This week, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’s (R-Rochester) Task Force on Foster Care released a package of 13 bills to improve Wisconsin’s foster care system. The “Foster Forward” package is the result of six public hearings across the state and addresses four policy goals: Prevention Efforts, Improving the Child Welfare System, Support for Foster Care Providers, and Support for Foster Care Youth.
Under Prevention Efforts, LRB 4645 would give parents the right to legal counsel in “child in need of protective services” proceedings and would create a pilot program in five counties to grant parents whose children have been taken into custody a right to counsel. LRB 4850 would increase annual funding for Court-Appointed Special Advocate programs under the Department of Justice. LRB 4576 would restore funds for the 2-1-1 Wisconsin program that provides community services information and referrals for Wisconsin families. LRB-4925 would appropriate federal funding to the Department of Children and Families for administering a child abuse and neglect prevention services grant program.
Under Improving the Child Welfare System, LRB 4767 would form the Wisconsin Task Force to Create Effective Child Welfare Caseloads to examine the maximum number a caseloads a case worker can handle effectively and how much funding would be necessary to implement new standards. LRB 4468 would change licensing regulations for foster homes to provide continuity of foster care when the license of a child welfare agency to license foster homes is revoked. LRB 4466 would eliminate the requirement of showing a parent will not meet the conditions for the safe return of the child to the home in a termination of parental rights proceeding. LRB 4564 would change certain legal proceedings in termination of parental rights cases in order to prevent delays in permanency for the child. LRB 4582 would change requirements for notifying schools in the process of placing a child in out-of-home care.
Under Support for Foster Care Providers, LRB 4929 would give DCF funds for grants to support foster families. LRB 4766 would allow health care providers to disclose certain mental health information about a child to foster parents or a child welfare agency. LRB 4764 would define and allow foster parents to provide consent for, specifically, dental care such as routine diagnostic and preventive services and treatments.
Under Support for Foster Care Youth, LRB 4562 would give tuition remission to former foster youth and create a grant program under DCF to provide resources to former foster youth enrolled in the University of Wisconsin System.
Speaker Vos announced in June the formation of the task force, chaired by Reps. Patrick Snyder (R-Schofield) and Steve Doyle (D-Onalaska). The committee is made up of seven other Republican and four Democratic members. The deadlines to cosponsor the bills are next week, and the bills will likely be on the floor in January.