SB 327
Modifies provisions relating to child protection
Sponsor:
LR Number:
1595H.08C
Last Action:
5/7/2021 - HCS#2 Voted Do Pass H Emerging Issues
Journal Page:
Title:
HCS SS SB 327
Calendar Position:
Effective Date:
Emergency clause
House Handler:

Current Bill Summary

HCS/SS/SB 327 - This act modifies several provisions relating to child protection, including: (1) the Office of Child Advocate; (2) adoption tax credits; (3) foster parent tax deductions; (4) school discipline policies; (5) the use of seclusion and restraints in public schools; (6) birth match; (7) unaccompanied youth; (8) diligent search; (9) residential care facilities; (10) youth in foster care; (11) interlocutory appeals involving child placement; (12) termination of parental rights; (13) third party custody or visitation; (14) modification of prior custody orders or visitation; (15) adoption regulations; and (16) adoption proceedings.

OFFICE OF CHILD ADVOCATE (Sections 37.710, 37.717, and 210.152)

Under this act, the Office of Child Advocate shall create a safety reporting system in which employees of the Children's Division may report information regarding the safety of those served by the Division and of the Division's employees. The identity of individuals who report or participate in the reporting system shall be sealed from public inspection, not subject to discovery, and be disclosed only as necessary for the purpose of carrying out the reporting system. Any criminal act reported shall be disclosed by the Office to the appropriate law enforcement agency or prosecuting attorney. Any investigation conducted as a result of a report made under this provision shall be conducted by an unbiased and disinterested investigator.

This provision is identical to a provision in HCS/HB 673 (2021).

ADOPTION TAX CREDITS (Sections 135.325, 135.326, 135.327, 135.335, 135.800, and 191.975)

Current law authorizes the Special Needs Adoption Tax Credit for nonrecurring expenses relating to the adoption of a special needs child. This act modifies such program by renaming it the Adoption Tax Credit, and by expanding such program to allow tax credits for nonrecurring expenses relating to the adoption of any child adopted on or after January 1, 2022, regardless of whether such child is a special needs child. Beginning July 1, 2021, the cap for the tax credit shall be expanded from two million dollars to six million dollars.

These provisions are identical to provisions in the truly agreed to and finally passed SS/SCS/HCS/HB 429 (2021) and the truly agreed to and finally passed SS/SCS/HCS/HB 430 (2021).

FOSTER PARENT TAX DEDUCTIONS (Section 143.1170)

For all tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2022, this act authorizes a tax deduction for expenses incurred directly by a taxpayer in providing care as a foster parent to one or more children in this state. The amount of such deduction for a taxpayer providing care as a foster parent for at least six months during the tax year shall not exceed $5,000, provided that a deduction claimed under this provision if filing married separately shall not exceed $2,500 per taxpayer. For a taxpayer providing care for less than six months during the tax year, the amount of the deduction shall be reduced on a pro rata basis.

A taxpayer claiming a deduction pursuant to this act shall file an affidavit affirming that such taxpayer is a foster parent, and the Department of Revenue shall collaborate with the Children's Division of the Department of Social Services to establish and implement a procedure to verify that a taxpayer is a foster parent.

This provision is identical to a provision in the truly agreed to and finally passed SS/SCS/HCS/HB 429 (2021) and the truly agreed to and finally passed SS/SCS/HCS/HB 430 (2021).

SCHOOL DISCIPLINE POLICIES (Section 160.261)

This act repeals provisions of current law relating to school discipline policies relating to the inability of the Children's Division to have jurisdiction to investigate alleged child abuse arising out of or related to the use of reasonable force to protect persons or property when administered by school personnel or any spanking administered by school personnel pursuant to a written school district policy. This act repeals a provision granting the Division jurisdiction to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of a teacher or other school employee and prohibiting investigations by the school district for purposes of determining whether or not the allegations should be substantiated. Finally, this act repeals provisions of current law relating to investigations of child abuse by the school district.

This provision is identical to a provision in HCS/HB 673 (2021).

THE USE OF SECLUSION AND RESTRAINTS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS (Section 160.263)

Under this act, school discipline policies required under current law shall reserve confining a student in seclusion for situations or conditions in which there is an imminent danger of physical harm to the student or to another.

