HB 377, Grandparent Rights Passed

By: Laurieann Thorpe President, Foster Families of Utah

I’ve had to gear up for a few days to write this because it has been a huge blow for me personally. I did everything in my power to fight this bill but it passed anyway.

The bill means that for children who are adopted through foster care by relatives, their biological grandparents can petition the court for visitation even after the adoption is finalized. This applies to ALL adoptions of this kind. Even if the adoption took place years ago. There is also no limit to the number of times they can petition.

Here’s the thing (and please forgive my informal tone but this has really kicked my bum), I think this bill passed for three reasons: 1- it was difficult to understand, 2- the sponsor was extremely savvy in the path he used to get it where he wanted it, and 3- it only affects such a narrow group of families that there was no public outcry because those affected by it probably didn’t know anything about it.

Our organization, Grandfamilies, and the Office of the Guardian Ad Litem all opposed the bill.

The reason it is a problem for our organization is that it exposes families to ongoing and unspecified litigation costs when they determine to set boundaries with biological grandparents but ONLY in the circumstance where a parent adopts a relative. It strips related, adoptive parents of a right that every other adoptive or biological parent takes for granted.

You know how important it is when you are an adoptive parent to be able to protect your kids and determine who can and can’t safely continue to be part of their lives post-adoption. I’d even go as far as to say that all adoptive parents I know are supportive of maintaining any relationship that is healthy for the child and the family. But it should be your prerogative to determine when that is – including the frequency and duration of visits.

Here is the full text of the bill.

We have one last move: asking the governor to veto it. If you are willing to write a letter to the governor, and/or call him to request a veto, please let me know? You can email me at fosterfamiliesofutah@gmail.com or call or text my personal cell at 801 573-7248. I need to know if anyone besides me is willing to call or email the governor before I move forward.

If you are willing, please keep reading. To call the Governor’s Office, please call:

Phone: 801-538-1000
Toll Free: 800-705-2464

To contact the Governor’s Office to request a veto click here and fill out the information in the form there.

For the body of your comment, please feel free to use the following (and include your personal story or objections too):

Please veto HB 377, Grandparent Rights, L. Christensen. This bill is a bad idea for children and families. It gives biological grandparents the right to petition the court for visitation after a parent’s parental rights have been terminated but only if the child has been adopted by relatives. This affects a very small, targeted group of families. But those affected will be subject to ongoing legal expense and manipulation from biological families long after adoptions are finalized – all to maintain a right that other families in Utah take for granted.

If your parents do not support you as your child’s parent, if they constantly seek to undermine what is important to you, if they put your child in harm’s way, you can choose to distance your family from them. This bill says that because children are adopted and related, that is no longer true.

We are talking about complicated cases where family ties have been severed because of abuse or neglect. In these situations, a parent’s right to protect their children should be strengthened NOT weakened. If the children are adopted by a relative, that new parent is better equipped than anyone to determine whom to protect the child from – including biological grandparents.

Parents in this circumstance are welcoming and open to relationships with biological family that strengthen stability and safety for a child. This bill sets up an adversarial relationship where a biological grandparent inappropriately has the upper hand.

Grandparents who work to have a good relationship with the new parents will not have any need for this provision. Grandparents who work against the family should not have this leverage to continually manipulate and harass new parents.

Please veto this bill!

If you have any questions about this, please call, text, or email me! fosterfamiliesofutah@gmail.com 801 573-7248.

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