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

Does anyone know a good attorney?

It may be the most frequently asked question: “Does anyone know a good attorney?” So, we have done some research, mined all of your suggestions and we have come up with a statewide list of attorneys who are familiar with foster care issues and and have done adoptions from foster care. Each of these attorneys was vetted by our board attorney. Let us know if we missed anyone that you have worked with.

We hope this is a resource you will find valuable!

Listed below by region:

Northern

JUDGE (RET.) SHARON McCULLY

2828 West 4700 South Suite C

Salt Lake City, UT  84119

801-201-4043

sharon.mccully@comcast.net

MEGHANN MILLS

Attorney at Law

PO Box 521572

Salt Lake City, UT 84152-1572

801-554-3685

meg@millslawutah.com

DEREK J. WILLIAMS

Snow, Christensen, & Martineau

10 Exchange Place, 11th Floor

SLC, UT 84111

801 322 9331

djw@scmlaw.com

CAROL MORTENSEN
2550 Washington Blvd, Ste 325
Ogden, UT 84401
801-866-1046

cmortensen@ut-lawyers.com
ERIN E. BYINGTON

Bearnson & Caldwell, LLC

399 N Main St, Suite 270

Logan, Utah 84321

435-752-6300

JOSEPH SILVERZWEIG
Midway Law
728 W 100 South

Heber City, Utah 84032

435-659-7380

joseph@midwaylaw.com
JOSEPH TAGGART

Portuguese/Spanish Speaking

801-556-9929

Joseph.Taggart@EmeraldValeLegal.com

ERIN HILL

112 W. 1275 N.

Layton, UT 84041

801-603-5739

EMILIE BEAN

Bean & Micken

471 W. Heritage Park Blvd. Suite #1

Layton UT 84041

801-825-3477

PAUL GOSNEL

Hillyard, Anderson, Olsen

French Speaking

595 South Riverwoods Pkwy, Suite #100

Logan, UT 84321

435-752-2610

Western

JUDGE (RET.) SHARON McCULLY

2828 West 4700 South Suite C

Salt Lake City, UT  84119

801-201-4043

sharon.mccully@comcast.net

MEGHANN MILLS

Attorney at Law

PO Box 521572

Salt Lake City, UT 84152-1572

801-554-3685

meg@millslawutah.com

DEREK J. WILLIAMS

Snow, Christensen, & Martineau

10 Exchange Place, 11th Floor

SLC, UT 84111

801 322 9331

djw@scmlaw.com

JOHN S. LARSEN
Attorney at Law
1215 N. 500 W.

