TRENTON ? A measure sponsored by Senator Loretta Weinberg known as “Billy’s Law,” which would create an oversight council on the out-of-state placement of children was approved today by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
The bill is named for Billy Albanese of Brooklyn, NY. Billy suffered a traumatic brain injury and attended Bancroft Neurohealth in Haddonfield from 1992 to 1997. Billy was reportedly left unsupervised in his wheelchair on numerous occasions, resulting in three falls which required a total of 40 stitches to his face and head. Billy?s father, Vito Albanese, helped found the Family Alliance to Stop Abuse and Neglect, Senator Weinberg said.
“As parents and grandparents, our main priority must be to protect the health and safety of our children. This responsibility increases when they are out of our care, and so must our diligence in protecting our kids,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen. “This legislation would work to help protect hundreds of New Jersey?s children. We must work to ensure that our children who are sent out-of-state for treatment are kept safe, and treated with the same amount of care that they would receive here in New Jersey.”
Senator Weinberg?s bill, S-2490, would require the Departments of Human Services and Children and Families to develop placement guidelines for children from New Jersey attending a residential school or program in another state. The departments would create a registry of approved residential schools and programs.
In order to be listed on the registry, out-of-state schools and programs would undergo an inspection and evaluation of the facility by a representative of the Departments of Human Services or Children and Families. During the inspection the facility it would have to be found that the facility is licensed and has laws in place for investigation of allegations of abuse and neglect. Any contract entered into between either department and an out-of-state facility would have to include language authorizing the departments to conduct unannounced inspections, Senator Weinberg said.
The departments would be responsible for determining whether or not out-of-state placement is necessary by identifying whether or not the services can be provided at a New Jersey facility. They would also be required to compile service directories and lists of funding opportunities, and to collect, analyze and share data on children who are placed in in-State and out-of-state schools and make funding recommendations. The departments would establish public awareness, training and assistance initiatives. Lastly, each department would be required to report to the Governor and the Legislature within 18 months of the adoption of the bill?s regulations on its implementation and the department?s efforts to expand the State?s capacity for housing children needing treatment, in an effort to reduce the number of out-of-state placements.
This legislation unanimously cleared the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee on June 7. It now heads to the full Senate for a vote.