House of Representatives

House Passes Two Bills Giving More Rights to Children in DHS Custody

3/6/2019 3:22:00 PM

OKLAHOMA CITY—State Rep. Mark Lawson, R-Sapulpa, today commented on the passage of two bills that would grant more rights to minors in the custody of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.

House Bill 1273 and House Bill 1279 both passed the House unanimously Wednesday morning. They now move to the state Senate.

“These bills ensure children in state custody are well taken care of and also give them a voice and a level of control in their changing situation,” Lawson said. “I believe these bills will positively affect the lives of children across Oklahoma while ensuring the state fulfills its duty to provide them with a safe and caring home. I’m grateful to my colleagues in the House for their unanimous support of these bills and of Oklahoma’s children.”

HB1273 addresses cases where parental rights have been terminated. The bill lowers the age a child can request to reinstate parental rights from the current minimum age of 15 years old to 14 years old to align with other DHS rules that allow children age 14 and above input into their placement. The bill also requires a minimum of three years since termination before a child’s appeal may be considered and allows DHS to represent the child with the permission of the district attorney. It passed the House with a 92-0 vote.

HB1279 grants minors the right to demand a nonjury trial in hearings to determine if the minor is in need of treatment for mental illness or a drug or alcohol dependency. The current system requires a jury trial for these hearings. It passed the House with a 93-0 vote.

Sen. Brenda Stanley, R-Midwest City, serves as the Senate author on both bills.