BOISE - The Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee heard public testimony today on legislation aimed at improving foster care and child protective services in Idaho.
Senate Bill 1341 reflects recommendations and information gathered over a two-year period by the interim foster care committee, and ultimately seeks to increase accountability and oversight.
The bill is sponsored by Republican Sen. Abby Lee of Fruitland.
“This is a complete systems change and it is going to create some transparency and accountability that we haven’t had before, which is tough for folks sometimes,” said Lee.
Specifically, Senate Bill 1341 is designed to improve several policies including keeping siblings together and strengthening services for newly reunified families.
“Strong wrap around services can really help the ease of this transition and while we don’t want foster care children to remain in care any longer than is absolutely necessary,” said Christine Tiddens, Community Outreach Director for Idaho Voices for Children. “We also want to ensure that they go home to safe and stable environments and support is readily available when things get tough.”
The legislation also proposes forming a citizen review panel and a child protective legislative oversight committee, both of which aim to increase accountability for child welfare outcomes within the foster care system.
“These citizen review panels would actually be looking at trends and concerns and lack of foster parents, emergency moves, what’s happening in these cases and they would be able to bring those cases up to this oversight committee, and then this legislative oversight committee can make policy,” said Lee.
Lastly, SB 1341 aims to enhance investigation procedures in cases of child abuse or neglect within the foster care system.
“We have the opportunity to change the direction and the path for a child, if we get this right we have done some spectacular things, if we get this wrong we have changed the course of an individual’s life,” said Lee.
SB 1341 passed out of committee unanimously this afternoon. It now heads to the Senate floor for a vote.