Gov. Walker: To sign 11 bills to improve outcomes for children in foster care

Contact: Amy Hasenberg, (608) 266-2839

MADISON – Governor Scott Walker will sign an 11-bill package today to improve outcomes for children in Wisconsin’s foster care system. Governor Walker will sign six bills at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Wausau with Representative Patrick Snyder (R – Schofield) and five bills at the La Crosse County Administrative Center in La Crosse with Representative Steve Doyle (D – Onalaska). Representatives Snyder and Doyle are co-chairs of the 2017 Speaker’s Task Force on Foster Care.

“More than 7,000 children in Wisconsin have been placed in out-of-home care because of neglect or abuse as of 2015,” Governor Walker said. “We want to make sure we’re doing what we can to improve the system so we can achieve better outcomes for these young people, and these bills do that,” Governor Walker said. “I thank Representative Pat Snyder and Representative Steve Doyle for their work on these bills, which all received strong bipartisan support. Together, we are moving Wisconsin forward.”

This legislative bill package was created by the 2017 Speaker’s Task Force on Foster Care. The task force traveled across six communities in the state to speak with local experts and community members. At the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Wausau, Governor Walker signed Assembly Bills 779, 780, 782, 784, 785, and 786.

“I am pleased with the Governor’s prompt signing of this bipartisan package of bills; the foster care system faces major challenges, largely due to the ongoing opioid crisis, but I am confident that these bills begin moving us in the right direction,” said Representative Patrick Snyder. “I was honored to be a co-chair of the Task Force and am proud to watch as these important bills become law.”

In La Crosse, Governor Walker is signing Assembly Bills 775,776, 778, 781, and 787.

“Many of the ideas for these bills came from social workers, foster parents and judges in La Crosse who brought their personal and professional experiences to the Task Force during our public hearings,” Representative Steve Doyle said. “I am so glad that they have the opportunity to be here to see the final product of their hard work.”

Assembly Bill 779 – The bill fills a gap in funding for 2-1-1 Wisconsin that was created by a loss in federal funding. 2-1-1 Wisconsin is a public helpline that connects callers with a variety of community-based services including food pantries, homeless shelters, diaper services, health care, etc. Authored by Senator Luther Olsen (R—Ripon) and Representative David Crowley (D—Milwaukee), the bill passed the Assembly on a vote of 32-0 and was concurred by the Senate on a vote of 93-0.

Assembly Bill 780 – The bill makes changes for schools relating to a child in out-of-home care. Under the bill, the school district will receive notice of permanency plan review for a child in out-of-home care and have the opportunity to submit written testimony to the court. The bill also changes the statutory language so the written notification to the school by the child welfare agency regarding placement of a child in out-of-home care is sent to the school district instead of the clerk for the school board. The bill changes the transfer of school records timeline from 5 days to the next day when a child in out-of-home care changes schools. Authored by Senator Jerry Petrowski (R—Marathon) and Representative Jessie Rodriguez (R—Oak Creek), the bill passed the Assembly on a voice vote and was concurred by the Senate on a voice vote.

Assembly Bill 782 – The bill allows a treatment record of a foster child to be released to an out of home care provider and a child welfare agency if the provider believes it is necessary for the proper care of the child. Currently, a mental health treatment record is confidential. Authored by Senator Alberta Darling (R—River Hills) and Representative Patrick Snyder (R—Schofield), the bill passed the Assembly on a voice vote and was concurred by the Senate on a voice vote.

Assembly Bill 784 – The bill funds the creation of a five-county pilot program administered by SPD creating the right to legal counsel for parents in CHIPS proceedings. The five counties are Brown, Outagamie, Racine, Kenosha, and Winnebago. By January 1, 2021, SPD and DCF must submit a report to JFC and each house of the legislature regarding data and costs of implementing the program. Authored by Senator Dan Feyen (R—Fond du Lac) and Representative Joan Ballweg (R—Markesan), the bill passed the Assembly on a vote of 90-2 and was concurred by the Senate on a vote of 32-0.

Assembly Bill 785 – The bill creates a new matching grant program funded with $500,000 TANF administered by DCF for the purpose of child abuse and neglect prevention services. Counties, nonprofits and tribes are eligible to apply for the grants which are intended to encourage innovative practices for reducing contact with the child welfare system and preventing placement in out-of-home care. Authored by Senator Jerry Petrowski (R—Marathon) and Representative Patrick Snyder (R—Schofield), the bill passed the Assembly on a voice vote and was concurred by the Senate on a vote of 32-0.

Assembly Bill 786 – Under current law, the Department of Justice issues an $80,000 grant annually to WiCASA. This bill increases the funding for these grants to $250,000 per fiscal year. The bill also creates a requirement for the Court Appointed Special Advocate Association to submit an annual report describing the use of the funds to the governor and legislature. Authored by Senator Luther Olsen (R—Ripon) and Representative Terry Katsma (R—Oostburg), the bill passed the Assembly on a vote of 32-0 and was concurred by the Senate on a vote of 93-0.

Assembly Bill 775 – The bill removes the proof that there is substantial likelihood that a parent will not meet the conditions for return of a child within the nine-month period following a termination of parental rights hearing. If a child has been placed in out-of-home care under a CHIPS order for less than 15 of the past 22 months, the court must find that the parents will not meet the conditions for safe return by the time they reach 15 of the last 22 months. Authored by Senator Alberta Darling (R—River Falls) and Representative Joel Kitchens (R—Sturgeon Bay), the bill passed the Assembly on a voice vote and was concurred by the Senate on a voice vote.

Assembly Bill 776 – The bill makes two changes to foster parent licensing in order to improve stability and continuity of foster care placements: 1) If a child placing agency is no longer able to license foster homes, the bill allows the foster parent license to transfer to a different child placing agency. 2) The bill allows for a foster home license in a non-resident county to be a general license, not for a specific child, if both counties agree. Authored by Senator Alberta Darling (R—River Falls) and Representative Treig Pronschinske (R—Mondovi), the bill passed the Assembly on a voice vote and was concurred by the Senate on a voice vote.

Assembly Bill 778 – The bill modifies the appeals process for termination of parental rights. Under the bill, the appeal notice and petition for review must include the signature of the person on whose behalf the appeal is filed. The bill expands the authority of the court to allow an extension of time to file the notice. Also, under the bill, the appeal must specify the reasons for the appeal. Authored by Senator Luther Olsen (R—Ripon) and Representative Steve Doyle (R—Onalaska), the bill passed the Assembly on a voice vote and was concurred by the Senate on a voice vote.

Assembly Bill 781 – The bill defines “dental care” for the purpose of a legal custodian (e.g. foster parent) providing ordinary medical and dental care for a child. This bill defines “dental care” as routine dental care, including diagnostic and preventative services, and treatment including restoring teeth, tooth extractions, and use of nitrous oxide. Authored by Senator Alberta Darling (R—River Hills) and Representative Jill Billings (D—La Crosse), the bill passed the Assembly on a voice vote and was concurred by the Senate on a voice vote.

Assembly Bill 787 – The bill creates a new grant program funded with $400,000 GPR to be administered by DCF for the purpose of supporting foster parents and providing normalcy for children placed in out-of-home care. The grants will be available to counties, nonprofit organizations, and tribes, and may be used for incentives for foster parent retention, enhancing foster parent education and reimbursing foster parents for expenses. The bill requires DCF to conduct an evaluation of the program and submit the report to the legislature by June 30, 2021. Authored by Senator Luther Olsen (R—Ripon) and Representative Lisa Subeck (D—Madison), the bill passed the Assembly on a vote of 93-0 and was concurred by the Senate on a vote of 32-0.

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