Measure gives foster parents rights in court proceedings

By TOM LATEK, Kentucky Today
FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Legislation to ensure foster parents have rights in court proceedings involving termination of parental rights by birth parents passed the Kentucky House on Wednesday.

House Speaker Pro Tem David Meade, R-Stanford, the sponsor of the measure, told his House colleagues that this measure clarified some provisions in legislation approved last year.

“We were doing that with the intent that the foster parents’ information would be kept confidential from the biological parents, and only kept within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and the courts,” he said.

Meade says, for various reasons, that did not happen. “You can imagine that creates some angst for foster parents in very rare situations could potentially put them in a dangerous situation.”

Among the changes, Meade says, “It allows foster parents to choose whether they want to intervene in that case, and if they do, then it would be a matter of right. That intervention can be done anonymously, and if it is done anonymously, the foster parent is to be identified by initials and proceed through counsel.”

If the foster parent doesn’t have an attorney, they could provide a post office box to receive mailings, instead of a physical address.

“We started down this path three years ago,” said Meade, an adoptive parent himself, “making Kentucky the best it possibly could be for foster children. That’s because of the love this body has for children in the state. We’ve worked together and done some remarkable things. We’ve even gained national recognition for that, with national awards for what we have done over the past three years, and I appreciate what everyone has done and the love they have poured out for children of this state.”

Meade told reporters later that involuntary termination of parental rights is initiated by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services due to an abuse situation that the child could not return home for safety reasons.

“Those are the cases where those foster parents have had the children in care 24 hours a day, seven days a week for sometimes months and years at a time,” he said. “They should be able to advocate and be a voice for those children in the court process.”

When asked how often foster parents are threatened by those losing parental rights, Meade replied, “It’s not that common, but we do see it from time to time.”

The bill passed 92-0 and now heads to the Senate.