[r76] Bill works to protect those in the most sensitive of situations (4/14/2011)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Start Date: 4/14/2011 All Day
End Date: 4/14/2011
Rep. McNamara sponsors Department of Child Services bill

Rep. Wendy McNamara (R- Mount Vernon) sponsored Senate Bill 465, which streamlines the Department of Child Services (DCS) and brings clarity to DCS programs. Rep. McNamara was joined on this bill by Rep. Vandenburgh (D-Crown Point) and Rep. Noe (R-Indianapolis).

Senate Bill 465 was a bipartisan bill that passed out of the Senate with a vote of 49-1, out of the Committee for Family, Children and Human Affairs with a vote of 9-0 and out of the House with a vote of 85-13.

"The passage of this bill will permit DCS to better facilitate services to children and families," said Rep. McNamara. "The safety and well-being of Hoosier children will be better enhanced with the passage of this bill."

A large portion of this bill removes conflict in language to align Indiana with federal guidelines, other portions amend some definitions.

Key sections of this bill focus on domestic violence by tweaking the domestic violence fatality review team statute to clarify that the team can review suicides of a victim resulting from domestic violence and by identifying the Indiana Coalition against Domestic Violence as the agency to provide certification of batterers' intervention programs.

The bill amends legal guardianship statues to provide another more permanent option for families and judges relating to guardianships by adding language to allow the court to set terms and conditions a parent must meet before they can seek termination of a guardianship.

The bill also addresses the issue of alleged fathers by stating that DCS may name the alleged father if they know or have reason to believe who he is.

Another significant aspect of this bill pertains to the interviewing of children in an alleged case of domestic violence. Under current statute DCS field staff is not permitted to interview a child regarding a report of abuse or neglect if the parent, guardian or custodian does not provide consent.

If this bill is enacted and the guardian refuses to allow DCS to interview the child and the DCS family case manager can show they have made reasonable attempts to obtain parental consent, then the court can order that guardian to make the child available to be interviewed by the family case manager.

"There was an inherent conflict with the current law because a DCS field staff was required to ask for permission to interview a child from a guardian who also may be the alleged perpetrator," said Rep. McNamara. "With the new law, we can ensure that all children will be heard and not silenced in domestic abuse cases."

Foster care license capacity is amended in this bill by giving DCS the authority to license three types of foster homes: regular, special needs, and therapeutic. Each type of license will have a different capacity requirement for the number of foster children and the number of household children in the home.

"I was pleased to see Senate Bill 465 pass in a bi-partisan manner," said Rep. McNamara. "This bill was needed for our children who are in the most sensitive of situations."