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HB1288- Higher Education- Tuition Waivers for Foster Care Recipients and Unaccompanied Homeless Youth

HB 1288 ensures that non-credit classes are covered by the tuition waiver for foster youth and unaccompanied homeless youth. Almost 60% of first year students at Community Colleges need to take some non-credit classes. Given the challenges foster youth and unaccompanied youth face, they are likely to need to begin their college experience with these types of classes. HB 1288 ensures that we’re not undermining all the goals of the tuition waiver by excluding non-credit classes from its coverage. To read our testimony in support, click here. HB 1288 has passed in the House including an amendment to expand tuition waiver to youth in foster care for at least 12 months at age 13 or older who reunify with their parents!

HB1501- Governor’s Office for Children- Family Navigators Program

HB 1501 will ensure that there continue to be Family Navigators to help families with children who are struggling with mental health problems, find services within their communities. We are supporting HB 1501 in the hopes that it will allow children to remain with their families, and still get the mental health services they need without warranting their removal from their families and placement in Residential Treatment Centers or therapeutic group homes. To read our testimony in support, click here.

HB1465- Foster Care- Standards for Parents

HB 1465 simply requires that foster parents “have the capacity to value, respect, appreciate, and educate a child regarding the child’s racial, ethnic, religious and cultural heritage, and sexual orientation or gender identity.” Far too often, foster youth to experience bias from their foster parents, and HB 1465 is aimed at raising the bar for our foster parents to ensure that foster youth feel safe and accepted in their homes. Click here to read our testimony in support of this bill. HB 1465 has passed in the House!

HB400- Higher Education – Tuition Waivers for Foster Care Recipients and Unaccompanied Homeless Youth – Modifications

HB400 makes some technical fixes to the statute that waives college tuition for foster and unaccompanied homeless youth. There were several barriers in the law that were preventing foster and unaccompanied homeless youth from being able to take advantage of the waiver, and we’re hopeful that these changes will allow a lot more youth to take advantage of this benefit. For more details, and to read our testimony in support of HB 400, click here. HB 400 has passed in the House!

HB1215/SB69- Civil Actions- Child Sexual Abuse- Statute of Limitations

HB 1215/SB 69 raises the statute of limitations from 7 years after the age of majority (25 years old) to 20 years after the age of majority (38 years old). Given that it takes years of therapy as an adult for many victims of child sexual abuse to feel safe pursuing a civil action, HB 1215/SB 69 will help more victims of child sexual abuse pursue civil remedies for their victimization. Click here to read our testimony in support.

HB431/SB355- Maryland Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Program- Establishment

HB431/SB355 establishes a Maryland ABLE savings program. On December 19, 2014, the President enacted Public Law 113-295 known as the Achieving Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act. This federal law allows individuals with disabilities to open special accounts to save up to $100,000 without jeopardizing their eligibility for Social Security, Medicaid and other government programs. We are especially hopeful that these bills pass because they are a perfect avenue for saving foster youth’s Social Security benefits for when they transition out of foster care. To read our testimony in support of HB 431/SB 355, click here. HB 431 and SB 355 have passed in the House and Senate respectively!

HB825/SB577- Child Protection- Reporting – Threat of Harm

HB825/SB577 adds “a verbal threat of imminent serious bodily harm or death to a child” to what professionals who are mandatory reports (health practitioners, police officers, educators, and human service workers) for reporting child abuse and neglect are required to report. This will help keep children safe before they are actually injured. To read our testimony in support of HB825/SB577, click here. HB 825 and SB 577 received unfavorable reports in their committees.

HB574- Ji’Aire Lee Workgroup on the Protection of Adults with Mental Illness and Their Children

HB 574 is a response to the tragic death of Ji’Aire Lee’s death at the hands of his severely mentally ill mother. The bill will create a work group that looks into how to ensure that adults struggling with mental illness and their children have sufficient protections in place. We are hopeful that passing HB574 is a step towards preventing future tragedies like Ji’Aire Lee’s. To read our testimony in support of HB574, click here.

HB579/SB858-Mental Health- Wraparound Services for Children and Youth

HB579/SB858 will allow hundreds of children and youth with mental health issues to receive wraparound services without being removed from their families. These youth will be saved the trauma of being placed in expensive out-of-home places such as therapeutic groups homes and residential treatment centers, and in doing so will save the state millions of dollars each year. To read our testimony in support of HB579/SB858, click here. HB 579 and SB 858 received unfavorable reports in their committees.

