Sponsored by Representative Roberts, HB 1204 specifies the appropriate limitations for sibling visits for those siblings separated as a result of involvement in the foster care system. Maximum contact between siblings is to be facilitated, with a minimum of at least two visits per month. Visitation may not be limited or denied unless a court order prevents or limits visits; the department determines that visits would be contrary to the child’s health, safety, or welfare or that they would hinder reunification; the department has documented that the child or sibling is developmentally able to decide their needs for sibling visits and has requested no contact or limited contact; the parent of a nondependent sibling objects to visits with the dependent child or requests to limit visits; the child is on the run from his or her placement for a majority of the current calendar month; or the child is not complying with visitation arrangements. Any exceptions, limitation, or denial of visitation must be approved by the case worker’s supervisor and be documented. The limitation of visits may not be used as a sanction for a child’s behavior or as an incentive to the child. Any party may challenge the denial of visits in court.
Substitute bill: As amended, HB1204 does the following: required two monthly visits or contacts; establishes that in-person visits are presumed to be in the child's best interest; states that sibling visitation may be denied if a facility where the child or sibling resides prohibits or limits visits or contacts with siblings; removes the provision granting a child the ability to petition the court to become a party to their sibling's case; and removes the provision that states if a child does become a party to their sibling's case confidential information cannot be shared.
House floor amendment: The floor amendment adds language specifying that a Guardian ad Litem can challenge the denial of a visit in court.
As amended by the HSC Committee: To eliminate the fiscal impact, the requirement for two sibling visits or contacts per month was removed.