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We agree with the aim of this legislation to place children who have been judicially removed from their biological parents in the most home-like setting possible so the child can have the least disruptive childhood under the circumstances. We are unconvinced of the wisdom of designating cottage homes as statutorily equal to foster care placement as a least restrictive environment in the absence of a kinship placement.
It is our view that the first option is to keep children with their biological parents if possible and that if judicial removal is absolutely necessary, kinship placement is least restrictive and least disruptive. It is our view that in the absence of kinship placement, traditional foster care is usually the next best alternative. However, we recognize the value and importance of cottage homes on the continuum of care and appreciate that there are unique circumstances in which it is in a child's best interest to be placed in a cottage home rather than in a foster home.
We have listened to stakeholders on both sides of this issue and find a great deal of merit in the arguments on both sides; this is because both sides are an important part of the solution to the problems currently endemic to our foster system. Clearly foster homes are not always less restrictive than cottage homes. Some children's unique circumstances suit them to thrive in cottage homes when they would otherwise struggle in foster homes. Whether the role of cottage homes merits equal status with foster homes as a next option in the absence of kinship placement is not something we are able to definitively ascertain as it relates to our liberty principles at this time. For this reason we choose not to take a position on SB 907.