Parental rights bill clears House
HB161 » Child welfare measure is aimed at providing additional protections for parents.

By David Montero

The Salt Lake Tribune
First Published March 1, 2012
Last Updated March 6, 2012

A bill designed to add more layers before a child can be removed from a home by the Division of Child and Family Services passed through the House Thursday 54-13.

Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, said he believed there needed to be additional protections for parents who face losing their child and his measure, HB161, would require an interim committee to study and make findings on the division’s budget and whether they were unfairly removing children from homes.

In his proposal, he also wants parents to have the opportunity to seek a jury trial when faced with termination of parental rights as well as letting extended family intervene more easily before the division gets involved in removing a child.

Minority Leader David Litvack, D-Salt Lake City, worried about the bill’s language — notably a line that suggested the Division of Child and Family Services used an artificial standard to yank kids out of the home.

That line of the bill said that a parent’s right is protected and "does not cease to exist simply because a parent may fail to be a model parent."

Litvack said that was a dubious implication and wanted it removed from the bill.

"I think we’re leaving a wrong impression when we say whether a parent is behaving in a model way or not," Litvack said. "This is about striking that fine balance between protecting parental rights but also ensuring the rights and safety of children are protected."

His amendment failed, and Christensen asked the lawmakers "from the bottom of my heart" to pass the measure.

It now moves to the Senate.

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