FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - A bill known as the Foster Children’s Bill of Rights has been signed into law by Gov. Matt Bevin after winning unanimous approval in both the House and Senate.
The list of 16 statutory rights for children in out-of-home placement in Kentucky is a key component of the legislation sponsored by House Speaker Pro Tempore David Meade, R-Stanford, who told his House colleagues when they first approved the bill last month that the list complements a foster parent bill of rights already in statute.
Included on the list of rights for foster children are the rights to “adequate food, clothing and shelter, a safe, secure, and stable family,” and “freedom from physical, sexual, or emotional injury or exploitation,” among several others.
Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton, who managed the bill in the Senate, said it would bring Kentucky in compliance with the federal Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018. That act seeks to curtail the use of group care for children and instead places a new emphasis on family foster homes.
Westerfield said a Senate amendment addressed timeframes concerning consent to a child’s adoption and searches of Kentucky’s “putative father” registry, a state registry created under legislation passed last year for men who want parental rights to a child they claim to have fathered.
Another change would remove child-placement agencies, or private agencies, from a background check provision. Westerfield said there were concerns it would cause a backlog of requests for fingerprint checks.
When the House considered the Senate changes, Meade said a person’s voluntary consent to place a child for adoption is final after 20 days under current state law. HB 158 would reduce that period to 72 hours.
The 72-hour period is standard in several states, Meade said. “I talked to someone the other day who’s adopting a child out of state, and they asked the attorney of the child-placing agency ‘Why do you not come to Kentucky to adopt children?’ And he said, ‘Because your revocation period is far too long, and parents do not want to adopt from there.’”
Meade added: “That is why many of our parents are adopting from out of state. We’re coming in line to help get some of our children adopted.”
The bill contained an emergency clause, meaning it took effect immediately upon the governor’s signature.
The legislation is House Bill 158.