Child welfare bill on its way to Senate floor

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The Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions unanimously endorsed legislation Thursday requiring a report from child welfare caseworkers removing children from the custody of family members and placing them with non-relatives.

Sponsoring Rep. Wayne Harper, R-West Jordan says HB237 stresses that a caseworker's "number one duty is to find a relative that they can place the children with" when removing them from a home.

The proposed legislation — now on its way to the full Senate — would also increase training requirements for caseworkers.

Harper says because of the influx of workers, training requirements are "the weakest area in our child welfare program."

The bill previously passed the House 70-0 and has the support of the Utah Attorney General's Office, the Office of Guardian Ad Litem, the Division of Child and Family Services, the Southerland Institute and the Utah Eagle Forum.

"Those of us who have been here for previous sessions are aware that Representative Harper has worked very diligently for over a decade with the groups involved, trying to work out what's best for families and children in welfare cases," says Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, who is Senate sponsor of the measure.