2017-2018 Priority Legislation

 


CLM Priority Legislation is authored by the Children’s League of Massachusetts and its members based upon member concerns and trends that are seen first-hand. The following bills were drafted by CLM with input from CLM’s task forces and CLM’s Public Policy Committee. We look forward to working with the Legislature to advance these bills in the 2017-2018 legislative session. Please check this page frequently for updates as new priorities emerge.

  • An Act Relative to the Re-Homing of Children
  • An Act Ensuring Continuous Healthcare Coverage for Youth Who Have Aged-Out of DCF
  • An Act Promoting Local Control and Effective Training of School Resource Officers
  • An Act to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect
  • An Act to Improve Permanency and Placement Stability
  • An Act Relative to Transition Age Youth

An Act Relative to the Re-Homing of Children

 

Bill Number: S.41/H.2798

Docket Number: SD590

Lead Sponsor(s): Senator Jennifer L. Flanagan & Representative John J. Lawn, Jr.

Senate Co-Sponsors: Senators Bruce E. Tarr, Eileen M. DonoghueJoan B.  Lovely

House of Representatives Co-Sponsors: Representatives Brian M. AsheJames M. CantwellMarjorie C. Decker, Tricia Farley-BouvierKimberly N. FergusonHannah Kane, Kay KhanJose F. TosadoChris Walsh

Committee Referral: Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities 

Hearing Information: TBD

Status: Filed

Why Is It Needed?

An adoption disrupts or dissolves often because adoptive parents may be unprepared or unaware of the complex mental, emotional, behavioral, or physical health issues facing children who have experienced foster care. We can avoid re-homing by ensuring that those who adopt have all the relevant information and resources available to them. Often, children who are re-homed end up being the victims of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. We need to ensure that this practice is illegal in Massachusetts to safeguard these children who have endured so much in their young lives.

What Does It Do?

This legislation will require the provision of services to adoptive families to avoid adoption disruption and dissolution; additional training specifically geared towards adoption applicants who wish to adopt internationally; and will require adoptive parents to notify their placement agency or DCF if the parent can no longer care for the child.

The bill also creates penalties for those who advertise the re-homing of a child; those who accept or solicit payment for placing a child; those who take a child in through re-homing; and an adoptive parent and guardian who causes a child to be re-homed.

Additional Materials:

An Act Ensuring Continuous Healthcare Coverage for Youth Who Have Aged Out of DCF

 

Bill Number: S.33/H.607

Docket Number: SD776 & HD550

Lead Sponsor(s): Senator Sal N. DiDomenico & Representative Danielle W. Gregoire

Senate Co-Sponsors: Senators Barbara A. L’ItalienJoan B.  LovelyKathleen O’Connor Ives

House of Representatives Co-Sponsors: Representatives Denise ProvostDavid M. RogersJose F. TosadoSteven UltrinoFrank A. MoranClaire D. Cronin, Aaron VegaMarjorie C. DeckerJohn J. Lawn, Jr.,  Jack LewisJames M. CantwellJay R. KaufmanMike ConnollyElizabeth A. MaliaDylan FernandesChris WalshTricia Farley-BouvierKay KhanCarolyn C. DykemaMichelle M. DuBoisJuana MatiasDaniel CullinaneJennifer E. BensonChynah TylerKevin G. HonanJames J. O’DayNatalie HigginsPeter V. Kocot

Committee Referral: Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities

Hearing Information: TBD

Testimony: CLM Letter of Testimony Regarding Automatic Enrollment

Status: Filed

Why Is It Needed?

The Affordable Care Act includes a provision that requires all states to provide Medicaid coverage to former foster children up to age 26, provided they were in foster care at the age of 18. Due to the transient nature of our foster care population, it is imperative that we make continuous healthcare coverage as easy as possible for these youth.

These youth represent a small but high risk population, and now that we have extended this benefit to youth who have aged out of DCF, we must ensure seamless coverage.

  • 80% of children coming from the foster care system have a chronic medical condition and are twice as likely to have depression as their peers.
  • 25% have three or more chronic health problems.
  • Children in foster care use mental health services (inpatient and outpatient) at a rate 15-20 times higher than the general pediatric population.
  • Many youth who have aged-out will struggle with poverty, incarceration and unemployment throughout their 20s. Those who are employed have difficulty finding jobs that will provide healthcare coverage.
What Does It Do?

