Child welfare bills waiting in Alabama statehouse

Alabama Statehouse

In his recent op-ed for Alabama Today, adoption advocate Sam McClure expressed doubt that lawmakers would have time to pass child welfare legislation this session.

Indeed, as the 2015 Legislative Session draws to a close, some measures introduced by lawmakers have not yet had a final vote:

Rep. Mac McCutcheon filed a bill to establish an Office of the Ombudsman for Child Welfare. Under House Bill 48, the Ombudsman would conduct independent investigations of complaints on actions taken by the state in child welfare or reunification plans. The Ombudsman would also send the Governor regular reports on the conditions in group homes and other institutions for juveniles. The House committee on public safety gave House Bill 48 a favorable report in April, but so far the measure has not been called to the House floor for a vote.

The House health committee has yet to vote on a bill from Rep. Mack Butler that would clarify when and how medical workers report suspicions that a child has been exposed to illegal drugs. House Bill 408 says that those suspicions should be reported orally to law enforcement within two hours, even if medical test results aren’t yet available. Once medical tests confirm that a child has been chemically endangered, the health worker should file a written report with law enforcement, according to HB408.

Senate Bill 461, sponsored by Sen. Paul Bussman, says that if a parent has allowed their child to be near a methamphetamine laboratory “or a location where illegal drugs are stored, kept, packaged, diluted, or manufactured”, the Department of Human Resources has no obligation to try to preserve that parent’s custodial rights. The Senate health and human services committee voted unanimously in favor of the bill last week.

Under Senate Bill 494 out-of-state relatives to a child in DHR custody have six months to tell the department they would like to be appointed guardian. After that time, DHR staff will not be required to consider those relatives when they makes custody decisions. Sen. Bussman filed SB494 on Thursday and the bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Education and Youth Affairs.

As lawmakers move quickly to enact legislation before Sine Die, Alabama Today will follow these bills and report on their progress.