As a CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocate for children in foster care) volunteer, I have been heartened to see the Montana Legislature work to protect foster children.
It is odd then to see a bill that moves in the exact opposite direction and puts children at greater risk.
SB 117, as it is written, is an unregulated private transfer of children via “power of attorney.” It allows for a named faith-based organization to temporarily care for a child if a parent voluntarily asks for help.
As written, it does not provide adequate accountability. It does say that the child will be in their temporary care for around six weeks but does not address the issue of when and if the child is actually returned to the parent. Therefore, leaving the door wide open for the child to pass from one caregiver to another via “power of attorney.”
Accountability is the key component here. No one has been named in the bill to serve as its cross reference.
It needs to allow Child and Family Services or implement, within its own named organization, a viable system of checks and balances. Nothing has been identified within this bill to satisfy this concern. As the bill stands now, there is no way to be able to monitor whether these children are at risk of being abused and neglected.
For this reason I ask our representatives to vote “no” on SB 117.