The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved SB 1341, the Foster Care Improvement Act, and sent it to the full Senate with a recommendation that it “do pass,” the Twin Falls Times-News reports. The bill would codify the common judicial practice of keeping siblings together whenever possible, strengthen support services for newly reunified families, clarify priorities when investigating claims of abuse, establish in statute a new system of Citizen Review Panels across the state and create a legislative committee to oversee child protection.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Abby Lee, R-Fruitland, described the bill as the “next step” in improving foster care in Idaho. The measure comes from two years of work by the Foster Care Interim Committee, and also responds to three reports from the Legislature's Office of Performance Evaluations on Idaho's foster care system. The bill has eight co-sponsors from both parties and both houses.
Dr. Robert Ball, senior vice president of programs at the Idaho Youth Ranch, told the Times-News that he sees establishment of a legislative oversight committee and strengthened support services for families as particularly important. “I really see this as a great first step in addressing the gaps that we know are in the foster care system,” Ball said. “And then really our ultimate goal should be to reduce the number of kids who are in foster care.” Times-News reporter Gretel Kauffman has a full story here.