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 unanimously approved today by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens 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. Mr. Albanese and Billy attended today’s committee hearing.
“This legislation is about making sure that our children are safe when we send them out-of-state for treatment,” said Senator Weinberg. “When a parent entrusts a child to a babysitter, it is done so with the expectation that he or she will provide the best possible care for that child. When we in New Jersey send our children to another State for treatment, we must make sure that they remain safe while receiving the treatment they so desperately need.”
Senator Weinberg’s bill, S-2490, would establish the Council on Out-of-State Placement of Children within the State Department of Children and Families. Under the bill, the Council would be responsible for coordinating 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 Council would create a registry of approved residential schools and programs.
The Council’s membership would consist of the Commissioners of Human Services and Children and Families, the Child Advocate and two Governor-appointed public members.
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 Council member. During the inspection the Council member would have to find that the facility is licensed and has laws in place for investigation of allegations of abuse and neglect
The Council 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. It would also be required to compile service directories and lists of funding opportunities. The Council members would collect and analyze data on children who are placed in in-State and out-of-state schools and make funding recommendations. Lastly, the Council would establish public awareness, training and assistance initiatives.
“We have many necessary laws aimed at keeping our children safe while they are at home in New Jersey, but we must make sure that the level of safety is maintained when they leave our borders for treatment,” Senator Weinberg said.
This legislation now heads to the full Senate for approval.