We strongly support all of Rep John Picchiotti's bills. All of them are very much needed by those children who have been abandoned by parents, or whose parents are determined to be "unfit". The bills fill a gap in healthy support systems for children in the care of (non-parental) kinship providers. They also provide much needed public support to the dedicated kinship providers themselves. The bills address issues that have cried out for attention for a very long time.
THE PICCHIOTTI BILLS:
LD 063 An Act To Ensure Complete Investigations by Guardians Ad Litem - Sponsored by Rep Picchiotti. This bill requires that a Guardian ad litem should do a complete investigation and report on standardized, court approved forms that list topic headings the GAL tasks to be investigated and outcome of investigation. Reports must be provided to both parties well in advance of hearings. Tasks assigned by judge must comply with GAL role. We do not support the aspect calling for removal of the SUNSET CLAUSE - in this bill, and Rep Picchiotti tells us that it was put there in error by the Revisor's office. He plans to explain its removal to the Judiciary Committee when the bill is presented on Thursday, March 23rd at 1 pm.
LD 363 An Act To Make a Child Living with a Custodial Relative Caregiver Eligible for State-paid Legal Services - Sponsored by Rep Picchiotti. This bill aims at giving children, living with kinship providers, legal protection and legal representation in custody disputes between parents and de facto parents (foster kinship). Guardians ad litem do not provide formal legal court representation to children in litigation situations. They gather information for the judge.
LD 429 An Act Concerning Guardians Ad Litem and Determinations Regarding the Best Interest of a Child in Custodial Relative Caregiver Cases - Sponsored by Rep Picchiotti. Act considers when the child's best interest is reviewed. Giving custody to a relative must be considered.
LD 147 An Act To Amend the Maine Parentage Act - Sponsored by Rep Picchiotti. This bill prohibits a child support order from requiring payment of child support from the 'de facto' parent to another parent of the child if the 'de facto' parent became a 'de facto' parent due to the unwillingness or inability of the other parent to provide care for the child.
LD 282 An Act to Support Caregivers when Children Have Been abandoned by their Parents - Sponsored by Rep Picchiotti. This concerns caretaker relatives who take custody when a child's parents have abandoned them without formal guardianship or power of attorney. 'De facto' parents may petition the court to be appointed guardian. The law would amend factors for the court to consider in the child's best interest: parental participation in child's life, parental capacity, disposition of parent to uphold a normal parent-child relationship
LD 362 An Act to Allow Relative Caregivers Standing in Court - Sponsored by Rep Picchiotti. This bill specifies that a relative caregiver involved in a child protective proceeding has an unconditional right to intervene in the proceeding.
From our perspective these several bills correct the severe legal disadvantages that dedicated kinship providers have faced in their efforts to provide good homes to the children of parents who are "unfit". Often these children are their grandchildren. That they have not been considered by courts as providers of child care "in the child's best interest" is hard to understand; that they do not have standing in court is another illogical injustice to them and the children they care for; that they might be "hit on" for child support is simply unbelievable; and that the children in these cases have no legal representation is a failing of the courts to protect these vulnerable children.
Representative Picchiotti and the Kinship Provider group deserve enormous credit for bringing these issues to public and legislative attention. We sincerely hope that the legislature acts in favor of these bills.
felicity myers Guardian ad litem