Budget Amendment ID: FY2023-S4-386-R2
2nd Redraft EHS 386
Establishing the Harmony Montgomery Commission to Study and Make Recommendations Related to Care and Protection Cases in the Commonwealth
Mr. Moore, Ms. Gobi, Ms. Rausch and Messrs. Tarr, Feeney, Montigny, Gomez, O'Connor and Timilty moved that the proposed new text be amended by inserting after section 72 the following section:-
“SECTION 72A. (a) There shall be a commission, established pursuant to section 2A of chapter 4, to be known as the Harmony Montgomery Commission, to study, examine and make recommendations regarding the welfare and best interest considerations of children in care and protection cases and petition to dispense with consent cases conducted pursuant to section 29C of chapter 119 of the General Laws and section 3 of chapter 210 of the General Laws. The commission shall consist of: the chairs of the joint committee on children, families and persons with disabilities, who shall serve as co-chairs; the chairs of the joint committee on the judiciary; the chair and vice-chair of the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus or their designees; 5 members to be appointed by the governor, 2 of whom were in foster care as children and 2 of whom are foster parents; the attorney general or a designee; the child advocate or a designee; the commissioner of children and families or a designee; the chief counsel of the committee for public counsel services or a designee; 1 member to be appointed by the committee for public counsel services who shall be an attorney certified by the children and family law division of the committee for public counsel services who has a minimum of 7 years of experience in care and protection cases, represents both children and parents and has completed not less than 5 permanent custody or petition to dispense trials; 3 members appointed by the Massachusetts Bar Association, who shall be former judges, who have preferably retired not more than 5 years prior to their appointment, who have not less than 7 years of service on the juvenile court and are from geographically diverse juvenile court districts and 1 of whom is a former first justice; 1 member appointed by the Massachusetts Court Appointed Special Advocates, Inc. who has a minimum of 5 years of experience with the organization, including supervisory experience; 1 member appointed by the Massachusetts Alliance of Juvenile Court Clinics who shall be a clinician representative from the court clinic of the juvenile court department; the deputy court administrator for the juvenile court or a designee; 1 member to be appointed by the Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth; 1 member to be appointed by Jane Doe, Inc.: The Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence; 1 member to be appointed by the Disability Law Center, Inc.; 1 member to be appointed by the Massachusetts Child Welfare Coalition who shall be an attorney; and 1 member to be appointed by the National Association of Counsel for Children. All appointments shall be made not later than 30 days after the effective date of this act. Members of the commission shall serve without compensation.
(b) The commission shall study how a child’s rights, welfare and best interest considerations are currently handled in care and protection cases and petition to dispense with consent cases and make recommendations for how to better protect and serve children in such cases. The study shall include, but not be limited to: (i) a review of constitutional provisions, statutes, interstate compacts, judicial case law, executive orders, judicial rules of court and standing orders, state agency and judicial rules and regulations, intergovernmental or multi-state memoranda of understanding and state agency and judicial policies, procedures, practices and trainings; (ii) an examination of how care and protection cases and petition to dispense with consent cases disproportionately impact children of color, immigrant children, children with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer children, children who have experienced trauma and children living in poverty; and (iii) an analysis of ways to ensure the constitutional rights of parents and children while prioritizing the wellbeing and safety of children, including the children’s best interest, safety and wellbeing while in the care or custody of the department of children and families.
(c) The commission shall hold public hearings and solicit public comment not less than 3 times prior to the filing of their report; provided, however, that hearings shall be held in geographically diverse areas of the commonwealth; and, provided further, that at least 1 public hearing shall be held after the issuance of a draft report, which shall include any recommendations and draft legislation to implement the recommendations. Interested parties shall have the opportunity to be heard at the public hearings and submit written testimony or comments. The commission shall be subject to the open meeting law under sections 18 to 25, inclusive, of chapter 30A of the General Laws
The commission shall hold its first meeting not later than 60 days after the effective date of this act. The commission shall meet not less than monthly.
(d) Not later than September 30, 2023, the commission shall file a report of its findings and recommendations, including racial impact statements regarding any of its recommendations, with the clerks of the senate and the house of representatives, the governor and the chief justice of the juvenile court department. The report shall be publicly posted on the website of the department of children and families.”.