SECTION 1. Chapter 215 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2018 official edition, is hereby amended by adding the following section:-
Section 64. The chief justice of the probate court, in consultation with the commissioner of the department of children families and the chair of the commission on the status of grandparents raising grandchildren, shall establish and promulgate rules for a children's court program for actions relative to guardianship, adoption, caregiver rights, unfit parents, child welfare or child protection within the probate court, subject to the approval of the supreme judicial court. The chief justice for administration and management shall supervise and establish standards for the implementation of such program and shall further implement a program of certification for all personnel of the children's court program.
The chief justice of the probate court shall establish a pilot children's court program within Barnstable County under his direct supervision. Under the pilot program, he shall be responsible to fund, coordinate, and evaluate activities of the probate court to screen and refer cases to the children's court program. The pilot program shall offer a kinship caregiver navigator to grandparents or other relatives that are involved in matters in the children's court program to reduce the likelihood of failed guardianships. The kinship caregiver navigator shall provide information and support to address the challenges and costs that relative caregivers face when providing care and financial support and navigating the child welfare and custody procedures associated with kinship caregiving, including but not limited to families impacted by substance misuse.
The chief justice of the probate court shall monitor and evaluate the cost, impact and effectiveness of activities undertaken to screen and refer cases to the children's court and report annually to the general court on his findings. The annual report should identify unmet needs and promising opportunities for additional screening and referral activities and recommend legislative actions required to implement these activities.
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