroduced the bill, and it has also been included in the governor’s budget proposal.

The Rhode Island Coalition for Children and Families is an alliance of more than 35 organizations that works to promote the safety, health and success of children and youth from infancy to adulthood. RICCF advocates for a comprehensive and effective network of social, emotional, health, educational, and economic supports and services for Rhode Island’s children, youth and families.