Montana State Legislature

HJR 45: Removal and Reunification Triggers


House Joint Resolution 45 requested a study of the factors triggering child removals and family reunifications in cases of suspected child abuse and neglect. The committee began the study in March 2022 by hearing from the Department of Public Health and Human Services and the Attorney General's Office about the processes for investigating reports of suspected child abuse and neglect and for initiating court proceedings when abuse or neglect is believed to have occurred. At that meeting members requested that staff review the existing child abuse and neglect statutes to determine what changes were needed to comply with constitutional requirements.

At their May 2022 meeting, members heard about how cases proceed through the court system. They also heard from speakers who: discussed a Washington state program designed to improve legal representation for parents involved in abuse and neglect proceedings; the use of jury trials in Wyoming for proceedings involving the termination of parental rights; the use of Family Resource Centers as a way to prevent child abuse and neglect; and the safety science training that DPHHS child welfare staff has been receiving. 

Members also reviewed the initial draft of a bill to revise hearing timelines, require the use of a warrant to remove a child from the home, and make other changes to child abuse and neglect statutes after the review of compliance with constitutional requirements. Members agreed to make changes to the bill draft, HJR 45-1, and review a revised version in June.

In June 2022, members reviewed the revised draft and asked for additional changes before the next meeting. The changes include:

  • requiring legal representation for all children involved in abuse and neglect cases;
  • requiring that active efforts be made to prevent removal and to reunify families; and
  • limiting the hours of the day during which a warrant could be served on a family.

The requests for changes came after members presentations from providers who offer programs to help with reunification efforts; from representatives of the Montana judicial system who discussed the practical effects of the proposed changes; and from speakers who discussed the caused in abuse and neglect cases, including the trauma that children experience when they're removed from the home.

Members reviewed and made final changes to the bill draft at the August meeting, including adding a requirement that law enforcement be present when a child is removed. The committee voted to introduce the bill as a committee bill in the 2023 legislative session.

A final report for the 2021-2022 interim summarizes the committee's work on this study, as well as studies of the foster care system and of judicial pilot projects involving emergency protective services hearings and prehearing conferences.

August 26, 2022, Meeting Materials

June 27, 2022, Meeting Materials

May 12-13, 2022, Meeting Materials

March 15, 2022, Meeting Materials


June 16, 2021, Meeting Materials

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