About the Children: Policy Updates from Pennsylvania

Some things to note that happened this week:

PA

SB938 – This is a weird one.  I’m not sure why this is coming up now, and I’m not familiar enough with the current practices of record maintenance to know if this is a positive or negative suggested change.  “Reports that are assessed by the county agency and are determined to be valid, but are not accepted for services, shall be reported to the department and entered into the Statewide database. The reports shall be maintained for a period of five years, or until the child who is the subject of the report attains 23 years of age, whichever occurs first. Following the expiration of [that time period] the report shall be expunged from the Statewide database as soon as possible…Reports that are assessed by the county agency and accepted for services shall be reported to the department and entered into the Statewide database. The reports shall be maintained for a period of five years after the closure of services by the county agency or until the child who is the subject of the report attains 23 years of age, whichever occurs first.”  This act also states that the State will notify the relevant county offices and that county will have ten days to expunge the reports from their records, as well, though they may keep records that are only available internally.  No providers will be allowed to access these records.  The cosponsors of this bill have given the following reasoning: “The need for this update stems from the establishment of Act 29 of 2014, which created the Statewide Database of Protective Services within the Department of Human Services. The Statewide Database is an effective tool for tracking child abuse reports, however the language of the law requires counties to delete records in their own database whenever the State deletes information from its central database, based on certain time frames. This has already affected county agencies, requiring them to expunge critical historical information from their county databases. Continuing to expunge this critical historical information will create unforeseen problems for the way counties utilize data to protect children and investigators and could put them both at potential risk.”

HB 1388 – This is our old friend, the CHIP re-authorization bill.  It’s passed the house, passed the senate with amendments, passed the house with new amendments, and is now passed in the Senate.  It should go before the governor this week.  Just a reminder, this bill extends the CHIP program, setting its expiration as “the earlier of: (1) December 31, 2019; or (2) ninety days after the date on which Federal funding for the program ceases to be available. (a.1) Exception.–If Federal law authorizes funding for the program for a period that extends beyond December 31, 2019, this article shall expire under subsection (a)(2).”  I misspoke on a previous email regarding this bill: I was incensed that it was only coming up now, a month before it is due to expire.  However, it was actually brought before the house originally in May, and has simply taken this long to get this far.  I am looking at the text of the bill itself, and it seems pretty straightforward with no place for amendments or weird wording, so I’m struggling to understand what took so long.  It was presented to the governor on December 12th, and I believe it is likely to pass.

HB 1139 – This bill was evidently modeled after a piece of recent Ohio legislation that expanded the list of caregivers to whom a parent may surrender a newborn, and created a program to install incubators so that newborns who are surrendered may be kept safely in a controlled environment.  This bill has gone through several rounds of amendments and changes in the House and the Senate, so it may less resemble the Ohio legislation at this point, but I noticed that it does allow for birth parents to surrender their newborns to any on-duty emergency medical personnel, as opposed to just a police officer or a hospital employee.  It also gives specific directions for hospitals to more carefully care for surrendered newborns. This was presented to the governor on the 13th.  We’ll see soon whether it passes.


Federal

HR 3759 – This resolution is designed “to provide for the establishment and maintenance of a Family Caregiving Strategy, and for other purposes.”  It’s cleverly titled “Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage Family Caregivers Act of 2017” or the “RAISE Family Caregivers Act.”  Under this resolution, a family caregiver is defined as “an adult family member or other individual who has a significant relationship with, and who provides a broad range of assistance to, an individual with a chronic or other health condition, disability, or functional limitation.”  The resolution seeks to create an advisory council for the Secretary of Health and Human Services, made up of federal appointees as well as representatives from every area of family care giving, which will take inventory on all the programs currently available to family caregivers and also recommend ways to streamline services and improve overall outcomes.  This resolution has a predicted 24% chance of passing which seems low, and it was introduced in 2015 and not passed, so we’ll see I suppose.  But if the federal level streamlined and beefed up support systems for family care giving, it might mean good things for the kids in foster care who have special needs and are so often passed over for adoption because of that.  If this does become law, it will be important to contact members of the advisory council to ensure that they are considering children in foster care as they are assessing the country’s overarching caregiving strategies.


Uplifting News

This one really moved me.  A couple in Florida recently began the process of adopting a sibling group of seven who had been separated into four different foster homes for two years.  It’s going to be a long, difficult road ahead for this family, but we have to hold on to hope that families like this can succeed and thrive together, even through the tough times.  And what a fantastic opportunity to match the greatest need with the greatest resources.  The mom is a social worker and the dad is a teacher: I believe in them!  Check out their GoFundMe page and share it with your friends and family who have a heart for stories of adoption! (Also, for those of you who, like me, have doubts about the legitimacy of the fundraiser page, you can see here what GoFundMe does to prevent fraud.)

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