WE CAN HELP YOU FOR FREE
NCSL can help state child welfare systems develop strategies to safely reduce the number of children in foster care through:
- Presentations, informal briefings and testimony before committees and hearings,
- Written research and analysis, or
- Informal telephone conference calls with state child welfare administrators, legislators and legislative staff in other states to discuss their experiences in child welfare reform.
STATE LEGISLATIVE EFFORTS TO SAFELY REDUCE THE NUMBER OF CHILDREN IN FOSTER CARE
States are working to safely reduce the number of children that enter into state care. States are doing this through the passage of “Safe Haven” legislation which offers mothers in crisis the option to safely surrender their babies to specific personnel in selected locations such as hospitals and fire stations.
INFANT SAFE HAVEN LEGISLATION
Fifty state legislatures have enacted legislation to address infant abandonment. Infant Safe Haven laws have been enacted as an incentive for mothers in crisis to safely relinquish their infants to designated locations where they are provided with medical care until a permanent home is found. Safe haven laws generally allow the parent to remain anonymous and to be shielded from prosecution for the abandonment.
Examples of enacted state legislation related to Safe Havens include:
- Connecticut: A 2010 amendment to the Connecticut Infant Safe Haven Law, (2010 Conn. Acts, SB 218, P.A. 10-161) states that surrendered infants are considered to be in the custody of the department which may institute legal proceedings for guardianship or termination of parental rights. The law also requires the name and date of birth of the infant to be given to the Commissioner of Public Health, if that information has been registered in the state’s vital records system, for the sole purpose of sealing the infant’s original birth record.
- District of Columbia: The District of Columbia’s Infant Safe Haven Act of 2010 (2010 D.C. Stat., B18-632, Act 321) allows parents in crisis to surrender a newborn infant 14 days or younger to any hospital or other authorized location. The relinquishment of an infant to an authorized safe haven will not be grounds for abuse, neglect or abandonment charges. Authorized personnel at safe havens are required to immediately notify and transfer the infant to the Child and Family Services agency.
- South Carolina: A bill pre-filed in the state House of Representatives (HB 3145) last month in South Carolina would extend the age of a child that can be abandoned to up to 3 years old. It would also add staffed state Department of Social Services offices to the list of safe havens. Currently, the Infant Safe Haven legislation in South Carolina allows hospitals, law enforcement agencies, fire stations and emergency medical services to be safe havens for children up to 30 days old.
FOSTERING CONNECTIONS TO SUCCESS
President Bush signed into law the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (H.R. 6893/P.L. 110-351) on October 7th, 2008. This new law helps to connect foster children with their relatives, improve the health care and education coordination for foster children, support permanent families through relative guardianship, and enhance adoption subsidies and supports to older youth in foster care.
NOTIFICATION OF RELATIVES
The relative notification requirement of Fostering Connections is a mandatory provision which states must implement. This provision requires that within 30 days after the child has been removed from parental custody, the state shall exercise due diligence to identify and provide notice to all adult grandparents and other adult relatives of the child. The notice will be sent to any other adult relatives suggested by the parents, subject to exceptions due to domestic violence.
A number of states have enacted legislation around this provision of Fostering Connections. Following are a few state examples:
- Arkansas 2009 HB 2013, Act 1311: Requires the Department of Human Services to identify and provide notice to all adult grandparents and other adult relatives within 30 days of a juvenile transferred to the custody of the department. Requires court reports to include information and recommendations concerning placement and visitation with a grandparent or other adult relative.
- Minnesota 2009 SB 1503, Chap. 163: Establishes that the responsible social services agency shall make diligent efforts to identify and locate both parents of any child who is the subject of child welfare proceedings, as well as conduct a relative search to identify and provide notice to adult relatives.
- Oklahoma 2009 SB 339, Chap. 160: Requires the court, at the emergency custody hearing of the child, to mandate the parent, legal guardian, or custodian to list all parents and relatives as potential placements for the child. Requires the Department to exercise due diligence to identify all relatives of the child and notify them that the child has been removed from their parent's custody and alert them to the requirements for becoming a potential foster care provider for the child.
Click here for information on Fostering Connections related bills that have been introduced in 2010.
Click here for information on Fostering Connections related legislation that was enacted in 2009.
CHILD WELFARE REPORTS
- Despite the worsening economic conditions in 2009, newly released national child maltreatment data for 2009 do not show an increase in substantiated maltreatment. Overall substantiated child maltreatment actually declined 2% from the previous year, including a 5% decline in sexual abuse. Child maltreatment fatalities, however, rose 3% which the authors attribute largely to an increase in fatalities in the state of Texas. Click here to view the full January 2011 report, “Updated Trends in Child Maltreatment 2009.” Please note that 2009 is the most current year for this national compilation of statistics on child maltreatment from state child protection agencies.
- The Center for Law and Social Policy and the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law recently released a report on foster care licensing waivers for relatives. Click here to view the full report, “Relative Foster Care Licensing Waivers in the States: Policies and Possibilities.”
NCSL CHILD WELFARE QUICK LINKS