‘Groundbreaking laws’ setting guidelines for custody of foster kids passes Louisiana Home

The Louisiana House of Representatives listens to statements on a bill. (JC Canicosa / Louisiana Illuminator)

A bill requiring the Department of Children and Family Services to thoroughly search for adult family members of recently cared for children within 30 days of their incarceration was passed unanimously in the Louisiana House of Representatives on Thursday.

MP Jason Hughes (D-New Orleans) who brought SB 143 to the ground on behalf of Senator Patrick McMath (R-Covington)said McMath’s bill is “truly groundbreaking legislation”.

“Members of Congress have already taken note of our work in Louisiana, and they are now on their way to enact federal laws to reflect this (SB 143),” said Hughes.

The bill follows a story from July 2020 in The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate of Jacob and Courtney Landry, a New Orleans couple who wanted to hold the 22-year-old baby they had been caring for for nearly a year. But the court has given custody of the boy to an uncle in New York.

The boy’s uncle, Will Angelino, told the newspaper that DCFS ignored him and forced him to hire a lawyer to fight for custody.

McMath said last week on the House Health and Welfare Committee that his bill would make family reunification a priority from the start so that a situation like the Landrys does not re-emerge. While his bill “puts an emphasis and priority on family and relative identification and tracing,” “it also levels the playing field” for couples like the Landrys who had developed a relationship with the child.

The bill would allow children under the age of 6 to stay in a home with unrelated guardians. “And if the court finds that” it would be detrimental to the child’s best interests for the child to be removed from the current caregiver, “the legislation says.

According to a DCFS factsheet, In 2019, 2,187 children in state custody were moved to homes with adult family members, compared with 893 children adopted by people unrelated to them.

The bill is returned to the Senate for approval.

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