BOISE — Idaho lawmakers are considering a bill intended to help grandparents and other relatives get custody of children whose parents have been caught up with substance abuse or incarceration.
Sen. Denton Darrington, R-Declo, said the bill would give grandparents stronger rights in custody battles. It would allow courts to oversee and evaluate custody arrangements and determine when parents are ready to take their children back.
Idaho Voices for Children, a nonprofit advocacy organization for children, said Idaho had almost 10,000 households with people raising their grandchildren in 2006, a 21 percent increase over 2000.
“The vast majority of those are by agreement and would have no need to go into court,” Darrington, chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee, said during a hearing on the bill Wednesday. “There are a few that are contentious.”
Contested cases can mean long court battles for guardianship.
“We believe this bill is a real step in the right direction,” said Hollis Brookover, board president for Idaho Voices for Children. “We believe this is smart public policy.”
She said adding ongoing court oversight would help keep children in a nurturing and stable environment.
Shawna Wasko works out of the College of Southern Idaho’s Office on Aging in Twin Falls overseeing a support group for grandparents raising grandchildren. She recently added monthly meetings in Burley, and supports the bill.
“This will be less expensive, less confrontational and faster,” she said. “Those three things were what got to me.”