Children being placed into the care of foster parents may soon have a clear line of direction for the courts and Idaho Department Health and Welfare (DHW) to consider when searching for qualified persons to take in children removed from parents.
The legislation, developed by Rep. Sharon Block, R-Twin Falls, would give judges a path that would give clarity in the process of deciding where to place children after they have been removed from the care of their parents.
The legislation sets the placement priority in this order:
- A fit and willing relative.
- A fit and willing non-relative with a significant relationship with the child.
- Foster parents licensed in accordance with DHW.
The bill also allows expediting of the child placement process by allowing DHW to waive the licensing requirement for those on the list for a certain period of time. If one of the persons on the list is chosen to be the child's caretaker but is unlicensed, that person would, if the environment is deemed safe by DHW, be allowed to care for the child while going through the license application process.
Block, speaking to fellow members of her committee, said the list and the waiver would help to keep families together in times of difficulty when biological parents can't be in the picture for the children.
"The legislation will help keep families together," said Block. She added that judges may not always go in the order prescribed in the legislation, but will instead work in the best interests of the child.
The bill garnered support of the Catholic Charities of Idaho, as well as the AARP. Dr. Will Rainford, representing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Boise, urged lawmakers to pass the legislation because the system needs more foster parents and the Block's plan would make available more "saints," as he called them, ready to accept children in need.
"I know that nothing heals a child's broken soul like the love of a close relative or known friend," said Rainford.
Members of the committee unanimously approved Block's plan, which now heads to the full House for a vote.