4 New Articles of Legislation to Know

No matter your level of involvement with the courts or a CASA Program, legislation is an important piece of both. Currently, there are four new articles that impact our work, or the children and families we serve. Learn more below:

H.B. 428: Establish Adverse Childhood Experiences Study Commission
Primary Sponsors: Representative Gail Pavliga and Representative Jay Edwards

Summary: This bill establishes the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) Study Commission. It also requires the Study Commission to: (1) gather data on adverse childhood experiences, (2) study the effects of adverse childhood experiences, and (3) recommend legislative strategies to the General Assembly for addressing the prevalence and effects of adverse childhood experiences. Finally, the bill also requires the Study Commission to submit an annual report of findings and recommendations for possible legislation and ends the commission after submission of its fourth annual report.

Read the LCS Bill Analysis here

H.B. 226: Expand Intimidation Offenses to Guardians ad Litem/Advocates
Primary Sponsors: Representative Gail Pavliga and Representative Adam Miller

Summary: H.B. 226 expands the offenses of intimidation, and intimidation in a criminal case, to include guardians ad litem or CASA Volunteers to those included as protected victim classes. (If the offender knew or had reason to know that the person was an attorney, a witness, a guardian ad litem, or a court appointed special advocate.) It includes intimidating by way of abuse, threats, or harassment against any of those in protected victim classes. Additionally, it provides that intimidation or intimidation in a criminal case is a first-degree misdemeanor when the victim of the offense is a guardian ad litem or court appointed special advocate, and retains the third-degree felony penalty for intimidation of persons protected by existing law intimidation offenses.

Read Megan McCombs Heydlauff’s testimony for H.B. 226 here
Read the LCS Bill Analysis here

H.B. 4: Regards Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting
Primary Sponsors: Representative Phil Plummer and Representative Susan Manchester

Summary: One element of this legislation is the establishment of and requirements for a Children Service Ombudsman Office under the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The Ombudsman Office would be tasked with investigation and resolving concerns and complaints from and on behalf of children and families who are involved with entities overseeing foster care or the placement of children.

An additional piece of this bill pertains to biennial MOU review and MOU review requirements for both PCSAs and ODJFS. H.B. 4 includes mandatory report referral and notification changes for PCSAs and provides mandatory reporters with a right to information post-report.

Also, the legislation allows a juvenile court to issue an order, without a hearing, that authorizes a PCSA to interview or examine a child if the child’s parent/guardian/custodian/caretaker refuses the PCAS reasonable access to the child, if probable cause exists.

Finally, it adds additional individuals qualified to perform foster care and adoption home studies.

Read the LCS Bill Analysis here

Federal Legislation – 21st Century Children and Family Act
Sponsor: Rep. Karen Bass, co-Chair and founder of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth

Summary: This bill would require non-discrimination in foster care services and foster care or adoptive placements. Most notably, this bill would extend the current AFSA timeline for modification of parental rights to 24 consecutive months when a child is not in the care of a relative, replacing the current 15/22 month standard. Prior to modification or termination of parental rights, the state would be required to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that they provided the family services, supports, and time needed to address the reasons for foster care and provide compelling reasons why modification of parental rights is in the child’s best interest. It would prevent the state from seeking modification or termination of parental rights when a parent is actively engaged in services and when modification or termination is based principally on incarceration of the parent or detention by the Department of Homeland Security.

Finally, the bill would require states to include data in state plans that demonstrates efforts to address disproportionality in child welfare and plans and access to services. It includes language that would require state Court Improvement Programs to increase high quality legal representation at all stages of child welfare cases and require race, culture, and equity training.