Kentucky Child Welfare Oversight and Advisory Committee
Senator Whitney Westerfield (R-Ky.)
The first bill introduced during the 2018 Kentucky legislative session created The Child Welfare Oversight and Advisory Committee. This committee was the result of a 2017 interim working group comprised of bipartisan House members. Although Senator Whitney Westerfield was not one of the members assigned to this working group, he made it a point to attend several meetings in an unofficial capacity in order to grow his knowledge of the child welfare system. Eventually his passion shone through and he was selected for the advisory committee created from this working group. The first meeting was held on August 20th, and legislators received an overview of the child welfare system in Kentucky. We look forward to the work Senator Westerfield and The Child Welfare Oversight and Advisory Committee will produce over the coming months.
Oregon Family First Implementation and Policy Work Group
Senator Sara Gelser (D-Ore.)
Senator Sara Gelser, chair of Oregon’s Senate Human Services Committee and an NCSL child welfare fellow, recognizes the immense opportunity and challenge the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) offers. In response, she has organized a workgroup to ensure her state is prepared. Members include representatives from the three branches of government and a wide range of child welfare system partners. The group is meeting monthly through October for discussions with experts, the state child welfare agency and other stakeholders on policy, budget and communication needs related to implementation of FFPSA. When asked about the implementation of FFPSA, by the Keizertimes, Senator Gelser said; “Right now, that [federal] money can only be spent on foster care maintenance, but now we’re going to be able to use that money for prevention services, for parent coaching, for therapy, for substance abuse treatment—all the kinds of things that will help families avoid abuse and neglect and hopefully safely reduce the need for foster care,” Members of the public are welcome to attend. More information can be found on the group’s webpage.
Illinois Child Welfare Reform Caucus
Representative Sara Feigenholtz (D-Ill)
Representative Sara Feigenholtz introduced three child welfare bills in 2019, as chair of Illinois’ House Adoption and Child Welfare Committee and a member of the Department of Children and Family Services’ Child Welfare Reform Caucus. The Child Welfare Reform Caucus is a newly formed bipartisan group of legislators focused on improving the safety of youth involved in the state’s child welfare system. Stemming from this group, she passed SB 193, which is designed to change to how the department classifies a report as “unfounded” and the review process for these classifications. She also introduced HB 1462, which creates a children's mental health ombudsman program. She also passed HB 2571, which amended the definition of "foster family home" to limit the number of foster youth allowed in a home to six.
Indiana Senate Enrolled Act One
Senator Erin Houchin (R-Ind.)
Senator Erin Houchin is a former Indiana Department of Child Services caseworker, and, not surprisingly, has focused on child welfare issues throughout her legislative career. In 2019 legislative she championed the passage of Senate Enrolled Act 1. The act requires the Department of Child Services to exercise due diligence to identify all adult relatives of a child when an out-of-home placement is recommended. The department must attempt to identify these relatives for at least 12 months. The act also creates a 24-hour contact line to assist family case managers in the identification process. The act also expands foster parents’ right to intervene on behalf of a child to include written and oral testimony to the court, and other expansions of when a foster parent may initiate termination of parental rights proceedings.