Beginning July 1, 2022, no school district, charter school, or publicly contracted private provider shall use any mechanical, physical, or prone restraint technique which cause certain obstructions, impairments, physical pressure, danger, or pain, as listed in the act. A student who primarily uses sign language or an augmentative mode of communication shall be permitted to have his or her hands free for brief periods unless doing so appears likely to result in harm.

Before July 1, 2022, each school district's written policy addressing restrictive behavioral interventions shall be updated to be consistent with the act's prohibitions and limitations related to restraint techniques. The policy shall require students to be removed from seclusion or restraint as soon as the student is determined to no longer be an imminent danger of physical harm, shall require all personnel to annually review policies and procedures related to seclusion and restraint, and to require personnel who use seclusion or restraint to complete an annual training on permitted techniques. The policy shall also require each use of seclusion or restraint to be monitored by a personnel member and for a report containing certain documentary and parental support information to be completed and retained. A copy of the report shall be provided to the parent within 5 days of the incident and to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education within 30 days. The school shall attempt to notify the parent as soon as possible after the use of seclusion or restraint, but at the latest no later than one hour after the end of the school day.

No public or charter school officer, administrator, or employee shall retaliate against a person for reporting a violation of the school's seclusion and restraint policy or a violation of the act or for providing information regarding a violation of the act. The Department shall compile and maintain all reported seclusion or restraint incidents in its core data system and make such data available on the Missouri Comprehensive Data System, except for personally identifiable data.

By July 1, 2022, the Department shall updates its model policy related to the confinement of students to include the provisions of the act related to the written seclusion and restraint policies.

These provisions are identical to HB 387 (2021) and similar to HB 119 (2021), HB 1568 (2020), HB 1569 (2020), provisions in HCS/SS/SCS/SB 528 (2021), and HB 1023 (2019).

BIRTH MATCH (Sections 193.075, 210.150, and 210.156)

Under this act, the Children's Division shall make available to the State Registrar the identifying information of certain individuals, within the previous ten years, whose parental rights have been terminated due to child abuse or neglect, individuals who pled or were found guilty of murder or manslaughter when the victim was a child, and individuals who pled guilty or were found guilty of certain sexual offenses against a child. The State Registrar shall provide to the Division the birth record information of children born to such individuals. The Division shall verify the identity of the parent and if that identity is verified, the Division shall provide the appropriate local office with information regarding the birth of the child. Appropriate local Division personnel, or local providers designated by the Division, shall initiate contact with the family, or make a good faith effort to do so, to determine if the parent or family has a need for services and provide such voluntary and time-limited services as appropriate. The Division shall document the results of such contact and services provided, if any, in the Division's information system. Identifying information and records created and exchanged under this act shall be closed records and shall only be used as specified in the act.

These provisions are identical to provisions in the truly agreed to and finally passed SS/SCS/HCS/HB 429 (2021), substantially similar to SB 454 (2021) and HB 432 (2021), and similar to HB 2329 (2020), provisions in HB 2216 (2020), and SB 503 (2019).

UNACCOMPANIED YOUTH (Sections 210.115 and 210.121)

Under this act, for the purposes of providing or accessing supportive services or verifying the status of a youth as unaccompanied or homeless, the fact that a child is an unaccompanied youth, as defined in federal law, is not, in and of itself, a sufficient basis for reporting child abuse or neglect, unless the child is under 16 years of age or is incapacitated.

Additionally, an unaccompanied youth may access supportive services, as defined in the act, so long as the youth is verified as an unaccompanied youth. Acceptable documentation for verification shall include: (1) a statement signed by a licensed mental health professional, licensed social worker, or licensed counselor of a government or nonprofit agency that receives public or private funding to provide services to homeless people; (2) a statement signed by a local educational agency liaison for homeless children and youth or a school social worker or counselor; or (3) a statement signed by an attorney representing the youth in any legal matter.

A person who acts in good faith to accept a statement from a director or designee of a government or nonprofit agency and who is without actual knowledge that such statement is fraudulent or otherwise invalid, shall not be liable in any civil or criminal action for providing shelter or supportive services without having obtained permission from the minor's parent or guardian. The service provider shall not be relieved from liability for negligence or criminal acts on the basis of this act.

