Geoff Dornan
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February 19, 2013
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Bill that would improve sharing of foster-child data is touted in Senate


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Advocates for foster children on Monday urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to back legislation making it easier for different entities to share information about those young people.

Supreme Court Justice Nancy Saitta told the Senate Judiciary Committee that SB31 would cut through the red tape separating what information schools, courts, the juvenile-justice and child-welfare systems and others have about foster children. The goal is enabling faster and better decisions to be made on behalf of those juveniles, advocates said.

Jill Marano, deputy administrator of the Division of Child and Family Services, said the bill is designed to maintain a balance between privacy and communication "so that every child's needs can be met while respecting privacy."

Advocates said the problem is essentially that the information about a given juvenile is in several different silos and that, to make decisions about them, all the information must be brought together.

Carey Stewart, head of Washoe County Juvenile Services, said the legislation is necessary to allow sharing important case information with other agencies "on a daily basis."

That includes information about substance abuse, health, education, and medical and other records.

He said they can currently get the information through a court order, but that often takes too long.

"Important decisions we have to make must be made after hours and on weekends," Stewart said. "We have to have the ability to share specific information."

But both the committee and those testifying raised questions about the Department of Education's estimate that the bill would cost them $400,000 a year to collect and report the information.

"Why would the Department of Education even have a dog in this fight?" asked Judiciary Chairman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas.

Mike Baughman, who serves as a CASA volunteer helping juveniles, said he agreed with Segerblom. In practice, he said, people like him don't go to the Department of Education for records.

"I will go through the local school districts," he said. "I can go to the local high school and get records on my kids."

Scott Shick, chief juvenile probation officer for Douglas County, said his investigators go "right over to the schools" for information about foster children, not to the state department.

They and several other witnesses including Saitta expressed concern that a high price tag would kill the legislation.

Segerblom asked Deborah Cunningham of the Department of Education to explain the fiscal note on the bill. She said the department interpreted the bill as meaning they would have to handle those requests for information.

"If it wouldn't, the fiscal note would change," she said.

Joyce Haldeman, representing the Clark County School District, said the district already is handling those information requests from entities such as parents, child-welfare authorities and the juvenile-justice system.

Segerblom took the testimony under submission promising a work session to act on the bill as soon as parties can agree on refinements to ensure there aren't problems with such things as federal health care privacy rules.

Segerblom took the testimony under submission promising a work session to act on the bill as soon as parties can agree on refinements to ensure there aren't problems with such things as federal health care privacy rules.


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The Nevada Appeal Updated Feb 19, 2013 03:00AM Published Feb 19, 2013 02:59AM Copyright 2013 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.