A new bill would give Montana’s Child and Family Services Division more time to informally resolve child abuse cases before they are referred to the courts.
If passed, the bill would provide additional funding for a child abuse pilot project passed by the legislature in 2015.
The original pilot project gave social workers two days to resolve these cases outside of the court system. The new bill would extend that to 30 days.
Beth McLaughlin, a representative from the state’s supreme court, likes the bill.
“What we find is that social workers don’t feel comfortable within two days deciding whether a case can be handled outside the court system or not," McLaughlin says.
Maurita Johnson, the head of the Child and Family Services Division, also supports the bill.
“We really feel like this a bill that can help the greater system in terms of safely reducing the number of children in care and reducing the days that they spend in foster care," she says.
The bill’s sponsor, Democrat Kimberly Dudik from Missoula, told the committee that the revised project would cost a little over $150,000 over the next two years. And, if it doesn’t meet expectations:
“It is a pilot project and it will sunset in 2019 if we’re not successful," she says.
The bill had no opponents and the House Appropriations Committee did not vote on it during the hearing.