SB6453 gives the Department Of Social And Health Services the authority to purchase legal representation for kinship caregivers of children who are at risk of being dependent, or who are dependent, to establish or modify a parenting plan or secure orders establishing other relevant civil legal relationships authorized by law, when it is necessary for the child’s safety, permanence, or well-being.
The bill does not create an entitlement to such services, nor does it create judicial authority to order the department to purchase legal services. Further, the department is encouraged to work with the Office Of Civil Legal Aid and the Public Defense Parent Representation Program to develop a cost-effective system for providing effective civil legal representation for parents and kinship caregivers.
As amended by the Human Services & Corrections committee, the bill authorizes the Dept. of Social and Health Services’ (DSHS) to purchase legal representation for parents and kinship caregivers involved in non-parental actions for child custody. The substitute does the following:
-Clarifies the definition of “kinship caregiver” to mean a caregiver that meets the definition of “kin” in statute.
-Clarifies that if the child under the kinship caregiver’s care is an Indian child, the term “kinship caregiver” means a caregiver who is an extended family member as defined under the Indian Child Welfare Act.
-Clarifies that DSHS is encouraged to work with the Office of Public Defense and Office of Civil Legal Aid if DSHS exercises its authority to provide legal representation.
The amendment by Ways and Means declares that the department’s purchase of legal representation for kinship caregivers must be within existing appropriations.