The outlook was bright when the House voted 172 – 0 to pass ambitious legislation that would rewrite nearly every section of the state’s juvenile code. But the outlook proved to be too bright when the Governor’s Office said it wanted more financial analysis and the current bill died.
Much like adult criminal justice reforms, the bill emphasized treatment over incarceration when appropriate for juveniles. It also made changes to policies that regulate foster care, permanent placement hearings, adoption codes, family mitigation hearings, children who are status offenders and the rights of parents. None of the changes would have been enacted until July 1, 2013.
Advocates – and there are many inside and outside government — believed they could work out funding details before July 2013 and during the next General Assembly. That strategy came up short at the Governor’s Office and the bill never reached the Senate. It has been at least five years since hard work was begun to rewrite the code and it will be at least one more.