PHOENIX -- Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill Thursday allowing Arizonans to become foster parents even if their own children haven't been immunized, while also advising state officials to exercise caution when placing children in those homes.
Brewer said she hoped the measure will help Arizona find more homes for foster children. But she said the state's top priority is ensuring that children remain safe and healthy.
Brewer directed the state Department of Economic Security to develop a policy restricting the placement of young children and infants in homes where foster parents have not immunized their own children. She also said state officials must consider whether the foster child is fully immunized before making placement decisions and stressed that the bill does not guarantee placement of foster children in those homes.
``With careful implementation, this legislation has the potential to provide more children with a safe and loving home,'' Brewer said in a letter to Senate President Andy Biggs.
Senate Bill 1108 prohibits the state from requiring adults to immunize their natural or adoptive children as a condition of becoming a foster parent. The measure does not affect the state's requirement for foster children to be immunized.
``If you're more concerned with a child that may get sick, I can tell you that child is probably, probably, much more concerned with wanting somebody to love them,'' said Rep. Rick Gray, R-Sun City, during House debate of the bill.
Democratic lawmakers in the GOP-led Legislature had opposed the bill, saying it will put foster children at risk.
Arizona has more than 14,000 children under state supervision, either in foster care, living with relatives or in group homes. The bill targets the 1,344 who are in group homes waiting for foster home placement.