A bill that had already passed the Texas Senate that allows foster-care contractors immunity from personal injury liability was rejected by the members of the House. The term “foster care” describes various settings where a child may be placed outside of a home with their parents. These locations may be the homes of relatives, families offering foster care, or treatment-based foster home facilities. Many of these providers that assist needy children in the community are non-profit and may have limited resources to pay out after a lawsuit.
The opposition claimed that the bill compromises the foster care system by placing often traumatized youth in a vulnerable position. The majority of Democratic leaders fear that such immunity could lead to more instances of gross negligence, thus placing foster children at great risk. They explain that agencies may fail to maintain the proper standard of care with no worries about potential injury suits, which is particularly important with children.
Both the states of Florida and Kansas have adopted similar legislation that offers foster care contractor immunity and Ohio extends qualified immunity to foster caregivers unless there is malicious intent to harm. They were experiencing situations where birth parents were suing these agencies in scenarios such as where a child fell off their bicycle. The majority of lawsuits do ultimately end up being discharged, yet the initial period of defense still can create an economic burden for some organizations.
Scott McCown, a District Judge and head of the University of Texas Law School’s Children’s Rights Clinic, agrees that employees of the state may be shielded by immunity when sued if acting in good faith. He further stated that giving private entities such immunity, especially in cases of intentional negligence, should not happen. He does not wish to see injured children unable to pursue recovery due to the proposed “blanket immunity”.
Many of these children in foster care have already been subjected to a tremendous amount of emotional and possibly physical pain. Another bill introduced allows for “kindred care” payments to those offering foster care of roughly $386 per month. This measure is designed to provide encouragement for those such as relatives to offer to care for children, although they have very limited financial resources available.
In Maryland, the state provides insurance that covers liability for bodily injury and property damage for the foster parents. These programs are largely managed by the Administration on Children, Youth and Families. Foster parents are potentially liable in situations where damages occur that result from failing to supervise and other negligent actions. The program is regularly evaluated in the Foster Care Liability Insurance Report that is generated.
The insurance coverage does not apply to vehicle accidents or other situations where there is existing insurance coverage maintained. When damages occur, the insurance program requires that the circumstances of the incident are placed in writing, in addition to a statement from the child when possible.