A controversial legislation on child custody came to a halt in the Kansas House on Thursday, after majority of the House members decided to send it back to Senate negotiators.
Senate Bill 113 proposes to allow a parent or legal custodian to place a child in another person’s custody for up to one year. However, the power to consent to adoption, abortion, or marriage may not be delegated. The bill is touted as an option for parents to avoid entanglement in the Kansas foster care system, as they could instead temporarily leave their children under the care of another person.
House members struggled with the bill’s details and with the idea of creating an alternative to foster care, one that’s unregulated and voluntary.
That particular detail is “not ready for primetime,” said Ottawa Republican Rep. Blaine Finch, who moved to ask negotiators to iron out the bill.
Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, added that there was great risk of a parent struggling with substance abuse, homelessness, or incarceration simply signing over a child to an irresponsible adult.
Meanwhile, Shawnee Republican Rep. Charles Macheers, who led the House debate, said that it was “a great bill” and that it can save state and taxpayers’ money. Supporters of the bill emphasize that parents would find it less expensive than foster care because they would be able to enlist someone they know and trust instead.
The bill has a new requirement for the Department for Children and Families: it would have to provide information about opportunities to place children with individuals who are members of groups affiliated with the state’s Safe Families for Children program.
Additionally, the bill stipulates that a person with temporary power of attorney over children would not be compensated or subjected to state laws typically applying to foster parents. However, this arrangement may be renewed after a year or revoked by the custodian anytime.
According to Rep. Steven Becker, R-Buhler, the bill does not consider noncustodial parents, saying that it “totally pushe[s] away the other parent”.
Another requirement in the stalled legislation is that law enforcement officers should take a child into custody when there is reason to believe a crime involving illegal drugs is occurring at the child’s residence.
The multi-part bill also has provisions concerning people who alert law enforcers or medical workers of their alcohol abuse. Such provisions were less controversial than those about child custody, but were still met with some legislators’ objections.