HB1227, known as the Keeping Families Together act, recognizes that children and families are best served when children are cared for by their loved ones and in their communities.
In general, HB1227 does the following:
- Modifies the standard used by hospitals, law enforcement, and courts to authorize detention or removal of a child from a parent.
- Requires the Department of Children, Youth, and Families to make continuing efforts to place children with relatives and requires such placement unless there is no relative capable of ensuring the basic safety of the child.
- Requires the court to release a child to a parent unless the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that removal of the child is necessary to prevent imminent physical harm and that the evidence show a causal relationship between the conditions in the home and imminent physical harm to the child.
HB1227 also changes the standard by which a court may enter an order directing a child be taken into custody to now read:
- sufficient corroborating evidence; that the allegations contained in the petition, if true, establish by a preponderance of the evidence that removal is necessary to prevent imminent physical harm to the child due to abuse or neglect; and
- an affidavit or declaration setting forth insufficient time to serve a parent with a dependency petition and hold a hearing prior to removal.
Further, HB1227 identifies that the existence of community or family poverty, isolation, single parenthood, age of the parent, crowded or inadequate housing, substance abuse, prenatal drug or alcohol exposure, mental illness, disability or special needs of the parent or child, or nonconforming social behavior does not by itself constitute imminent physical harm.
Another aspect of the bill states that if the court places with a relative and that person indicates an interest in becoming a licensed foster parent, the court shall order the DCYF to commence an investigation of the home within 24 hours and expedite licensure. If licensed, the foster care subsidy shall be paid to the relative retroactive to the date of placement. If the home is unqualified, the DCYF must report that fact to the court within one week of the determination.
And, the department is directed to make every effort to provide all other discoverable material to the child's parent, guardian, legal custodian, or their legal counsel prior to any shelter care hearing.
Note: This is not a complete summary of the bill. There are other provisions.
- The substitute bill specifies that imminent physical harm, the standard used in the underlying bill to determine whether a child should be removed from a parent, includes that which results from sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, or a pattern of severe neglect.
- The substitute bill replaces the term "supporting services" with the term "prevention services," which is defined in current law.
- The substitute bill specifies that disbelief on the part of the relative or other suitable person that the parent presents a danger to the child must not prevent the child's placement with such relative or other suitable person provided the caregiver will protect the safety of the child and comply with court orders regarding contact with a parent, guardian, or legal custodian.
- The substitute bill requires the DCYF to begin an assessment of a relative or other suitable person's home within 72 hours of placement instead of 24 hours and issue an initial license instead of expediting licensure.
- The substitute bill specifies that relatives seeking licensure will receive a foster care maintenance payment starting on the first day the person agrees to begin the licensing process.
- The substitute bill specifies that failure to comply with court orders and placement moves while a child is in shelter care will be considered when determining whether reasonable efforts have been made by the DCYF.