Senate Gives Final Passage to Bill Ensuring Medical Care for the State's Most Vulnerable Children

June 12, 2014

The New York State Senate today gave final legislative passage to a bill that would ensure that the state’s most vulnerable children receive necessary medical care in the absence of parental consent. The bill (S6813), sponsored by Senator Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn), fixes a glaring oversight in current laws protecting all children in foster care by enabling social services commissioners to give consent for medical, dental, health and hospital services when parents are unavailable, not living, or unable to provide necessary consent.

Senator Felder said, “New York has a supremely important responsibility to protect the welfare of the children placed in state care, especially those children who have no one else to be a voice for their well-being. This bill will fix a critical omission in current law to make sure that the most vulnerable children can receive necessary medical services when a parent is unable to give consent.” 

The bill passed today fixes an omission in current law and makes sure necessary medical services are provided to the most needy children placed in foster care by enabling social services officials to provide consent for care. It is one of several measures requested by the state’s Chief Administrative Judge upon the recommendation of the Family Court Advisory and Rules Committee. 

The Social Services Law was amended in 2012 to direct social services officials to provide care, support, and expert mental and physical examinations for abused, neglected or destitute children – children who lack sufficient food, clothing, shelter, or medical or surgical care -- suspected of having a disability or disease or needing hospitalization. However, while the law gave social services officials the ability to provide consent to medical care for abused and neglected children, the law did not enable officials to consent for destitute children who could not remain at home. 

Social services officials are currently hampered in their ability to fulfill their obligation to provide needed medical treatment if they are not clearly authorized to give consent for such treatment. Cases have arisen, in particular in New York City, in which this gap in the statute has prevented necessary services from helping destitute children in foster care. This measure addresses that gap. 

The bill has previously passed the Assembly and will be sent to the Governor for consideration.