HB 245/SB 310- Child Abuse and Neglect – Failure to Report

HB245/SB310 requires that “mandatory reporters” who knowingly fail to report child abuse or neglect be reported to their professional licensing boards. Currently, Maryland is one of only three states that does not impose penalties on mandatory reporters that intentionally fail to report the abuse of a child. It is by virtue of their professions that these individuals have an higher obligation to report child abuse and neglect, and at a minimum, their licensing boards should be notified when they fail to do so. To read our testimony in support of HB245/SB310, click here. HB 245 and SB 310 each passed in the House and Senate respectively.

HB292- Police Training Commission – Training Requirements- Human Trafficking

HB292 requires training for police officers on human trafficking to prevent them from further traumatizing human trafficking victims. The training will include the laws on human trafficking, how to identify a human trafficking victim, the importance of approaching a human trafficking victim as such rather than as a criminal, how to keep human trafficking victims safe, and finally resources for these victims. Given high percentage of human trafficking victims that are current and former foster youth, Advocates for Children and Youth strongly supports this bill. Read our testimony in support of HB292 here. HB 292 received an unfavorable report from the Judiciary Committee.

HB192/SB360- Juvenile Causes- Permanency Plans – Age Restrictions on Use of Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement

HB192/SB360 brings Maryland’s laws into compliance with new federal requirements from the federal Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act that Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA) only be used for foster youth age 16 and older. We are supporting this bill with amendments that include other requirements to help foster youth who will transition out of foster care to independence. Our amendments include the requirement that the Local Department of Social Services continue searching for relatives of foster youth and that the foster youth be engaged in age and developmental appropriate extra-curricular activities. Read our testimony in support, with amendments, of HB 192/SB 360 here. HB 192 and SB 360 passed in the House and Senate respectively.

HB72- Education – Sexual Abuse and Assault Awareness and Prevention Program- Development and Implementation

HB72 requires that age-appropriate education on the awareness and prevention of sexual abuse and assault be developed and implemented in private and public schools. In Maryland over the last year, there were 959 cases where the Local Department of Social Services (LDSS) found that a child under 18 was sexually abused. That is likely only a fraction of the young people who were actually sexually abused because sexual abuse is under-reported and those are only the case where the caretaker was the abuser. Education for young people is a key way to decrease the number of youth who become victims of sexual assault and abuse. Read our testimony in support of HB72 here. HB 72 passed in the House!

SB77- Human Resources – Transition Planning for Foster Youth

SB 77 lowers the age from 16 to 14 for when the Local Department of Social Services starts transition planning for foster youth. This statutory change brings Maryland law into compliance with new requirements from the federal Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act. The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee votes unanimously to issue a Favorable Report on the bill. Read our testimony in support of SB77 here.

SB31- Family Law- Child Abuse and Neglect- Expungement of Reports and Records- Time Period

Currently, when a Local Department of Social Services (LDSS) determines that the alleged child abuse or neglect did not occur, the “Ruled Out” finding is only maintained for 120 days. SB31 extends that period to 5 years. It will help protect children for the LDSS to have access to these records beyond 4 months in case where there are additional incidents of maltreatment more than 120 days after the initial allegations. Read our testimony in support of SB31 here.

SB15- Child Placement – Prohibition on Human Trafficking, Restrictions on Advertising, and Reporting Requirements

Foster youth are particularly vulnerable to becoming victims of commercial sex trafficking. SB15 creates penalties for adoptive parents who give up custody of their adoptive children and transfer custody to sex traffickers. Read our testimony in support of SB15 here. SB 15 received an unfavorable report from the Judicial Proceedings Committee.

SB73/HB360- Maryland Loan Assistance Repayment Program for Orphans and Foster Care Recipients

SB73 creates a loan repayment program for former foster youth who are working for state or local government. It fills some of the gaps not covered by Maryland’s tuition waiver for foster youth. Upon hearing incredibly compelling testimony from two former foster youth, the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee voted unanimously to issue a favorable report, and the full Senate passed the bill unanimously. Read our testimony in support of SB73 here. SB 73 and HB 360 have passed in the Senate and House respectively.