Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

Utah looking for ways to reunite troubled families

The ideal setting for most children is in a loving home with parents who look out for their wellbeing. However, this ideal setting is nothing more than a fantasy for many children, who have been removed from their homes. While government has always been cautious when it comes to taking custody of children away from parents, it does so if a determination is made that it is in the best interest of the child. Utah is seeking to introduce a bill that may create a path for some parents to be reunited with their children.

Utah is attempting to update its family law, keeping in line with several other states. The proposed bill, which was sent to the Senate for consideration creates narrow avenues for parents who have either given up or had their parental rights terminated to regain custody of their child. Those in favor of the bill point out situations where parents have turned the corner and overcome whatever issue caused the family to be torn apart, and their children are in foster care longing to return home.

The proposed bill, SB 49, would allow parents to file for guardianship of their child, if the child has not been adopted within a year of the parent's rights being terminated. The bill would also allow for reunification if the child was returned to the agency by the adoptive parents. As written, the bill allows for the wishes of the child to heavily influence the final outcome.

Termination of rights deprives the children of potential income, inheritances and family support, which may explain the high instances of poverty and unemployment found in former foster children. The program may help the children who are placed within the foster care system by reuniting them with their original family unit.

Source: Deseret News, "Bill tries to create a path for parents and children to reunite," Brad Dicken, Jan. 31, 2013.

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