Politics & Government

Senate passes bill giving foster parents greater say in child welfare cases

Legislation known as the “foster parents’ bill of rights” easily passed the Senate on Wednesday.

But one Sedgwick County senator said she worried that the bill would give foster parents rights in child welfare cases at the expense of grandparents.

Senate Bill 394 would give foster parents a greater say in child welfare cases involving children under their care. It would require the state to inform foster parents 30 days in advance of any plans to change a child’s placement. It also would require that foster parents be informed before court hearings regarding children in their care.

The bill passed 34-3.

Kansas has a shortage of foster parents, and establishing clearer rights for them could encourage more people to take on the role, said Senate Vice President Jeff King, R-Independence, who carried the bill.

“For too long, we’ve treated foster parents as glorified baby sitters. We need to have foster parents that are part of the solution, that are part of an overall move to promoting the best interest of the child,” King said.

The bill would allow foster parents to be involved in the decision-making process with the Department for Children and Families, but King said it has been amended to ensure that won’t affect the rights of biological parents.

“Someone who’s giving care and love to a child, we want to have a say in what the best interest of a child is,” King said.

Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita, opposed the bill on the grounds that it might end up favoring foster parents over biological grandparents.

Faust-Goudeau has long been an advocate for giving grandparents a greater say in child welfare cases.

“I just still feel it gives the foster families an unfair advantage over biological grandparents,” Faust-Goudeau said. “We’re supposed to be working to keep families together if at all possible.” She said the state should exhaust all possibilities to let children stay with relatives.

“When you sign up to be a foster parent, you know the child may be there a limited time or long period of time,” Faust-Goudeau said. “It might be three days, three hours, three weeks, three months or three years. But that’s a temporary placement.”

King said he respected Faust-Goudeau’s advocacy for grandparents but argued that her concerns were unfounded in this case and reiterated that foster parents deserve to have a voice in the child welfare process.

Both legislators agreed that the primary concern should be the best interest of the child.

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