WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Bar Association has a long tradition of advocating for and protecting the rights of adult and minor victims of abuse; and
WHEREAS, Pennsylvania House Bill 414, Printer's No. 584 (HB 414) proposes, inter alia, to amend Title 23 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes (Domestic Relations) by adding Section 5329.1, which includes language as follows:
"…[W]hen a party seeks any form of custody, the court shall determine…(2) With respect to general protective services under Chapter 63: (i) Whether a party or a member of a party's household has been provided general protective services. (ii) The type of services provided. (iii) The circumstances surrounding the provision of services. (iv) Whether the services were effective. (v) The date the services were provided. (vi) The jurisdiction where the services were provided."; and
WHEREAS, pursuant to 23 Pa. C.S. 6303, "General Protective Services" is defined as "Those services and activities provided by each county agency for nonabuse cases requiring protective services, as defined by the Department of Public Welfare in regulations."; and
WHEREAS, "general protective services" describes a wide variety of case management, parenting education and support, and other services provided to families designed to address risk factors and stabilize the family. These services are provided on a voluntary basis and/or may be ordered by a court pursuant to proceedings held under the Pennsylvania Juvenile Act, 23 Pa. C.S §6301 et seq; and
WHEREAS, the goals of family preservation and family stabilization are furthered by allowing and encouraging families to utilize the least disruptive measures available to them that will protect the children in question, including the use of voluntary, general protective services; and
WHEREAS, requiring disclosure of information regarding the provision of general protective services may discourage the use of voluntary services offered by county child and youth agencies if the use of these services could be used to draw a negative inference in custody litigation; and
WHEREAS, the refusal to accept voluntary services may result in more children at risk and/or more families requiring more extensive and/or court-ordered (involuntary) intervention; and
WHEREAS, H.B. 414 is vague regarding who receives information about the provision of general protective services, leading to confusion and possible loss of due process rights.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Philadelphia Bar Association supports amending H.B. 414 by removing the language requiring the court to determine whether a party or a member of a party's household has been provided general protective services; and
AND, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Chancellor and/or the Chancellor's designee(s) communicate the Philadelphia Bar Association's position on H.B. 414, Printer's No. 584 and any similar legislation to the Governor, the General Assembly and the public and take whatever action is necessary to effectuate this resolution.
PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
ADOPTED APRIL 23, 2013