These provisions are identical to HCS/HB 1276 (2021) and substantially similar to SCS/SB 536 (2021).

DILIGENT SEARCH (Sections 210.127, 210.305, and 210.565)

Under current law, the Children's Division shall conduct a diligent search for the biological parent or parents of a child in the custody of the Division if the location or identity of such parent or parents is unknown. This act requires such search to be conducted immediately following the removal of a child and requires the Division, or an entity under contract with the Division, to use all sources of information, including the known parent or relatives, to locate an absent parent.

Additionally, current law requires the Division to immediately begin diligent efforts to locate and place a child with a suitable grandparent when an initial emergency placement of a child is deemed necessary. This act changes "diligent efforts" to "diligent search", as defined in the act, and expands the search to include relatives other than grandparents. A diligent search for relatives shall occur within thirty days from the time the emergency placement is deemed necessary for the child. The Division shall continue to search for suitable relatives for the child's placement until a suitable relative is identified and located or the court excuses further search.

Finally, whenever a court determines that a foster home placement with a child's relative is appropriate, the Division shall complete a diligent search to locate and notify the child's grandparents, adult siblings, parents of siblings, and all other relatives of the child's possible placement.

RESIDENTIAL CARE FACILITIES (Sections 210.143, 210.493, 210.1253, 210.1256, 210.1259, 210.1261, 210.1263, 210.1264, 210.1265, 120.1268, 210.1271, 210.1274, 210.1280, 210.1283, and 210.1286)

Under this act, the Children's Division, law enforcement, or the prosecuting attorney may petition the court, as described in the act, for an order directing an exempt-from-licensure residential care facility that is subject to an investigation of child abuse or neglect to present the child or other children at the facility at a designated time and place for an assessment of the child's health, safety, and well-being. The petition and order may be made on an ex parte basis to protect the child and relevant evidence. The court shall expedite all proceedings under this act. Any person who knowingly violates these provisions shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

Under this act, officers, managers, contractors, volunteers with access to children, employees, and other support staff of licensed residential care facilities and licensed child placing agencies, as well as owners of such facilities and agencies with access to the facilities and the children, shall submit fingerprints and other information to the Missouri State Highway Patrol for state and federal fingerprint-based background checks. This act establishes similar requirements for employees, owners, volunteers, staff, and persons over 18 years of age residing at license-exempt residential care facilities. Individuals who have committed specified offenses shall be ineligible for employment or presence at the facilities.

This act establishes the "Residential Care Facility Notification Act", which sets forth certain regulations for residential care facilities, including exempt-from-licensure facilities. All residential facilities shall allow parents or guardians unencumbered access to their children in the facility without requiring prior notification to the facility. A facility shall provide for adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and other care necessary for the child's physical, mental, or emotional health or development.

Facilities shall comply with all state and local fire, safety, health, and sanitation inspections.

Exempt-from-licensure facilities shall, upon request by the Department or a law enforcement officer, provide a full census and demographic information of children at the facility, including parental or other guardian contact information, and of adults working, residing, or having access to children at the facility.

The Department, the prosecuting attorney, or the Attorney General may seek injunctive relief to cease the operation of a facility and removal of the children for violations of this act, including an immediate health, safety, or welfare concern for the children at the facility. If the court refers the matter to a juvenile officer, the court may also enter an order placing a child in the emergency, temporary protective custody of the Children's Division for a period not to exceed 5 days until either the parent or legal guardian makes suitable arrangements for the child or the juvenile court assumes jurisdiction of the child for further proceedings.

Nothing in this act shall give any governmental agency jurisdiction or authority to regulate or attempt to regulate, control, or influence the form, manner, or content of the religious curriculum, program, or ministry of a school or facility sponsored by a church or religious organization.

A person shall be guilty of a Class B misdemeanor if such person knowingly fails to complete a criminal background check as required under this act.

These provisions are identical to HCS/HB 557 & 560 (2021).