This bill will codify the provision in the Affordable Care Act that allows youth who have aged out of DCF to receive MassHealth benefits until they turn 26. Additionally, it will require that these youth are automatically enrolled annually until no longer eligible.

Additional Materials:

An Act Promoting Local Control and Effective Training of School Resource Officers

 

Bill Number: S.274/H.2021

Docket Number: SD1541 / HD2946

Lead Sponsor(s): Senator John F. Keenan & Representative James M. Cantwell

Senate Co-Sponsors: Senators Joan B.  LovelyPatrick M. O’Connor

House of Representatives Co-Sponsors: Representatives Bruce J. AyersJosh S. CutlerMichael S. DayMarjorie C. DeckerAngelo L. D’EmiliaShawn DooleyCarolyn C. DykemaKimberly N. FergusonJonathan HechtKevin J. KurosJohn J. Lawn, Jr.Jose F. TosadoChris Walsh

Committee Referral: Education

Hearing Information: 6/6/2017 10:00 AM

Status: Filed

Why Is It Needed?

Current law requires each school district in the Commonwealth to assign at least 1 school resource officer (SRO), unless that requirement is waived.

This legislation will build upon this existing law to creating uniformity around the use of SROs. If officers will be present in our schools, they must be properly selected and trained and we must outline in great detail what role these officers will play. We must ensure that officers are in school for safety, not for discipline, so that we do not increase the amount of young adults entering the school-to-prison pipeline.

What Does It Do?
  • The existing statute on SROs requires the superintendent and the chief of police to enter into a written memorandum of understanding (MOU) that defines the role and duties of the SRO.
  • This legislation will create additional elements to be included in the MOU, including:
    • a mission statement, goals and objectives for the program;
    • the roles and responsibilities of the SRO, police and schools;
    • the process for selecting school resource officers;
    • a process for gathering and sharing information;
    • a discussion of students’ rights related to a safe and positive school environment;
    • the mechanisms to incorporate the officer into the school environment; and
    • training for SROs, including child and adolescent development, conflict resolution, and diversion strategies.
  • The MOU would also be required to state that SROs will not serve as formal counselors, schools disciplinarians, or enforcers of schools regulations and that SROs cannot use police powers to address traditional school discipline issues, including non-violent disruptive behavior.
  • The bill will also require that standard operating procedures be created to provide SROs with guidance on daily operations, policy, and procedures like the use of police force, arrest, and court referral on school property; a statement of students’ legal rights; performance evaluation standards; and protocols for diverting at-risk students to community-based supports.
  • Finally, the bill creates the SRO training program which will include training for officers in child and adolescent development, de-escalation techniques, juvenile law and diversion strategies as well as and training for school officials. Officers can receive a certificate for completion of the training.
Additional Materials:

An Act Relating to Online Mandated Reporter Training and Neglect Panel

Bill Number: H.3042

Docket Number: HD3093

Lead Sponsor(s): Representative Nick Collins

Senate Co-Sponsors: Senators Joan B.  LovelyMichael O. MooreSal N. DiDomenicoLinda Dorcena Forry

House of Representatives Co-Sponsors: Representatives Jose F. TosadoJohn H. RogersJohn J. Lawn, Jr.Brian M. AsheJames M. CantwellDanielle W. GregoireLouis L. KafkaTricia Farley-BouvierTimothy R. WhelanMarjorie C. DeckerJames J. O’Day

Committee ReferralChildren, Families, and Persons with Disabilities 

Hearing Information: TBD

Status: Filed

Why Is It Needed?
  • Research has found that successful child abuse interventions must both reduce risk factors and promote protective factors to ensure the well-being of children and families.
  • The impact of child maltreatment can be profound. Research shows that child maltreatment is associated with adverse health and mental health outcomes in children and families, and those negative effects can last a lifetime.
  • In addition to the impact on the child, child abuse and neglect affect various systems, including physical and mental health, law enforcement, judicial and public social services, and nonprofit agencies as they respond to the incident and support the victims.
  • Protective factors are conditions in families and communities that, when present, increase the health and well-being of children and families. They are attributes that serve as buffers, helping parents who might otherwise be at risk of abusing their children to find resources, supports, or coping strategies that allow them to parent effectively, even under stress.
What Does It Do?
  • This legislation directs the Department of Children and Families to create or utilize an existing online mandated reporter training that must be completed annually by all mandated reporters. While many mandated reporters are trained initially, they often do not receive any additional training, and it certainly is not required. Requiring a free, online mandated reporter training will help those who are required to report suspected abuse and neglect be better able to recognize and report when required to do so.
  • This legislation also creates a child abuse and neglect expert review panel under the Office of the Child Advocate. This panel would review the repeated entry of children into the care of the Department of Children and Families in a 12-month period for the same family unit and determine what, if any, actions are needed to protect the child from further harm. The panel would also report on any trends that are affecting these families, any agency service gaps that are observed, and any recommendations for policy changes to prevent the repeated abuse and neglect of children.
Additional Materials:

