POSITION IN BRIEF:
Support measures to encourage public responsibility for the protection, care and training of children, while recognizing the primary importance of parental responsibility.
Support measures to insure public responsibility for encouraging the implementation of preventive programs in the interest of optimal child development.
- Welfare of Children: It is desirable for children to be raised in their own homes and educated in their own communities whenever possible. They should be removed from their own homes only when sufficient cause for removal has been proven. All children between the ages of six and sixteen should be required to attend a public or other school or receive comparable instruction. Provision should be made for the early diagnosis and correction of handicaps among children.
- Services for Children: Those entrusted with the responsibility for the disposition, care and training of children should be qualified in their field. Modern casework procedures must be used in determining the disposition of a child. A special juvenile court system to insure the proper judicial climate, and with special juvenile court services, should be provided for all children.
- Institutional Care: Institutions used for the care of children should meet modern standards, with emphasis placed on individual care, casework, services and records. Adequate institutional care requires a high proportion of staff to children and a program that places emphasis on training, rehabilitation and release of children as rapidly as possible.
The LWVCO has been a primary advocate for children and children’s laws since the early 1940’s. The focus for several years was out-of-home placement of children in the detention system, in community facilities for trained supervision which could not be provided in the home, or in foster care. LWVCO worked for legislative funding for a juvenile detention center now in use.
During the 1989 session of the General Assembly, the LWVCO supported four bills that passed that provided for disabled children’s home care, a Children’s Trust Fund, enforcement of child support and revised regulations in the enforcement of obligations.
Seventeen bills came out of the Family Issues Task Force and its eight sub-committees in 1993. Two bills that passed included one that changed the term “visitation” to “parenting,” when referring to time spent by a non-custodial parent seeing his/her child; the other helped preserve families by making “reasonable efforts” to avoid unnecessary out-of-home placements.
In 1994 LWVCO supported legislation creating the Task Force to Recodify the Children’s Code. In 1995 the League monitored the Task Force meetings and provided input to the Child Protection, Adoption and Relinquishment subcommittees.
LWVCO has monitored child abuse and neglect issues such as speeding up court processes, expediting investigations and proceedings, increasing penalties, and screening for potential abusers in child care facilities. We also supported legislation to remove the religious exemption for child abuse from Colorado’s criminal code.
The LWVCO supports legislation focused on fair and equitable child support payments. In 1995 legislation passed which allows for the suspension of a driver’s license based on non-payment of child support, and in 1997 legislation mandating suspension of occupational and professional licenses for those in arrears (required by the 1996 federal welfare reform).
LWVCO supported creation of a Foster Care/Adoption Task Force. Progress was made with the passage of bills that we supported to: expedite dependency and neglect cases; ensure permanency for children; ensure the safety and well-being of children; improve the quality of foster care; and address the issues of homeless youth and youth emancipating from foster care. We have also supported legislation to expedite procedures to legally free children for adoption, to prepare them and adoptive families for adoption and to better support adoptive families.
In 2005 LWVCO supported a comprehensive state and local child fatality death review system. In 2011 we supported codifying the death review process in order to standardize it throughout the state.
In 2010 LWVCO supported the creation of the Child Protection Ombudsman Program to recommend improvements to the system and to provide an impartial process for concerned citizens and individuals involved in the child protection system to register concerns and complaints about the system.
In 2012 League opposed a bill that passed allowing juveniles in temporary child welfare custody to be placed at Ridge View Youth Services Center, a juvenile correctional facility serving delinquent youth.
In response to continuing concern about child abuse fatalities, two bills were passed in 2013 with League support. One improved the child abuse reporting system through creation of a statewide child abuse hotline, improvements in county hotline coverage, and increased training for hotline staff. The other made improvements in the state and local child fatality review process.
With a goal of more efficient oversight and funding of early childhood programs, we supported a bill in 2012 that would have moved all such programs into an office of early childhood in the Department of Human Services (DHS). When that bill failed, DHS created the office and moved all its early childhood programs into it. In 2013 we successfully supported a bill that moved all early childhood programs from other departments into DHS’s office.
In 2014 League supported two bills that passed. One provided that a child over age 12 would have the option of returning to the family of origin if the family overcame the problem that was the basis for the termination (voluntarily or involuntarily). This provides one more path to permanency for older children. Another made it illegal under the Children’s Code to advertise through a public medium for the purpose of finding or placing a child to adopt or take into permanent custody. An exemption was made for individuals and agencies authorized to facilitate adoption.
League supported creation of a narrower, common standard for what constitutes a drug-endangered child so that law enforcement, social services, and mandatory reporters could make better assessments as to when intervention is needed, but the bill failed.
The Office of the Child Protection Ombudsman was originally placed in the Department of Human Services, which is one of the agencies it investigates, so there were concerns about the independence and effectiveness of the Office. LWVCO strongly supported a significant 2015 bill that moved the Office into the Judicial Department where it will operate as a separate agency.
Other successful legislation that League supported closed gaps in background checks on prospective kin and non-kin foster parents, allowed child placement agencies to share confidential information with each other to better protect children, and made permanent the differential response pilot project that allows a county department to provide services to a family based on their determination of the level of risk for further abuse.