There is a new law that will be updating the process on how courts address the proper guardianship of any minors for the very first time in over 60 years.
Last Tuesday, a particular bill was signed into law by Gov. Peter Shumlin that is outlining certain circumstances wherein the custody can be provided to other people, besides the biological parents. These circumstances include military deployment, incarceration and terminal illness.
Shumlin said that it is known in Vermont that many people are facing daily struggles when it comes to opiate addiction as well as drug addiction. He also added that one of the important things that is less talked about within Vermont is the different struggles or challenges that children whose parents are considered to be addicts are undergoing because of the fact that they cannot handle their parent’s addiction.
On the other hand, Judge Amy Davenport, the administrative judge for the trial courts also shared her judicial perspective about child guardianship. She has stated she believes it is right for the authorities to choose the best place for where a child can stay if his or her parents are going to be incarcerated. Sometimes, these places may include the family members closest to the child or children, whether geographically or emotionally, and there are times when the child is given to the Department for Children and Families.
Davenport also stated that this law is the first step toward revisiting child custody law since 1947. Jill Evans, the director of Women and Family Services of the Department of Corrections, stated that about 64% out of the 1,500 inmates within Vermont has children of their own. At anytime, imprisonment is affecting about 1,600 children within the state of Vermont and that grows to about 5,000 yearly. These numbers do not include the inmates that are imprisoned out of state.
Evans also added that they have the opportunity to look at what they think may stand as an invisible group of particular people within child custody services who can really understand any trauma that these children experience by the time they get separated from the parents. This trauma may result to possible negative outcomes in their future since Evans also believes that children whose parents are incarcerated are about 7x more likely to also be imprisoned in the near future.
The deputy commissioner of DCF, Cindy Walcott, affirmed that the new law will be providing families with a complete set of tools that can be used for taking care of all family members. Among the chief goals of this new bill is to help children live with any family member in the absence of their parents.