Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

House Uneasy with Child-Custody Bill

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

House Uneasy with Child-Custody Bill

Article excerpt

The House ground to a halt on child-custody legislation Thursday while struggling with details of a plan offering parents the option of avoiding entanglement in the state's foster care system by temporarily designating another person to care for their children.

The Republican-led chamber sent Senate Bill 113 -- laden with the safe-family initiative and two other measures -- back to House and Senate negotiators. It was the idea of creating an unregulated, voluntary alternative to foster care that prompted a majority of House members to hit the pause button.

"This part of the bill is simply not ready for prime time," said Rep. Blaine Finch, an Ottawa Republican who made a motion asking negotiators to rework the bill.

Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, said the risk that a parent grappling with homelessness, substance abuse or incarceration could sign over children to an irresponsible adult was too great.

"I just want to make sure we don't put them in another crisis," he said. "We are dealing with the most valuable citizens we have."

Rep. Charles Macheers, a Shawnee Republican who led House debate on the bill, said a parent or legal custodian would be allowed to place a child in custody of another for up to one year. The power to consent to marriage, adoption or abortion couldn't be delegated.

"This is a great bill," Macheers said. "It can save the state and taxpayers money."

In addition, the bill would stipulate a person holding temporary power of attorney over children wouldn't be compensated and wouldn't be subject to state laws, rules or regulations that apply to typical foster parents. The arrangement could be renewed after a year, but revoked by the parent or custodian at any time.

The bill would require the Kansas Department for Children and Families, when confronted with a situation not resulting in out-of- home placement due to child abuse, to provide information about opportunities to place kids with individuals in churches or other groups affiliated with the Safe Families for Children program. However, the bill wouldn't restrict the process to affiliates of Safe Families.

"It doesn't provide any input from any noncustodial parent," complained Rep. …

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