Meade021419KENTUCKY (2/15/19) — A bill that would give statutory rights to Kentucky foster children and require background checks on those who work with children in out-of-home care yesterday passed a House committee.
 
House Bill 158 sponsor and House Speaker Pro Tempore David Meade, R-Stanford, told the House Health and Family Services Committee that the foster child “bill of rights”—a list of 16 rights including the right to “adequate food, clothing, and shelter” and “a safe, secure and stable family”—was included in HB 158 to match a foster parent “bill of rights” already in statute.
 
“We’re adding a foster child ‘bill of rights’ to show the rights that a child has as they are in foster care,” said Meade, adding that the proposed rights for foster children is the part of the bill of which he’s most proud.
 
College student Cameron Galloway spoke in favor of the proposed rights. Galloway, who told the committee that he himself was once in foster care, said having statutory rights will encourage foster children to “stand up for themselves in a respectful way.
 
“Giving youth and kids their own rights by law will impact them tremendously. Why? Because most don’t even know they have rights,” Galloway told the panel.
 
HB 158 would also require national and state background checks on child residential home and placement agency staff as required by a 2018 federal law, according to Meade. The cost of the background checks would be covered by the home or agency, not the employee, he said. 
 
Meade and Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Shively, were the primary sponsors of HB 1 that became law last year. That legislation includes broad adoption and foster care reforms intended to reduce the waiting time for children needing permanent homes and improve the overall foster care and adoption process in Kentucky.
 
Other provisions in HB 158 address timeframes for searches of Kentucky’s “putative father” registry—a state registry created under HB 1 for men who want parental rights to a child they claim to have fathered—as well as clarify some legal definitions involving abuse and neglect of a child. The bill would also update the definition of “voluntary and informed consent” regarding adoption.
 
“I think we’ve done some great things over the past couple of years in this state for foster youth and the adoption process as well,” Meade told the committee. “Kentucky is able to be a leader in the nation on this.”
 
HB 158 now goes to the full House for consideration.

In the photo above, House Speaker Pro Tempore David Meade, R-Standford, presents HB158 to the House Health and Family Services Committee.

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