Proposed Bill Could Eliminate Neglect from Utah’s Child Welfare Law

A state Senator is proposing a minor change that could have far-reaching implications for the state's child welfare laws.

SB 261, sponsored by Sen. Al Jackson, R-Highland, eliminates neglect as a reason the state could remove a child from a home.

"When you start using phrases like 'child's welfare,' it becomes subjective based on the eye of the beholder," says Jackson. "Not to minimize this, but that's my concern."

The bill eliminates a situation where a parent "does not adequately provide for a child's welfare" as justification for removal of a child. Jackson says he objects to that phrase because of its subjective nature.

"I don't want kids in a situation where they are being abused and not taken care of by their biological parents," says Jackson. "But, at the same time, I'm concerned when $144 million of their (DCFS) budget is dedicated to out of home services and only $3 million to in-home. That says they are taking kids from homes more often than they should."

Jackson's bill also says the state can intervene and remove a child only when a family situation threatens them "due to specific intent on the part of a parent to harm the child." Simply put, that language means if a parent believes they are not hurting, or does not mean to harm a child, DCFS could not step in.

For example, if a parent withholds food from a child and believes they're not harming their child, that might no longer be considered neglect under this bill.

"I'm trying to err on the side of ​parent's rights," says Jackson.