Saturday, March 10, 2007

Fees for court-appointed attorneys haven't raised since the 1980's

Steps taken to revive adoption bill
Top officials would review every recommendation to terminate parental rights
Honeycutt-Spears, Valarie. Lexington Herald-Leader, March 7, 2007, pg. B2.

FRANKFORT -- With the foster care adoption bill stalled in the Senate, state Rep. Tom Burch yesterday took steps in the House to revive it.

In the revised legislation, Burch calls for a panel of top state child protection officials to carefully review every recommendation to terminate parental rights before that recommendation is sent to a judge.

In essence, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary and the Inspector General and the officials who head legal and social service divisions, would have to review every request to terminate parental rights.

The formation of a protection and permanency panel would protect the rights of a biological mother, a biological father, and their child, the revised bill says.

The revised legislation says the panel would have to review Cabinet records and written and oral comments from biological parents and other relatives before approving a termination of parental rights.

State officials have spent the last year investigating complaints that children are inappropriately removed from their biological parents and placed in foster care to facilitate state adoptions.

Burch, D-Louisville, said the amended bill is "pretty much" the same as the old legislation. But he said the bill calls for no fee increases for court-appointed attorneys. Those fees have not been raised since the 1980s.

"This is the best that we can do right now,"
Burch said.

He said lawmakers hope to add increased funding for court-appointed attorneys in the next legislative session.

Under the revised legislation, Kentucky's chief justice would establish procedures for managing child protection and permanency cases in court.

The revised legislation is now called Senate Bill 140. It passed the House Health and Welfare Committee that Burch chairs and now goes to the full House for its consideration.

Meanwhile, the foster care adoption bill sponsored by Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, has not yet been called for a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The committee chairman, Sen. Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said yesterday morning that he was waiting for revised wording from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services before calling that original foster care legislation -- Senate Bill 141 -- for a vote.

The problem with Senate BIll 141 is that it requires more court-appointed attorneys and that might not be practical in rural areas, Stivers said.

Cabinet spokeswoman Vikki Franklin said yesterday afternoon that Cabinet officials were still working on Denton's bill.

It was not immediately known last night how Burch's action would affect Denton's bill.


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