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Unwed fathers, parents and drug users get attention in 2012 Utah Legislature

Published March 9, 2012 12:20 am

Human Services • Two bills address unwed fathers' rights.
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Lawmakers tightened scrutiny of drug-using aid recipients and parents of children in state custody through two measures, including approval of a pilot program requiring parents involved with the Division of Child and Family Services to pay a $5 fee for court-ordered drug tests.

Recipients of cash assistance would also fill out questionnaires aimed at detecting illegal drug use. If the screening indicates a problem, the person would be required to enter drug treatment and stay clean to continue receiving aid.

Lawmakers directed the Department of Workforce Services to gather more detailed information on intergenerational poverty.

But an effort to give businesses up to $1,000 in tax credits for employing a homeless person didn't gain traction. Meanwhile, advocates will be keeping a close eye on how affordable housing issues fare now that lawmakers agreed to put the Division of Housing under DWS' portfolio.

Although its budget remained flat, DCFS will be doing business a bit differently in the future. There will be more emphasis on keeping families intact, in-home services and kinship placements. DCFS also will need more proof to remove children from relatives' care.

The division will now put names of private service providers on its website; the bill excludes foster parents. It also will be required to give parents a pamphlet explaining their rights whenever a child is placed in state custody.

The division and courts also will study how to better protect parental rights in child welfare cases during the interim session.

And guardians ad litem will be required to do their own investigations in child welfare cases; also, private ad litems will now be the rule in district court cases.

There were two measures aimed at giving notices to unwed biological fathers of adoption proceedings, but only one survived. Lawmakers approved a bill introduced by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, which says a birth mother, her attorney or an adoption agency may choose to send a "pre-birth notice" to an unwed biological father informing him of a potential adoption and giving him 30 days to act to protect his rights.

The bill also would give judges discretion to enter a final decree of adoption before a six-month waiting period has ended.

A resolution sponsored by Sen. Karen Morgan, D-Cottonwood Heights, endorsed the recommendations of the state Alzheimer's disease task force, but a bill to take the first small step to implementing the plan went nowhere.

Patty Henetz contributed to this story.






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