NCGA Week in Review: Spotlight on Women, Children and Families

January 22, 2016

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Spotlight on Women, Children and Families

In 2015, the North Carolina General Assembly passed several laws that strengthened the protection of women, children and families across the state. Withthe support of judiciary committees, committees on children, youth and families and healthcare and insurance committees, bills were passed to supportwomen’s health, clarify child abuse and foster care laws, and clarify laws pertaining to juveniles.

The following bills became law during 2015:

HB 82 Execution/ Nonsecure Custody Order/ Child Abuse

  • Updated laws related to nonsecure custody orders
  • Allows courts to authorize a law enforcement officer (LEO) to enter private property to take physical custody of a juvenile when the court finds that a less intrusive solution is not available
  • If required, the court may authorize the LEO to forcibly enter the property at any hour

HB 134 Soliciting Prostitution/ Immunity for Minors

  • Protects sex workers under the age of 18 from being charged for soliciting as a prostitute
  • The minor will instead be taken into temporary protective custody as an undisciplined juvenile
  • The county department of social services where the minor resides or is found is required to commence an investigation into child abuse or neglect within 24 hours of an LEO taking the minor into custody

HB 293 Adoption Law Changes

  • Made technical changes to various adoption laws
  • Clarified laws pertaining to international adoptions in accordance with the Hague Adoption Convention
  • Extended the period of time allowed to biological fathers to assert a claim of consent for adoption from 15 days to 30 days

HB 294 Prohibit Cell Phone/ Delinquent Juvenile

  • Made providing a cell phone to delinquent juveniles in custody of DPS a criminal offense

HB 387 Clarify Protections/ Exploitation of Elders

  • Clarified that any property of a person convicted for exploitation of an older or disabled adult is to be seized and used to satisfy the defendant’s restitution obligations.

SB 423 Foster Care Family Act

  • Aligned North Carolina state law with federal law to support health development of youth in foster care
  • Implemented a standard for decisions made by foster parents or a designated official of a childcare institution called the “reasonable and prudent parent standard”
  • The reasonable and prudent parent standard allows caregivers to make decisions for foster children pertaining to normal childhood activities, including extracurricular, enrichment, and social activities
  • Caregivers are not to be held liable for physical injuries to the child that occur as a result of acting in accordance with these standards
  • Updated statutes related to children in the custody of a county department of social services
    • The placement provider may allow the child to participate in normal activities without prior approval of the court
    • Bans unsupervised visitation with parents or caretakers without approval from the court
    • Requires that the department contact the child’s guardian ad litem of any intentions to change the child’s placement
  • Requires additional steps to be taken in permanency placement hearings for foster children age 14 and older including ensuring that the child has been participating regularly in age-appropriate activities and that the child has a copies of their birth certificate, social security card, and other necessary records
  • Reduced driving barriers for foster children by allowing children 16 years of age and older to purchase their own automobile insurance; foster parents cannot provide car insurance for minors in their care
  • Ordered the department of health and human services to design and draft a waiver to serve children with serious emotional disturbance
  • Ordered the rate bureau to develop an optional liability insurance policy for foster parents

HB 465 Women and Children’s Protection Act of 2015

  • Changed the age for statutory rape charges to 15 years of age or younger, when the defendant is at least 6 years older than the person harmed
  • Established a maternal mortality review committee in the department of health and human services to identify cases, review relevant data, and make recommendations for the prevention of maternal deaths
  • Requires DHHS to preform annual inspections of any clinic where abortions are preformed
  • Requires physicians who advises, procures, or causes a miscarriage or abortion after the sixteenth week to keep records on gestational age
  • Requires physicians who advises, procures, or causes a miscarriage or abortion after the twentieth week to keep records on the findings and analysis that qualified the abortion as a medical emergency
  • Instated a 72 hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion

SB 519 Amend Child Custody Laws

  • Encourages parenting time with children by both parents
  • Added purposes of the policy to existing law on child custody
  • The purposes of the policy are to:
    • Encourage child-centered parenting agreements,
    • Encourage parents to take responsibility for their children,
    • Encourage court practice that reflect active and ongoing participation of both parents,
    • Encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of raising their child regardless of marital status,
    • Encourage parents to establish and maintain healthy relationships with one another

HB 669 Juvenile Law Changes/ Abuse/ Neglect/ Dependency

  • Made various technical changes to juvenile laws pertaining to abuse, neglect, and dependency
  • Requires the court to make a diligent effort to notify relatives an persons with legal custody of a child’s siblings when a child is in nonsecure custody and of any hearings scheduled
  • Clarifies the role of a director of social services in arranging care for a child in nonsecure custody, including what treatments need the consent of the child’s parent or guardian
    • Allows the director to arrange for and provide consent for routine medical and dental care, emergency medical, surgical, psychiatric, psychological or mental health care treatment, and testing and evaluation in exigent circumstances
  • When a court has written findings of extreme cases of abuse or torture, or if the parent has committed heinous crimes against the child or another child, or has been required to register as a sex offender, the court is not required to make reunification efforts and must order a permanent plan for the child as soon as possible
  • Clarifies alternatives for abused, neglected, or dependent children
  • Permanency planning hearings must adopt one or more permanent plans in the child’s best interest: reunification, adoption, guardianship, custody to a relative or another suitable person, Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA), reinstatement of parental rights

HB 879 Juvenile Code Reform

  • Made changes to the juvenile code regarding, due process protections, reentry of juveniles in the delinquency system, and the confinement of juveniles
  • Motions to suppress evidence in court before the adjudicatory hearing must be made in writing and a copy of the motion must be served upon the state
  • A court counselor will make reasonable efforts to meet with the juvenile and their parents or guardians is the offense is divertible and no complaints have been previously filed against the juvenile
  • A prosecutor can dismiss any allegations stated in a juvenile petition in open court at any time by filing a written dismissal with the court
  • LEOs will not use restraints when transporting juveniles from medical or psychiatric treatment when they are under 10 years of age and no don’t have a pending delinquency charge, unless the restraints are reasonably necessary for the safety of the officer or the juvenile
  • While a juvenile remains in secured custody, further hearings must be held at intervals of no more than 10 calendar days

Bills to Look for in 2016

The following bills were introduced in 2015, but were not signed into law. Some of these bills may be reintroduced in the upcoming 2016 short session.

HB 740Allison’s Law / GPS Tracking Pilot Program / Domestic Violence

HB 804Kelsey Smith Act

HB 816Study the Needs of Working Caregivers

HB 817Enact Uniform Law on Adult Guardianship

HB 847Parental Rights and Medical Treatment of Minors

HB 896Forcible Entry into Car / Child Trapped Inside

SB 503Sex Offense with Student / Charter Schools

SB 598Substance-Exposed Newborns Protection Plans

SB 652Prohibit Re-homing of an Adopted Minor Child


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Franklin Freeman
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Bo Heath
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John Merritt
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Sarah Wolfe
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