Bill favors keeping family together in child placement

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Keeping families together would be a top priority for attorneys representing children during removal proceedings under a bill passed Tuesday by the Utah House.

Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, sponsored SB255 with Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, after an audit released two weeks ago revealed guardians ad litum were sometimes at odds with the courts and the Division of Child and Family Services when it came to recommendations on where to place the children.

"We're trying to coordinate things ... so we're all on the same page," Ray said.

The measure passed 66-5.

The training would have guardians ad litum — lawyers appointed to independently represent children — look at a list of options starting with the most favorable, which would be keeping a family together. If that option isn't available, the child would go with kin and if that wasn't possible, the child would be placed for adoption.

Only after those possibilities had been exhausted would the agencies coordinate to arrange permanent guardianship.

Also under the proposal, the measure would also unify the time-frame for adopting children. Under the current law, children under the age of three must wait eight months to begin adoption proceedings while children over 3 years old have a one-year wait. Under the bill, both wait times would be 12 months.

Harper said that was done in an attempt to keep siblings together when being placed.

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