by Elizabeth Gibbons
The Arizona legislature has had a very busy session; a number of bills related to child welfare currently are on Governor Doug Ducey’s desk. Those bills include Parental Rights and Reunification (Senate Bill 1473), which moves to terminate parental rights within 10 days of removal under certain circumstances—often extreme substance abuse or neonatal abstinence syndrome. Senate Bill 1071 changes adoption expenses and gives the state the option not to pay for certain adoption costs. House Bill 2245 states that individuals who committed crimes against children, namely molestation of a minor, are not eligible for bail. Several bills specifically are related to children in foster care and work to make children’s transition from state-dependent minor to independent adult easier—focusing, for example, on making the college tuition waiver pilot program permanent. You can read about more related Arizona legislation here.
Louisiana has passed its operating budget for the 2018 fiscal year, which begins July 1. In the Senate’s budget, college campuses, health programs, and child welfare agencies are protected from reductions or budget cuts. In fact, the foster care program will be expanded to pay for students who finish high school or turn 21 instead of immediately ending when they turn 18. The budget bill that just passed has been praised by lawmakers for avoiding cataclysmic cuts to critical services; however, this is all dependent on raising taxes, which is being debated in the Louisiana House now.
The Kansas Department for Children and Families will be removing a rule banning contractors from opposing the agency. There was debate that this rule would impact free speech and contradict promises of transparency. The contracts currently in place require prior approval for any public statements that identify the agency. The contracts are a double-edged sword: They allow for greater collaboration between the department and private agencies, but prohibit anyone working with the department from testifying before lawmakers. Employee testimony is often a critical aspect in inquiries that lead to more inclusive safety regulations. The intent of the rule was to foster good public-private relationships, but the execution caused too much debate and detracted from the department’s mission to protect children and families.
Elizabeth Gibbons is CWLA’s editorial intern. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.