Sunday, February 25, 2007

State Senator wants funding back in Boni bill

Adoption bill back on track, sponsor says
Honeycutt-Spears, Valarie. Lexington Herald-Leader, Feb. 22, 2007, pg. B3.

FRANKFORT -- The foster care adoption bill should be intact and back on track for passage in the legislature by week's end, the bill's sponsor says.

State Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, says she expects that a key provision requiring judges to warn parents that their children in foster care could be taken away permanently will be restored by the Senate Judiciary committee.

Kentucky's Inspector General recently found possible criminal activity in the way that state social workers promote adoptions of foster children over reunification with their families.

A state task force that drafted legislation to correct the problems deemed parent-education important because families aren't consistently told up front that they could lose their children permanently.

Lawmakers cut the provision last week, drawing criticism from child advocates. In its place was language authorizing Kentucky's chief justice to establish administrative rules regarding child removal cases.

Denton said she wants stronger wording back in Senate Bill 141 to require judges to issue written and oral warnings to biological parents.

When the bill is voted on by the full Senate and then in the House, it will contain several other components that could help protect parents' rights.

The legislation requires both biological parents to be notified that their parental rights could be terminated. It allows indigent parents to have an attorney for their first appearance in court, and gives them more days to prepare for court.

Also, Sen. Ernesto Scorsone, D-Lexington, has filed an amendment that would allow judges to set fees for court-appointed attorneys based on the amount of work they do for indigent parents.

The quality of representation that court-appointed attorneys provide for indigent parents also is under scrutiny.

Other bills aimed at improving the child removal process in Kentucky haven't yet made progress in the General Assembly.

--One piece of legislation mandates training for judges on child protection issues, and another would lead to better management of complaints from biological families to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

--Yet another bill calls for a legislative investigation of possible crimes and bad treatment of biological parents by state social workers who arrange adoptions of state foster children.

Meanwhile, Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, is concerned that in Kentucky, grandparents and other appropriate extended relatives aren't consistently given preference over strangers. Burch wants a law that will keep more children with relatives to come out of the 2007 legislative session.


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