SB 801
Modifies provisions relating to child protection
Sponsor:
LR Number:
4449S.02C
Committee:
Last Action:
4/24/2024 - Informal Calendar S Bills for Perfection
Journal Page:
Title:
SCS SB 801
Effective Date:
Varies

Current Bill Summary

SCS/SB 801 - Current law requires courts to appoint a guardian ad litem for a child in certain child abuse and neglect cases, including when a child is under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court for reasons relating to the abuse or neglect or if abuse or neglect has been alleged in a custody proceeding. In other cases not involving abuse or neglect, the court may, in its discretion, appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the best interests of the child in that proceeding.

This act repeals provisions relating to the appointment of a guardian ad litem when a child is under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court for reasons relating to abuse or neglect of the child. In such cases, the court shall appoint an attorney for the child prior to the first hearing who shall represent the child in all proceedings, including appeal, during the pendency of the case. The attorney shall not represent the child and the parents or guardians. Right to representation by counsel in such cases shall not be waived by the child.

In cases involving custody, including separation, dissolution of marriage, or paternity cases, appointment of a guardian ad litem in cases where child abuse or neglect has been alleged shall only occur if the alleged abuse or neglect has been reported to the Children's Division.

Currently, foster parents have the opportunity to be heard, and the standing to participate in, any hearing for a foster child in their care. Under this act, a current foster parent of a child who has been that child's foster parent for 9 months shall have the right to intervene as a party. Nothing in this provision shall be construed to authorize a court to join a foster parent as a party without the foster parent's consent.

This provision is similar to a provision in SB 1073 (2016).

Finally, this act creates the "Office of the Child's Representative" within the Missouri Supreme Court. The Child's Representative Board, consisting of nine members appointed by the Supreme Court as specified in the act, shall appoint an executive director and work with the director govern the Office. The Office shall have the responsibility to collaborate with the various judicial circuits, judges, and attorneys to ensure uniform, high-quality legal representation to children, including children's counsel and guardians ad litem.

The Office shall: (1) ensure the provision and availability of high-quality, accessible training for children's counsel, guardians ad litem, and judges who regularly hear matters involving children and families; (2) make recommendations to the Supreme Court concerning the establishment or modification of minimum training requirements and practice standards for attorneys serving as children's counsel or guardians ad litem; (3) oversee the practice of counsel and guardians ad litem to ensure compliance with all relevant statutes, court rules, and other directives; (4) work with judges, attorneys, and children impacted by the child welfare and justice system to form partnerships; (5) establish fair and realistic compensation rates for court-appointed counsel and guardians ad litem; (6) enhance existing funding sources; (7) study the availability of or developing new funding sources; and (8) accept grants, donations, and other nongovernmental contributions, to be held in the "Child's Representative Fund" in the state treasury, to fund the work of the Office. The Office shall also develop measures to assess and document the various models of child representation and the outcomes achieved by representatives and advocates for children.

SARAH HASKINS

Amendments

No Amendments Found.