SALT LAKE CITY — A watered-down bill reaffirming parental rights cleared a House committee Thursday.
Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, pulled the more controversial aspects from HB161, including revisions of laws regarding termination of parental rights, and designated them for study over the summer. The Utah Department of Human Services opposed the bill in its original form, but favored the amended version.
"We all agree it's a crucial issue but we just can't go too fast," Christensen said.
The measure calls for the Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee to examine the potential for parents to seek a jury trial in juvenile court when faced with losing their children; the costs of foster care versus in-home services; and whether federal law and funds interfere with reunifications.
"If I have to tell the federal government to stay out of our homes or our deserts, I'm going with the homes," Christensen told the House Judiciary Committee.
Though the bill makes no changes to current law, committee members discussed parental rights in general, including the Parker Jensen case. Jensen's parents in 2003 refused chemotherapy for their then 12-year-old son's diagnosed cancer, leading to a court battle with the Utah Division of Child and Family Services. The boy never underwent the treatment and is reportedly healthy today.
"If what happened to the Jensen family happened to me, I would have been in jail right now because I would have defended my right against the state," said Rep. Chris Herrod, R-Provo.
Murderers get off on reasonable doubt, while children are removed from homes for the "slightest hint" of something wrong, he said. "That seems out of whack."
Palmer DePaulis, human services executive director, said family issues are difficult and complicated. The state tries its best to balance the rights of parents with the safety of children, he said.
Also Thursday, the House unanimously approved HB319, which would require DCFS to provide parents a pamphlet explaining their rights at the time children are removed from their home. It would include information about hiring an attorney, available resources such as anger management and parent classes and a DCFS contact.
"I think this would be a great help to people who have their children taken away and don't understand the process," said Rep. Christine Watkins, D-Price, the bill's sponsor.
- Many Mormon missionaries who return home...
- Rare snowstorm traps I-15 motorists overnight...
- About Utah: After 72 years, Keith Hottinger...
- Legal analysis supports Utah's law on getting...
- The pipes are calling: Salt Lake Methodist...
- 'Delusions' make condemned killer Ron...
- Ute Tribe sues Wasatch County over...
- Drunk driver crashes through West Valley...
- Many Mormon missionaries who return... 108
- Federal website fixes allowing more... 44
- As winter takes hold, needs increase... 29
- Legal analysis supports Utah's law on... 28
- Utahns react to death of Nelson Mandela 27
- Expelling Santa from school? Holiday... 16
- Martin MacNeill cuts self with razor in... 15
- Former Attorney General John Swallow... 13