A bill to unfix a fix made a year ago to the state's child-abuse laws in order to comply with a new federal child protection act received final legislative approval in the Senate on Friday.
HB36 was in the works shortly after the language it replaces was put in state code. It reinstates emergency kinship placement of abused kids taken into state foster care. Kinship placement was prohibited, state child welfare officials said, because under the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, all potential adoptive families or adult guardians including relatives must have completed an FBI criminal background check prior to a placement.
Background checks were conducted as fast as possible, and most children could be placed with relatives in a matter of a day or two, DCFS reports. There were at least eight families who said they waited five to six weeks, and two said they waited three months. They accused the state of doing more harm than good by compounding the emotional trauma an abused child faces by forcing them to live in unfamiliar surroundings immediately after they were removed from parental care.
Passage of this legislation results in a $49,000 loss in federal funding in the 2008 fiscal year, and $147,000 in 2009 because the state is violating the federal law. The state will make up the difference. Other states have said they kept emergency placements with relatives and are following an unofficial "ask for forgiveness, not permission" policy.Rep. Wayne Harper, R-West Jordan and sponsor of HB36, said abuse caseworkers with a good feel for a situation can make a judgment about a relative in 10 or 15 minutes. The choice was multiple emergency placements with relatives or in a shelter. "We can do without the funding while the background checks are done."
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