Kansas Senate bill aims to clarify abuse and neglect cases

Kansas senators on Tuesday took up a bill aimed at clarifying and speeding up cases for abused and neglected children.

 

The Kansas Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee discussed the bill supporters say would update outdated language vexing prosecutors and judges who handle children’s cases. The bill, backed by the Kansas Department for Children and Families did not get an immediate vote.

Rachel Marsh, executive director of government and community relations for Saint Francis Community Services, said the legal code governing child welfare cases lacked clarity at times.

“These changes simply clean up those areas so that there’s more conciseness and cases can be decided more quickly and children can obtain permanency faster,” Marsh said.

Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat, characterized the bill as a cleanup effort to help child welfare officials and ensure anyone with an interest in the child would be engaged in the process.

Under the bill, parents would also be allowed to give up a child at a law enforcement center, fire station, medical facility or health department without punishment until the infant is 60 days old. Current law allows that for only 45 days. The parent’s rights would then be considered voluntarily terminated.

Marsh said in an email current law does not provide guidance on how to resolve a case where one parent relinquished a child, but the other parent did not.

“Under the Newborn Infant Protection Act as it is currently written, there is not guidance about how to address and resolve the rights of the non-relinquishing parent in this unique circumstance,” Marsh said.

The bill would require officials to post public notice the state was going to terminate parental rights to the child. If the child’s other parent did not want to give up rights, the bill would give 30 days for that parent to establish parentage.

Sen. Barbara Bollier, a Mission Hills Republican, said she would like to know more about where public notices are posted because small towns may no longer have a newspaper

“That other parent may not know and has the right to potentially take that child,” Bollier said.

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