YOUTH IN FOSTER CARE (Section 210.489)

Under this act, a child in foster care shall not be required to leave the foster care system or be ineligible for support or maintenance solely by reasons of the child's age while the state is under a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, or until September 30, 2021, whichever is later. The Children's Division shall permit any child to voluntarily reenter foster care if the child left foster care because of his or her age during the state of emergency and shall make information about this option publicly available to foster children.

This provision is substantially similar to HB 1335 (2021).

INTERLOCUTORY APPEALS INVOLVING CHILD PLACEMENT (Section 211.261)

Under this act, an interlocutory appeal shall be allowed to a parent, guardian ad litem, or juvenile officer from any order changing or modifying the placement of a child.

This provision is identical to a provision in HCS/HB 673 (2021).

TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS (Section 211.447)

This act modifies the definition of and the grounds for determining abandonment of child in a termination of parental rights proceeding. Under this act, a mandatory termination of parental rights shall be initiated when the court finds a child under two years of age to be abandoned, including when a parent has, for a period of sixty days when the child was under one year of age, willfully, substantially, and continuously neglected to provide the child with necessary care and protection. A discretionary termination of parental rights may occur when the court finds a child two years of age or older has been abandoned, including when a parent has, for a period of 6 months immediately prior to the filing of the petition to terminate parental rights, willfully, substantially, and continuously neglected to provide the child with necessary care and protection. This act repeals a ground for a discretionary termination of parental rights when a child two years of age or older has been abandoned if the parent, without good cause, left the child without any provision for parental support and without making arrangements to visit or communicate with the child.

Under current law, a termination of parental rights shall occur if the parent has been found guilty of certain felony offenses when the child or any child in the family was a victim. This act adds additional felony offenses to the list and removes the requirement that the child be a child in the family or that the child reside with the parent at the time of the offense.

This act modifies determinations of parental unfitness in a discretionary termination of parental rights proceedings to include circumstances when the child has been in foster care under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court for at least 15 of the 22 months prior to the filing of the petition.

These provisions are identical to provisions in the truly agreed to and finally passed SS/SCS/HCS/HB 429 (2021) and substantially similar to SB 888 (2020).

THIRD PARTY CUSTODY OR VISITATION (Section 452.375)

Under this act, temporary third party custody or visitation may be awarded, if in the best interests of the child, to a person related by consanguinity or affinity to the child. If no such person is willing to accept custody of the child, then the court may award custody to any other person deemed by the court to be suitable.

This provision is identical to a provision in the truly agreed to and finally passed SS/SCS/HCS/HB 429 (2021).

MODIFICATION OF PRIOR CUSTODY ORDERS OR VISITATION (Section 452.410)

This provision modifies current law relating to the modification of a prior child custody decree by changing and adding intersectional references to current statutory provisions relating to child custody, visitation, and grandparent visitation.

ADOPTION REGULATIONS (Sections 453.014, 453.030, and 453.070)

This act modifies provisions granting, under current law, the Department of Social Services and the Department of Health and Senior Services regulatory authority for placing a child for adoption to instead grant such authority to the Children's Division and to repeal such authority from the Department of Health and Senior Services.

These provisions are identical to provisions in the truly agreed to and finally passed SS/SCS/HCS/HB 429 (2021) and substantially similar to SB 888 (2020).

ADOPTION PROCEEDINGS (Sections 453.030 and 453.040)

Under current law, prospective adoptive parents or the child-placing agency shall pay reasonable attorney fees incurred by the birth parent throughout the adoption process, unless the court determines the adoptive parents are unable to pay such fees. This act repeals this provision, while retaining the provision guaranteeing the birth parent the right to legal representation. Additionally, this act permits the court to appoint an attorney to represent a birth parent under the age of 18 in cases where the birth parent requests an attorney, the hiring of an attorney would represent a financial hardship for the birth parent, and the birth parent is not already represented by counsel.

Finally, this act modifies the circumstances in which a parent's consent to adoption is not required to reflect the changes made to identifying "abandoned" children in termination of parental rights proceedings.

These provisions are identical to provisions in the truly agreed to and finally passed SS/SCS/HCS/HB 429 (2021) and SB 888 (2020).

This act has an emergency clause for the entire act.

SARAH HASKINS