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Sunday, September 24, 2023
State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’s Task Force on Foster Care will introduced a package of bills in December to support those going in the child welfare system.

State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’s Task Force on Foster Care will introduced a package of bills in December to support those going in the child welfare system.

Foster children to receive more state support under package of bills

A set of bills aimed to support children in the foster care system is in the works to be introduced in the Legislature next month, lawmakers announced Thursday.

The initiatives, proposed by the Assembly Speaker’s Task Force, are called “Foster Forward” and will focus on preventing children from being taken away from their homes. The package of bills also aims to develop stronger services supporting children in Wisconsin’s child welfare system.

“These children, at no fault of their own, face challenging circumstances,” state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, who proposed the task force, said in a statement. “ We want them to have every opportunity to succeed in life and become productive citizens.”

The package includes bills to improve the medical, dental and mental health care for children placed outside of their original homes. The new plan sets standards for what children’s dental care should include — which is not defined under the current law — to cover routine, preventative dental care and treatments.

In addition, healthcare providers can now share parts of children’s mental health history with their kids’ guardians or child welfare agencies if the information would help improve care. The proposals would also allow schools to make students’ records accessible to another school in hopes of making the school transfer process easier on the child.

One of the bills would provide parents the right to counsel and have legal representation in cases to increase services or protection for a child, a right not granted to parents under the current law.

One of the most underfunded areas of the current system — child abuse and neglect prevention services — will also receive more funding.

Those in favor of the legislation emphasize the importance of child abuse and neglect programs.

“It is a really impressive move in the right direction,” said Lawrence Berger, the director of the Institute for Research on Poverty,

Berger did express some concern for the bill’s involuntary termination of parental rights due to the growing opioid crisis’s effect on the foster care system.

“There is evidence that the opioid crisis is leading to an increasing foster care population,” Berger said. “I am concerned that this bill does not grant enough time for parents to engage in recovery efforts. If parents’ rights are terminated, you need to ensure there are permanent homes immediately available to kids.”

The package is set to be introduced in December.

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