Grandparents’ Rights Circa 2017

Thanks you to those of you who have been following and working against this year’s version of the Grandparents’ Rights bill HB0289. (If you look at the bill, be sure to read the text of the second substitute as that is the bill curently under consideration.)

URGENT as I was composing this, the bill sponsor managed to get the bill on the 3rd reading calendar for the House Floor. That is unheard of! We need to mobilize and before Monday if we want to get to our representatives before they likely vote on it on Monday!

This morning it passed the House Judicial Committee. Before becoming law, it will need to pass on the house floor, a senate committee hearing, and on the senate floor. So there is still a great deal we can do!

I thought it would be helpful to give you the nitty gritty of what the bill does. You are under no obligation to oppose the bill like we do but we think it is a very bad bill and sets a terrible precedent for adoptive families.

Like last year, the scope of the bill is limited to cases where parental rights have been terminated and a relative has adopted the child, “relative” is limited to an aunt, uncle, or grandparent. 

This year the bill says that for those cases, for adoptions that are finalized after October 1, 2017, grandparents can file a petition for visitation one time but it must be before the adoption is finalized. 

ALL adoptions finalized BEFORE October 1, 2017 (again under those relative and termination guidelines) are also subject to one petition for visitation from biological grandparents. 

Here are the problems I have with that (feel free to use any of this when you call or write your legislators):

  • Adoptions that are finalized should be FINAL and not open to any kind of petition after the fact. Families need to know what they are getting into prior to finalization, not years down the line.
  • Petitions after October have to be resolved before adoption is completed which means adoptions will be delayed because of these petitions.
  • Biological family members who adopt a child are the BEST judges of who can safely be in a child’s life. 
  • Parents shouldn’t have different rights because they are related or because they adopted their child.
  • Adoptive parents should not be subject to the legal costs associated with fighting these petitions.
  • Grandparents are often more financially able to incur legal fees where young parents may not be.
  • There is Utah Supreme Court precedent that rules this bill unconstitutional. Utah Supreme Court Harbinger v. Scott, 2004 paragraph 17.

Please find out who your representatives are and call or email them immediately if you have concerns about this bill!

At le.utah.gov, you can look up who your representatives are and their emails and phone numbers. Focus on your representative in the House of Representatives for now but get ready to call your senator if this passes on Monday!

There is one more option of how to impact the bill and it is to go

To the state capitol and send a note in to the house floor requesting your representative come out and speak to you. Then you can talk to them in person about the bill and your concerns. If you want to do that, let me know and I can walk you through the process.

Every voice matters! Last year, we got the bill vetoed. Let’s not let it get that far this year!

If you have any questions, please call, text, or email me at 801 573-7248 or laurieannthorpe@hotmail.com.

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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

The legislative session is back on and in full swing. There are several issues and bills we are watching and tracking this year.

If you would like to receive notices about what is happening with bills, you can go to the Utah Legislature website, search for any bill and track it by clicking the tracking button on the right hand side of the page. The website will send you emails when the status of the bill changes.

The bills we are watching are all listed below. Keep in mind the list is not static. It changes constantly. We work hard to stay on top of issues that may affect your family and we appreciate all you do to keep track and advocate for your family.

Some things I want to highlight:

We continue to advocate for an increase in the foster parent reimbursement rate. We are very hopeful this year!

The Grandparent Rights bill HB0289 is back AGAIN. It can be exhausting to keep fighting this bill year after year after year after interim after veto after year. But that is absolutely the sponsor’s strategy. The moment we stop advocating against this because we are tired is the moment it will pass. This bill, if you are not familiar with it from last year would, under certain circumstances, allow biological grandparents to petition the court for visitation with children after they have been adopted.

We are opposed to this bill. Again.

A couple of years ago, a law was implemented that had an unintended consequence for foster families. The Office of Licensing reached out to is to let us know the consequence of the law. Briefly, the law would mean that in all circumstances when children in care were left for any amount of time with ANY other caregiver, the substitute caregiver would need to have a finger-printed background check. 

This would be a nightmare for foster families. Think of all the informal times when others take care of your kids, carpooling, scouts, grandparents babysitting, neighborhood babysitters, playgroups, etc. It would have been very very bad indeed.

Foster Families of Utah met with the original sponsor of the legislation and asked for an exemption. The sponsor was receptive and that exemption is HB0185. It passed through committee unanimously and passed the Housee of Representatives, also unanimously. It will be introduced in the Senate soon.

The bill did require the the Office of Licensing and DCFS define “incidental care” very precisely and that will have some impact for us. It defines incidental as fewer than 5 hours. It will mean that when you require care for your children in foster care that is over 5 hours, that provider of care will need a background check. We believe that is a reasonable standard and not so diferent from what we already do.

Other bills we are watching:

HB0072 Child Welfare Proceedings Amendments

This bill closes a loophole and requires a certain timeframe for hearings when there are no reunification services and termination is the plan. We support the bill.

HB0073 Child Placement Amendments
Requires DCFS to look for felonies before placing kids. 

HB0101 Adoptive Studies and Evaluations Amendments

Changes some requirements for home studies.

HB0131 Child Placement Provisions

This bill changes priorities and preferences for families for placement. We have concerns about this bill.

HB0145 Foster Children Visitation Amendments

This bill talks about a sibling’s right for visitation with other siblings in other settings. While we think the intention of this bill is good, we have concerns about how this could affect biological and adoptive families after adoption or after permanency is established.

HCR010 Concurrent Resolution Encouraging Identification and Support of Traumatic Childhood Experiences Survivors

SB0075 Child Welfare Amendments

Establishes “Child Protection Units”

SB0085 Amendments to Child Welfare
This bill would allow for a child or children to return to a foster home if they re-enter care even if the foster home is at capacity with their license. We support this bill.

Disclaimer: I’m doing this on my phone from the legislature. Please forgive any mistakes. Also forgive my inadequate descriptions and feel free to further clarify or disagree!

Call if you have questions or would like to become involved. 801-252-5395