Adoptions Changes Sought, Panel Wants Safeguards For Removing Kids From Parents

Adoptions Changes Sought, Panel Wants Safeguards For Removing Kids From Parents is the title of a Lexington Herald-Leader article by Valarie Honeycutt Spears. Some quotes:

A task force studying the improper removal of children from their parents in Kentucky is for the second time asking the General Assembly to pass a reform bill.

State Rep. Darryl Owens, D-Louisville, is introducing legislation designed to put more safeguards into the process of removals by state social workers, into cases involving the termination of parental rights and into state adoptions from foster care in Kentucky.

If enacted, the bill would further protect the due process rights of parents, slightly increase accountability for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services staff and provide increases in the fee scale for court-appointed attorneys for children and their parents.

The Cabinet's Blue Ribbon Panel on Adoption presented similar, though weaker, legislation, during the 2007 General Assembly, but it failed to become law. The task force had been led by former Secretary Mark D. Birdwhistell.

The story continues,

In Kentucky, there was no definitive word yesterday on whether there will be additional legislation filed in the 2008 General Assembly to open child protection courts, an issue that was a main focus of the Blue Ribbon panel.

Cabinet Undersecretary Tom Emberton Jr. told members of the Interim Joint Committee on Health and Welfare yesterday that regional meetings were being held across the state at the direction of Chief Justice Joseph E. Lambert to determine whether a bill should be filed.

Last week, Lambert stopped short of saying that legislation would be filed in the upcoming legislative session. But he said, "I support the concept of allowing greater public access to juvenile court proceedings."

One new provision in the legislation presented yesterday gives Kentucky's chief justice the ability to establish rules to manage juvenile and child protection cases. The legislation also calls for parents -- and children if they are old enough -- to meet with their court-appointed attorney before they go to court for the first time. That does not happen now.

And the bill says that as of July 1, 2010, attorneys would have to prove that they had received specialized training before they could be placed on a new list that would allow them to be appointed by the court to represent children and parents.

Under the proposed legislation, fees for court-appointed attorneys would be increased from $500 to as much as $1,500, but they would have to justify those fees to the state.

Thanks to Kentucky Law Review for catching this story.