Among the senate bills prefiled for the upcoming Legislative Session are two from Sen. Paul Bussman of Cullman aimed at protecting children in unhealthy living conditions.
According to SB1, current law requires courts to make “reasonable efforts” to preserve the family unit before initiating proceedings in juvenile court to terminate the parental rights of parents whose child has been placed in foster care or the Department of Human Resources (DHR).
Bussman’s bill would eliminate that requirement if a child has been “in the presence of a methamphetamine laboratory or a location where illegal drugs are stored, kept, packaged, diluted, or manufactured.”
The bill would require courts to regularly document whether “reasonable efforts” were made or required and to establish a “permanency plan” for finding the child a home.
In conjunction with the assertion that “reasonable efforts” are not required in places where illicit drugs are stored, the bill also eliminates the need for reasonable effort in the following cases:
- if parents have subjected a child to “aggravated circumstances,” such as sexual abuse, torture, neglect and more;
- if parents have allowed the child to use illegal drugs or alcohol;
- if parents have abused or misused illegal substances;
- if parents demonstrate “extreme disinterest” in the child, manifested through neglect, abandonment, the presence of an untreatable emotional or mental condition, incarceration or a conviction for committing, attempting or assisting in murder or manslaughter of a child or parent.
“We have a tendency to keep children in foster care too long,” Bussman told Alabama Today. “I want to get children out of foster care and into a stable home.”
Bussman’s second bill, SB2, takes to task a current law that allows DHR to request a kinship guardian to care for a child under the state’s supervision.
The bill would eliminate such requirements for out-of-state relatives who have not contacted the department within six months of the child being placed in its custody.
“These children need to be somewhere that they can be loved,” Bussman concluded.