JOINT STUDY ORDER ESTABLISHING THE COMMITTEE TO REVIEW THE CHILD PROTECTIVE SYSTEM
WHEREAS, there is tremendous concern that the existing child protective laws and system are not adequately and consistently protecting the children they were designed to serve; and
WHEREAS, families and other participants in the system believe their rights and interests are not adequately and consistently taken into account; and
WHEREAS, the Legislature would benefit from a study of issues relating to the existing child protective laws and system; now, therefore, be it
ORDERED, the Senate concurring, that the Committee to Review the Child Protective System is established as follows.
1. Committee established. The Committee to Review the Child Protective System, referred to in this joint order as the "committee," is established.
2. Committee membership. The committee consists of the following 11 members:
A. Two members of the Senate, appointed by the President of the Senate;
B. Three members of the House of Representatives, appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives;
C. An attorney who has experience representing parents in child protective cases, appointed by the President of the Senate;
D. An attorney who has experience serving as a guardian ad litem in child protective cases, appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives;
E. An advocate for children, appointed by the President of the Senate;
F. A current or former foster parent, appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives;
G. A court-appointed special advocate volunteer, appointed by the President of the Senate; and
H. A caseworker or supervisor employed by the Department of Human Services. The Commissioner of Human Services is requested to designate the caseworker or supervisor to be a member of the committee.
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court is requested to designate a District Court Judge to participate with the committee.
3. Chairs. The first named Senate member is the Senate chair of the committee and the first named House of Representatives member is the House chair of the committee.
4. Appointments; meetings. All appointments must be made no later than 30 days following passage of this joint order. The appointing authorities shall notify the Executive Director of the Legislative Council once the selections have been made. When the appointment of all members has been completed, the chairs of the committee shall call and convene the first meeting of the committee no later than August 15, 2001.
5. Duties. The committee shall study the child protective system and make recommendations for changes in laws, rules and procedures.
A. In conducting the study, the committee shall examine the following issues:
(1) Information about rights and future proceedings that should be given to parents at every stage of the child protective process;
(2) The availability of information in the possession of the Department of Human Services to parents and their attorneys, and the timing and extent of discovery;
(3) The accurate preservation of interviews involving employees of the Department of Human Services, communications with employees of the Department of Human Services and communications involving parents, including the reliability of the preservation and appropriate use of the communications;
(4) The appropriate role of intervenors; who, if anyone, should have automatic intervenor status; who should be permitted to apply for intervenor status; and what criteria the court should use in determining whether to grant intervenor status;
(5) The determination of the best interest of the child, while balancing the child's safety and privacy interests with the public's interest in openness in governmental actions and records, particularly with regard to termination of parental rights hearings;
(6) The appropriate standard of proof that the State must bear at each stage of child protection proceedings;
(7) The role of and requirements that apply to guardians ad litem and the extent to which guardians ad litem are fulfilling their responsibilities;
(8) The liability of the State, the Department of Human Services and employees of the Department of Human Services, either as a governmental entity or personally, for removal of children from their homes or other actions when such actions are overturned by the court as erroneous or unnecessary;
(9) The mandatory reporting laws concerning child and adult abuse and neglect; the consequences of failing to report; and the State's role in educating the public about reporting child abuse and neglect; and
(10) Any other issues the committee determines appropriate.
B. In examining these issues, the committee may:
(1) Hold a public hearing;
(2) Hold informational sessions for discussions with knowledgeable persons;
(3) Review laws, procedures and activities in other jurisdictions; and
(4) Carry out other activities relevant to the purposes of the study.
6. Staff assistance. Upon approval of the Legislative Council, the Office of Policy and Legal Analysis shall provide necessary staffing services to the committee.
7. Compensation. The members of the committee who are Legislators are entitled to the legislative per diem, as defined in the Maine Revised Statutes, Title 3, section 2, and reimbursement for necessary expenses incurred for their attendance at authorized meetings of the committee. Other members of the committee who are not otherwise compensated by their employers or other entities that they represent are entitled to receive reimbursement of necessary expenses incurred for their attendance at authorized meetings.
8. Report. The committee shall submit its report, together with any necessary implementing legislation, to the Joint Standing Committee on Judiciary no later than December 5, 2001. The Joint Standing Committee on Judiciary may introduce legislation related to the report to the Second Regular Session of the 120th Legislature. If the committee requires a limited extension of time to conclude its work, it may apply to the Legislative Council, which may grant the extension.
9. Budget. The chairs of the committee, with assistance from the committee staff, shall administer the committee's budget. Within 10 days after its first meeting, the committee shall present a work plan and proposed budget to the Legislative Council for approval. The committee may not incur expenses that would result in the committee's exceeding its approved budget. Upon request from the committee, the Executive Director of the Legislative Council shall promptly provide the committee chairs and staff with a status report on the committee's budget, expenditures incurred and paid and available funds.
Passed by the House of Representatives June 21, 2001 and the Senate June 21, 2001.
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