The Senate Family and Children Services Committee heard SB 259 authored by Sen. Niezgodski on parents with disabilities. This bill:
- Specifies that it is the policy of the state to recognize the importance of family and children, including the parenting rights of a parent, regardless of whether the parent has a disability.
- Provides that the right of a person with a disability to parent the person’s child may not be denied or restricted solely because the person has a disability.
- Establishes procedures to be used in proceedings concerning: (1) custody; (2) parenting time; (3) adoption; (4) foster care; and (5) guardianship; when a parent, prospective parent, prospective foster parent, or prospective guardian is a person with a disability.
- Requires the department of child services to implement disability awareness training.
- Requires the department of child services to: (1) transfer records concerning the unlawful removal of a child to the department of child services ombudsman (ombudsman); and (2) after transferring the records, remove, delete, or destroy all information concerning the unlawful removal of a child.
- Requires the ombudsman to securely store records received from the department of child services.
- Specifies that records received from the department of child services are confidential and may not be disclosed to the public unless: (1) the parent, guardian, or custodian requests a copy; (2) the records are compiled into an aggregate statistical report containing no identifying information; or (3) the records are redacted.
- Requires the ombudsman to compile an aggregate statistical report before July 1, 2022, and before July 1 of each following year.
The bill was amended to remove the provisions related to the Ombudsman’s office and to add language regarding “reasonable accommodations” consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Indiana Association of Area Agencies on Aging, the Indiana Statewide Independent Living Council, and a foster parent testified in support of the bill. In addition, the Indiana School for the Deaf, Indiana Association for the Deaf, and a number of individuals submitted written support for the bill.
The Hoosier State Press Association testified as neutral on the bill. They noted the bill last year called for the destruction of certain records, but that provision was not included this year, and they thanked the author of the bill for making that change. Sen. Niezgodski explained that the provision transferring expunged records to the ombudsman was removed by amendment, as DCS does not do that for any other expunged records. Sen. Niezgodski pledged to continue working with the Hoosier State Press Association on their concerns.
The bill passed as amended 9-0.
Read the bill at http://iga.in.gov/legislative/2021/bills/senate/259