2017 Legislative Bills Summary

page-0

Advertisements

2017 Utah Legislation Updates

Two of the most newsworthy outcomes from Utah’s recent legislative session which greatly affect foster families are:

  • A {positive} change to reimbursement rates, and
  • The death of HB 289, also known as the “Grandparents Rights Bill.”

A huge shout out to Foster Families of Utah’s Laurieann Thorpe for once again personally advocating for an increase in foster parent’s reimbursement rates!  Foster parents have not received an increase in reimbursement rates since 2009 and members of the Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee voted in favor of giving Utah’s foster parents a 10% increase in reimbursement rates.  This change will be effective July 1, 2017 and applies to families providing Levels 1, 2, and 3 Care through DCFS.

HB 289– Grandparent Visitation Amendments, did NOT pass, due in large part to the number of foster families who contacted their representatives in opposition to the bill.

You can read the full text of HB 289 by clicking here: http://le.utah.gov/~2017/bills/static/HB0289.html

In summary, if this bill would have passed, it would have made it possible for the biological grandparents of children who have been adopted by a relative [after parental rights had been terminated] to file a petition for visitation rights.   Some of the concerns foster parents shared regarding this bill were expressed in the previous post.

Although a version of HB 289 was vetoed by Governor Herbert last year (2016) and it did not pass again this year as the senate cosponsor withdrew his support, it will most likely be sponsored and heard again next year.  HB 289 has been limited to adoptions by family members, but it has the potential to set a precedent for ALL adoptions, so if you have concerns or strong opinions about this bill, be prepared to make your voice heard at next year’s Legislative Session!

A couple of other bills were passed which will be of benefit to Utah’s foster parents including:

SB 0085– Because this bill was passed, foster parents will be able to take in a child (or children) who was previously placed in their home even if one’s license is at capacity.  Thank you to DCFS’s Tanya Albornoz  for advocating for this bill!  Common sense and research show the importance of stability in a child’s life and this bill will be of great benefit to children who come back into care by preventing them from being moved to yet another unfamiliar setting.

HB 0185 Because of this exemption to a licensing law in 2015, foster parents do not have to have background checks on every person who is left alone with their child for any amount of time (babysitters, neighbors, scout leaders, grandparents, etc.).  The Office of Licensing and DCFS have reminded us that when foster parents require care for your children in foster care that is over five hours, that provider of care will need a background check.  It is great to network with other foster families who have already been background checked when it comes to babysitting or respite!

As always, Foster Families of Utah will keep you updated on any bills affecting foster families and the children in our care and will provide you with information on how to become more involved in advocacy efforts.  If you would like to be more involved in advocacy with the legislature, please contact us at fosterfamiliesofutah@gmail.com or 801 252-5395.

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.

Reimbursement Rates

Despite our best efforts, the proposed 8.8% rate increase for level 1, 2, and 3 foster families proposed by Senator Weiler did not make it on the short list of priorities to be considered by the Appropriations Committee. There will be no rate increase this year.

Thank you so much to those of you who wrote to your legislators in support of the increase. The Legislature has many competing requests and many compelling issues to tackle with limited funding. We are so grateful Senator Weiler was willing to propose the increase and we will keep advocating for an increase in the years to come.

Going forward, we are hoping to implement a periodic review and adjustment of rates on a regular basis. We are going to work with the legislature to see if we can get that change into statute and law. Foster Parents would not have to approach the legislature about funding if it were something the legislature reviewed and did on an pre-scheduled basis.

We had some questions about rate breakdowns and how our proposal would have impacted rates so we have included that breakout by level and age below.

If you are interested in working with the legislature on this issue, please contact us! And thanks again!

fosterfamiliesofutah@gmail.com

801 252-5395

rate chart

Proposed Reimbursement Rates

If you are a foster parent, you are well aware that reimbursement rates seldom cover the cost to care for the children placed in your home.

If you would like to do something to change this then please let your voice be heard and join Foster Families of Utah as we ask the legislature for a reimbursement rate increase during the 2016 Legislative Session!

Senator Todd Weiler is sponsoring a budget request of $750,000 from the Social Services Appropriations Committee. He is proposing the increase on Friday, February 5!
leg handout v3-page-0
  

The more foster parents we have in support of this proposal the more likely it is to happen!   Contact your legislator and ask them to support this Request for Appropriation. You can find contact information for your Senators and Representatives here.

If you would like to know more or want to get involved, please leave a comment on this post, on our Facebook page, or send us an email at  fosterfamiliesofutah@gmail.com.