FCJA Legislative Update: Feb. 23, Last Day to get out of committee
February 23, 2010
"The department and the AG are charged with representing the child. That seems to be the problem."
Sen. James Hargrove, Senate HSC Chairman
Hearing on HB 3205, Feb. 28, 2008
Tuesday, Feb. 23, is the last day for all bills to get out of the policy committee in the opposite house (except budget). Any policy bill that fails to get voted out of committee on Tuesday is dead.
HB 2735 which would require that children over 12 be notified of their rights under existing law to request an attorney has not yet been voted out of committee. We know from the research that legal representation brings permanency quicker and leads to better outcomes, including more sibling visitations and more family reunifications. My experience has been that no two cases are alike. A child enters foster care because of alleged abuse or neglect. Sometimes it was a lapse of judgment that can be corrected. Some with chemical dependency can be rehabilitated. And sometimes the abuse is horrific. Only two things can be said with certainty: every child abuser will get an attorney. Most of the children will not. That is fundamentally unjust.
Please contact your senators now, especially the members of the Human Services & Corrections Committee, and ask that they PLEASE PASS HB 2735:
Human Services and Corrections Committee Members:
Senator Room Phone E-Mail
Hargrove, James (D) Chair
LEG 411 (360) 786-7646 [email protected]
Regala, Debbie (D) Vice Chair
JAC 233 (360) 786-7652 [email protected]
Stevens, Val (R) *
INB 105 (360) 786-7676 [email protected]
Brandland, Dale (R)
INB 203 (360) 786-7682 [email protected]
Carrell, Mike (R)
INB 102 (360) 786-7654 [email protected]
Kauffman, Claudia (D)
LEG 414 (360) 786-7692 [email protected]
McAuliffe, Rosemary (D)
LEG 403 (360) 786-7600 [email protected]
Senate bills SB 6416 and SB 6730 are very similar bills, in fact, two sections are identical in each. They would allow relative caregivers to petition the court within 10 days after a child has been removed. It would allow the relative to bring an attorney, cross examine witnesses, and be heard on the issue of placement only. We support the intent, but have concerns about the language, in particular that it only applies to children placed with relative caregivers and not other placements, and it attempts to create a substantive right for relatives instead of focusing on the right of the child to safety and well-being. Children need stability, and barring safety concerns, should not be moved unnecessarily. We ask the legislature to ensure this for all the children in foster care and placed with relatives.
We also have process concerns about allowing one type of caregiver to bring an attorney into court to cross-examine another type of caregiver, who is not allowed an attorney. I don't believe that was the intent - but that is the way this bill reads and it will happen. A better solution in our opinion would be to require the department to call for a hearing prior to removing a child that has been placed for 12 or more months, unless there are imminent safety concerns. That way you aren't asking caregivers to battle it out in court with attorneys.
Again, I support the intent, and there are several other sections with good things about notifying the parents regarding relative placements. But the language needs some quick work.
SB 6730 was heard in Early Learning and Children's Services (ELCS) Committee on Friday, Feb. 19, and SB 6416 will be heard on Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 1:30 PM. Expect to see coverage on the evening news in Seattle of the 6416 hearing.
Please contact your representatives on the Early Learning and Children's Services Committee, and ask that they amend 6730/6416 to protect all children in dependency:
Early Learning and Children’s Services Committee Members:
Representative Room Phone E-Mail
Kagi, Ruth (D) Chair
JLOB 328 (360) 786-7910...
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