Provo, Utah 84604

801-899-1111

john@larsenlegalutah.com

WES HUTCHINS

The Hutchins Law Firm

6751 South Adventure Way

West Jordan, Utah 84081

801-969-0104

CHRIS C. ROGERS

Anderson & Rogers

170 South Interstate Plaza Dr. STE #320

Lehi, UT 84043

801-768-7070

CHARISMA V. BUCK

1789 N. 800 E.

Lehi UT 84043

801-766-2608

STEVE RUSSELL

Carver, Russell & West, LLC

480 E. 400 S., Suite 201

SLC, UT 84111

801-746-2400

steven@crwlawut.com

LARRY JENKINS

50 E. South Temple, Suite 400

SLC, UT 84111

801-328-3600

 RYAN PETERSON

Macarthur, Heder, Metler

3319 N. University Ave.

Provo, UT 84604

801-377-1900

Eastern

JUDGE (RET.) SHARON McCULLY

2828 West 4700 South Suite C

Salt Lake City, UT  84119

801-201-4043

sharon.mccully@comcast.net

MEGHANN MILLS

Attorney at Law

PO Box 521572

Salt Lake City, UT 84152-1572

801-554-3685

meg@millslawutah.com

BRAD BROTHERSON

72 North 300 East, #123-14

Roosevelt, UT 84066

435-722-3928

brotherson@abhlawfirm.com

WILL REYNOLDS

319 West 100 South

Vernal, UT 84078

435-789-1344

CLARK ALLRED

148 S. Vernal Ave., #101

Vernal, UT 84078

435-789-7800

callred@abhlawfirm.com

Salt Lake

DEREK J. WILLIAMS

Snow, Christensen, & Martineau

10 Exchange Place, 11th Floor

SLC, UT 84111

801 322 9331

djw@scmlaw.com

MICHELLE L. SULLIVAN

Sharifi & Baron

155 N 400W, Suite 530

SLC, UT 84103

801 656 1901

michelleatsb@gmail.com

JUDGE (RET.) SHARON McCULLY

2828 West 4700 South Suite C

Salt Lake City, UT  84119

801-201-4043

sharon.mccully@comcast.net

K. BRADLEY CARR

Law Offices of James H. Woodall, PLLC

10808 River Front Parkway, Suite 175

South Jordan, Utah 84095

Phone: (801) 254-9450

Fax: (801) 254-9451

Email: bc@utahtrustee.com

MEGHANN MILLS

Attorney at Law

PO Box 521572

Salt Lake City, UT 84152-1572

801-554-3685

meg@millslawutah.com

NICOLE SALAZAR-HALL

Clyde, Snow, & Sessions

201 S. Main St. #1300

Salt Lake City, UT 84111

801-322-2516

nsh@clydesnow.com

BRENT HALL

Jennings & Medura

brent@jmutah.com

801-883-8325

HEATHER TANANA

Richards, Brandt, Miller & Nelson

299 S. Main, #1500

Salt Lake City, UT 84111

801-531-2000

heather-tanana@rbmn.com

LAUREN R. BARROS

261 East 300 South, Suite 200

Salt Lake City, Utah 84111

(801) 746-0670 phone

lrb@LRBFamilyLaw.com

http://www.LRBFamilyLaw.com

JOSEPH TAGGART

Portuguese/Spanish Speaking

801-556-9929

Joseph.Taggart@EmeraldValeLegal.com

CAROL MORTENSEN
2550 Washington Blvd, Ste 325
Ogden, UT 84401
801-866-1046

cmortensen@ut-lawyers.com
JENNIFER P. LEE

Alder Law Group

3216 South Highland Drive, #201

Salt Lake City, Utah   84106

(801) 463-2600

T. CHRISTOPHER WHARTON
Chris Wharton Law, LLC
165 South Main Street, Suite 200
Salt Lake City, UT 84111
Telephone: 801-649-3529

Facsimile: 801-416-1879

chris@chriswhartonlaw.com

ANITA DICKINSON

Law Office of Anita Dickinson
1905 West 4700 South #101
SLC, Utah 84129
Fax: (801) 441-1970
Cell: 801-541-4114

JOHN S. LARSEN
Attorney at Law
1215 N. 500 W., Provo, Utah 84604

801-899-1111
john@larsenlegalutah.com

FRANK CALL

29S. State St., #7

SLC, UT 84111

801-532-9909

JOSHUA BARON

Sharifi & Baron

155N. 400 W., #530

SLC, UT 84111

801-656-1901

LES ENGLAND

875 Iron Horse Dr., #F

Park City, UT 84068

435-649-1945

Southwest

CHAD UTLEY

2107 W. Sunset Blvd., 2nd Floor

St. George, UT 84770

435-634-1600

utley@farrisutley.com

ANGELA ADAMS

33 North 100 West, #200

St. George, UT 84770

435-634-5723

Angela.adams@wcattorney.com

BEN GORDON

20 N. Main #311

St. George, UT 84770

435-215-6975

bgordonlaw@gmail.com

TIM DANIELS

1760 N. Main St. #202

Cedar City, UT 84721

435-592-1235

JUSTIN WAGMENT

51 East 400 North, Bldg 1

Cedar City, UT 84721

435-586-3300

BRUCE JENKINS

285 W. Tabernacle, #301

St. George, UT 84770

435-656-8200

bcj@vf-law.com

SAM DRAPER

162 N. 400 E., Suite A-204

St. George, UT 84770

435-674-4734

samuelgdraper@gmail.com

Announcing!

Foster Families of Utah and the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) are excited to announce a foster parenting conference on October 3, 2016. Mark your calendars and save the date! This is open to all foster/adoptive parents in Utah and will count for in-service training hours.

The title of the conference is Foster Learning: Building Bridges. Foster parents will build bridges with state and local resources, have an opportunity to brainstorm with DCFS administration on how to work together, learn about building bridges with biological families, and more!

Space will be limited so plan now to attend and we will post registration details here soon. Click the file below for the Save The Date flyer.

Save the Date Oct 3

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.

Legislative Update

We wanted to let you know about some bills that are in consideration before the legislature this year. These are bills that will affect foster families. We’ve provided a list below with links to the bills, our concerns or support of each, and some instructions if you would like to follow the bills so you can advocate for your families and your concerns.

HB00377 Grandparent Rights Amendments, Christensen, L.

This is a bill that would enable biological grandparents to petition the court for visitation rights with children who have been adopted from foster care by relatives.

Foster Families of Utah has concerns about this bill. We believe adoptive parents should have the same rights as other parents, and that this bill violates that. It could impact DCFS’s ability to find willing relatives to take placements if they are worried biological grandparents would take them to court even after an adoption is finalized.

Representative Christensen has been trying to pass this bill for three years. Advocacy from foster families has helped to keep it from passing.

If you would like to track this bill, click on the link above and scroll down to read the bill. On the left side of the screen, there are two yellow buttons that will allow you to track the bill and receive email notifications when the status changes.

SB0079S02 Child Welfare Revisions, Jackson, A.

This bill provides that a minor who is 18 years or old may petition the the court to to be exempt from the custody of DCFS.

This bill is on its second substitution and the substitution alleviates many of Foster Families of Utah’s concerns. Originally, it stated that foster youth would no longer be in DCFS care when they turned 18. Thanks to many concerned foster parents and agencies, that bill did not stand.

It now has a provision that takes into consideration the recommendations of members of the child and family team and also includes a provision for the youth to request reentry into DCFS within 30 days of leaving care.

If you would like to track this bill, click on the link above and scroll down to read the bill. On the left side of the screen, there are two yellow buttons that will allow you to track the bill and receive email notifications when the status changes.

SB0082 Child Welfare Modifications, Harper, W.

This bill is jam-packed full of little details cleaning up code to make it possible for DCFS to, among other things, use evidence-based assessment, modifies some background check requirements for emergency placements, supports a psychotropic medication evaluation for children foster care, and more.

Foster Families of Utah supports this bill. It supports foster families and clears a path for better services from DCFS.

If you would like to track this bill, click on the link above and scroll down to read the bill. On the left side of the screen, there are two yellow buttons that will allow you to track the bill and receive email notifications when the status changes.

This is not an exhaustive list of the bills we are following but these are the bills we think foster parents will be most interested in.

To find a daily calendar of events for the legislature or to look up your representatives and senators, please click here.

If you would like to be more involved in advocacy with the legislature, please contact us at fosterfamiliesofutah@gmail.com or 801 252-5395.