Countless children are in the web of government sponsored, supervised and supported placement programs. Some have been abandoned or taken from their homes, and it’s important that they be protected in the stages of their journey.
That’s one reason why the state senate passed a package of legislation to ensure the welfare and well-being of children by making improvements to child protection services and increasing penalties for crimes committed against children.
• Records check of placement guardians – Requires a national criminal record, child abuse and maltreatment check of all persons with whom children are placed, and non-parents seeking guardianship of, or visitation with, children (S.5394-A);
• Accelerating permanent placement – Ensures that children caught in limbo of foster care are given a permanent home, either by returning them to their families or through adoption or other alternatives, as quickly as possible with the “one judge, one family” concept (S.7888);
• Protection services demonstration project – Establishes two levels of child protection services – one to provide a service-based approach to minor cases and one for full-fledged investigations of abuse and neglect in order to eliminate adversarial relations between case workers and families (S.6535);
The senate also passed several bills pertaining to crimes against children that would:
• Assure that when an individual is convicted of a crime against a child including abandonment, non-support, endangering the welfare of a child and sexual performance by a child, the district attorney notifies the local child protective services agency (S.1626-A);
• Establish the class A-1 felony of aggravated murder of a child and the class B felony of aggravated manslaughter of a child (S.7661);
• Require level 3 sex offenders to be subject to lifetime probation and to submit to yearly polygraph examinations while on parole or probation (S.6548);
• Provide more protection to child witnesses (S.7313);
• Prohibit sex offenders from being licensed as real estate brokers or salesmen (S.8037); and
• Enhance penalties for assaulting employees of a local social services district (S.7928).
The senate also passed a bill that would provide that a person is guilty of endangering the welfare of a child if he or she leaves a child under the age of seven unsupervised in a car when heat conditions present a significant risk to the health and safety of the child (S.6289).
Another piece of legislation passed by the senate would create the crime of endangering the welfare of a child if a person commits a violent act in the presence of a child (S.1513).
The senate also passed several bills that would improve the child protection system by ensuring caseworkers are properly trained, giving investigators access to the criminal records of individuals they are investigating and providing educational resources for adoptive and foster parents to help parents deal with the challenges of raising a child.
Highlights of the legislative package also included:
• Requiring caseworkers to receive annual training in identification and recognition of child abuse and neglect (S.1514);
• Education resources for adoptive parents and foster parents in order to better prepare them to deal with the challenges of raising a child (S.6525);
• Improving local child protective services investigations by allowing caseworkers access to the system used by law enforcement official and district attorneys to review criminal records to determine if a person alleged to be abusive and neglectful to a child has relevant criminal convictions (S.4649);
• Including information regarding orders of protection and related warrants in child protective proceedings on the statewide registry and would also require family court, when issuing temporary and final orders of protection, to inquire as to the existence of other orders of protection issued with respect to the parties (S.5393);
• Terrminating parental rights on the grounds of homicide of a parent or a sibling of the child (S.5392).
Senator Seward’s office web site is www.senatorjimseward.com.