An Act to Improve Permanency and Placement Stability

 

Bill Number: H.783

Docket Number: HD936

Lead Sponsor(s): Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier

Senate Co-Sponsors: Senator Michael J. Barrett

House of Representatives Co-Sponsors: Representatives Jose F. TosadoKay KhanChris WalshJohn J. Lawn, Jr.Brian M. AsheMichelle M. DuBoisLouis L. KafkaGailanne M. CariddiMarjorie C. Decker

Committee ReferralChildren, Families, and Persons with Disabilities

Hearing Information: TBD

Status: Filed

Why Is It Needed?
  • In order for a child to grow up as a healthy, functioning and productive member of society, a sense of a permanent home and family is key.
  • Children benefit from stable, nurturing family lives, positive school environments and networks of caring friends, relatives and neighbors. This network of support can help a child perform well academically, have positive health and mental health outcomes and make it more likely that they will develop good relationship and social skills that can enable them to become successful adults.
  • However, for children who enter the foster care system, these critical connections and sense of permanency may be lost from the moment a child is removed from home. This further places the children at risk of emotional and behavioral problems and other negative outcomes.
What Does It Do?
  • Each child age 7 or older in DCF’s care will have the opportunity to express their preferred custody placement. This also allows for each parent to provide any name of an adult who can provide custody to their children.
  • In child protection cases, judges should decide whether an agency acted properly when it removed a child from parental care, whether it provided parents with adequate supportive services during the reunification period and whether it took appropriate actions to ensure a child was placed in a permanent home. For several reasons, judges rarely make “no reasonable efforts findings”. This legislation will require that the issue of whether reasonable efforts have been made be raised at a series of existing hearings including, both the ex parte removal hearing and the temporary orders hearing under section 24, the pre-trial conference, and permanency hearings under section 29B.
  • Requires a regional clinical review team to conduct a review when any child or young adult has experienced more than 2 placements in a single foster care episode.
  • A child who is 12 years or older could petition the court to reinstate parental rights if more than 2 years have passed since the entry of the order and if the permanency goal for the child is no longer adoption.
Additional Materials:

An Act Relative to Transition Age Youth

 

Bill Number: S.25/H.1957

Docket Number: SD249 & HD2213

Lead Sponsor(s): Senator Michael J. Barrett & Representative Sean Garballey

Senate Co-Sponsors: Senator James B. Eldridge

House of Representatives Co-Sponsors: Representatives Jose F. TosadoJohn J. Lawn, Jr.Thomas M. StanleyJames M. CantwellChris WalshMarjorie C. Decker

Committee Referral: Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities

Hearing Information: TBD

Status: Filed

Why Is It Needed?

Without adequate preparation and guidance, youth transitioning out of state supported services can face long-term negative consequences. It is the Commonwealth’s responsibility to provide these at-risk youth with sufficient means for success.

  • Approximately, 900 youth will age out of care each year in Massachusetts, many of which will end up homeless, incarcerated, unemployed, and without vocational training and healthcare.
  • A prominent service plan goal of youth in the Department of Children and Families includes Alternative Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA) at approximately 19%. When a child receives APPLA as a service plan goal, the goal of finding a permanent placement is abandoned.
  • There was a greater proportion of Black consumers with a goal of “Alternative Planned Permanent Living Arrangement” (APPLA) and a lower proportion with a goal of “Adoption” as compared to White and Hispanic consumers—26% Black vs. 18% White and 21% Hispanic for APPLA; 17% Black vs. 22% Hispanic and 26% White for adoption.

What Does It Do?

The primary focus of this bill is to reduce the reliance by the Department of Children and Families to designate a child under the age of 17 with the status of APPLA. In addition, it requires DCF to report on the number of children who receive APPLA as a service plan goal.

Additional Materials: