“Ultimately, this [bill] will minimize the time spent with DCS [Department of Child Safety] and the number of times a child is moved from home to home, allowing children to learn how to bond with others during the formative years,” writes Senator Nancy Barto concerning her bill SB 1473 in a recent guest column in Arizona Capitol Times.

She further writes, “I am excited about the opportunity this will provide for substance exposed youngsters to become productive members of society and make a life for themselves.”

I wholeheartedly agree with Senator Barto. Following near unanimous passage by both legislative bodies, Governor Ducey signed SB 1473 into law last week. It will take effect later this year.

The first few months of a child’s life, especially a child born substance or drug exposed, are critical to the child’s ability to thrive in the future. That is why Center for Arizona Policy (CAP) supported this important piece of legislation to ensure children find a “forever home” in a reasonable time period and are not moved from home to home year after year. Children need to be safe and secure.

SB 1473 improves existing law regarding placement of children in several ways, including for example:

  • Requiring DCS to maintain a goal to place infants in their custody into a prospective permanent placement within one year of filing a dependency petition.
  • Requiring DCS to place a child consistent with the best interest of the child.
  • Stipulating that if a child under the age of three has lived with a foster parent or kinship caregiver for at least nine months, the child is presumed to have a significant relationship with the foster parent or kinship caregiver.
  • Modifying the list of aggravating circumstances to include a child under six months old being exposed to a drug or substance and whose parent is unable to care for the child because of chronic drug abuse and where reasonable grounds exist to believe that the parent’s drug abuse will continue for a prolonged or indeterminate amount of time.

While still protecting parental rights and giving due consideration to kinship placement, SB 1473 rightly places the long-term welfare of infants and young children at the forefront.

Special thanks for this new law also goes to Darcy Olsen, a foster and adoptive mom herself. Darcy has founded a new organization, Generation Justice, to speak to the needs of vulnerable children, especially babies, in foster care. Darcy saw a critical need for this legislation and spearheaded the effort to get it passed. The effort brought together many voices leading to a consensus on a terrific legislative solution to a real problem.

To know more about how you can help meet the needs of children in foster care, visit Christian Family Care, az127.org, or Focus on the Family’s icareaboutorphans.org.

ICYMI – Latest News & Articles of Interest

Keep up-to-date on CAP-supported bills on CAP’s bill tracker.

 

 

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