Bill would move some children out of group homes | NevadaAppeal.com

Bill would move some children out of group homes

JOE MULLIN
Associated Press Writer
Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, talks about AB147, after a committee meeting at the Legislature on Monday. The bill would require the county agencies that maintain Nevada's two group care homes to move all children younger than six years old out of the homes.
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Younger children don’t belong in group care homes, and the state must move to get them into foster care, Nevada lawmakers were told Wednesday.

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, urged a Senate panel to pass AB147, which would require the county agencies that maintain Nevada’s two group care homes to move all children younger than six years old out of the homes.

“Developmentally, young children need to be in a family setting,” said Leslie. “That’s what’s best for them emotionally.”

The constant changing of caregivers that takes place in a group home can leave children with severe emotional disturbances, Leslie told the Senate Human Resources and Education committee.

Under the bill, children younger than three would have to be moved by January. Agencies would have until January 2009 to move out children older than three but younger than six.

The delay is needed because Clark County needs more time to recruit foster families, said Leslie. Until now, the county hasn’t done enough to recruit quality foster parents. Leslie sits on a budget subcommittee that recently recommended adding five additional workers dedicated to recruiting and training foster parents.

That recruitment will be a challenge, but cities of similar size to Las Vegas have succeeded in finding foster families for all young children, said Leslie.

Nevada has two group care facilities for youth, Kids Kottages in Washoe County and Child Haven in Clark County. Currently, Child Haven has about 50 children under age six, including about 25 under age three. Kids’ Cottage has 14 children under age six, including six under age three.

State and county child welfare agencies also supported the bill, which passed the Assembly unanimously.

The committee also considered AB263, which establishes rules for how state agencies should conduct investigations into child fatalities. The bill also provides for discipline of employees who don’t follow regulations.

In its original form, AB263 included several exemptions from public reporting requirements that raised objections from Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, who has been pushing her own bill on public disclosures about child deaths. The exemptions also drew fire from the Nevada Press Association and the ACLU.

Those disclosure exemptions were taken out of the bill last month by the Assembly.