Thursday, January 14, 2016

2016 Indiana House Bill HB 1183 Guardianship and Department of Child Services investigations

Representative David Frizzell has introduced House Bill 1183 relating to assigning the custodial decisions of minor children. Frizzell has long shown an interest in child well-being matters. The bill has been assigned to the committee on Family, Children and Human Affairs.

This bill amends the Guardianship and Protected Persons section of the Indiana Code at 29-3-9-1. Currently, under certain conditions this section allows for legal decisions to be delegated by a parent of a minor or a guardian (other than a temporary guardian) of a protected person to another person by a properly executed power of attorney. The power of attorney may be executed under two conditions; 1] for any period during which the care and custody of the minor or protected person is entrusted to an institution furnishing care, custody, education, or training. or, 2] for a period not exceeding twelve months. The authority granted to the other person may include any powers regarding health care, support, custody, or property of the minor or protected person.

This bill adds a section giving protections to all parties against government intrusion or regulation. It provides that a “delegation of powers executed under this subsection does not, as a result of the execution of the power of attorney, subject any of the parties to any laws, rules, or regulations concerning the licensing or regulation of foster family homes, child placing agencies, or child caring institutions”. It further restricts reclassifying the child in that any child who is the subject of a power of attorney is not considered to be placed in foster care. It precludes the parties from foster care regulation in that the parties to a power of attorney, including a child, a protected person, a parent or guardian of a child or protected person, or an attorney-in-fact, are not, as a result of the execution of the power of attorney, subject to any foster care requirements or foster care licensing regulations.

However, a foster family home may not provide overnight care and supervision to a child who is the subject of a power of attorney concurrent to providing care to a child placed in the foster home by the Department of Child Services or under a juvenile court order under a foster family home license. The parties may request that the department grant an exception to this rule.

The final amendment to this section allows for persons conscripted to a deployment for government service to execute a power of attorney for longer than 12 months but that such power shall expire 30 days after the deployed person returns.

This bill creates a new section at Indiana Code 31-33-8-15. This section would allow for the Department of Child Services when engaged in the investigation of alleged abuse or neglect to provide services without an implication of abuse or neglect. “If DCS classifies an assessment as unsubstantiated, the department may provide information about community service programs that provide respite care, voluntary guardianship, or other support services for families in crisis to the parent or guardian of the child who is the subject of the assessment.”

If DCS provides information to a parent or guardian of the child then that cannot be used as a basis to initiate an investigation or substantiate a finding of child abuse or neglect. If DCS substantiates the abuse or neglect it may refer the parent or guardian to a community service program that provides respite care, voluntary guardianship, or other support services for families in crisis as appropriate to meet the needs of the family.

Finally the bill provides that the providing of information by DCS does not create any obligation on its part nor can it be held liable for any action arising out of having furnished the information.

The provisions of this bill would not supercede the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines or existing child custody orders. It should also aid in encouraging some families to avail themselves of services without fear that DCS will use their participation to implicate them in an abuse or neglect finding. With that I see no reason to oppose this bill.

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