2012 Post-Legislative Session Child Welfare Wrap Up
By Melissa Rock, Child Welfare Policy Director
This year was a very successful Legislative Session for Advocates for Children and Youth. A number of bills passed which will improve life for children and families involved in the child welfare system. All of the major child welfare bills we focused on passed. To read our testimony on all of the bills we supported, click here.
ACY worked closely with the Department of Human Resources (DHR) and other child welfare stakeholders prior to the legislative session creating Maryland’s Alternative Response bill. Alternative Response will allow local department of social services to work with families voluntarily in less serious abuse and neglect cases. The family will be assessed, not investigated, and will be encouraged to accept voluntary services. The Alternative Response bill passed, and ACY is looking forward to working with DHR on implementation. For more information about Alternative Response, our article from the January e-Newsletter can be found here.
ACY also strongly supported a bill that allows severely physically or emotionally fragile foster children to meet with their judges outside of the courthouse. ACY helped push through an amendment, on this bill, that requires a hearing to be held if the parties do not agree about allowing a child to miss the court hearing. ACY also supported a bill that added human trafficking to the definition of sexual abuse in the context of child in need of assistance cases. This bill passed, and will help ensure that youth in those compromised situations are treated like victims and receive the services they need. A bill was introduced to waive the burdensome requirements for relatives caring for children submit documentation proving the circumstances under which the child’s parents are unavailable. The bill was amended to keep those requirements, but allows the student to be enrolled before the documents are submitted.
ACY collaborated with the Public Justice Center, DHR, the Maryland State Department of Education, and the Department of Juvenile Services to introduce legislation to allow foster youth to remain in stable school placements even when their out-of-home placement changes. This bill passed, and we look forward to working on the regulations to implement this bill. All in all there were a lot of bills that passed which will positively impact youth and families involved in Maryland’s child welfare system. We are very grateful to our partners, without our collaboration we would not have had so many successes.