House panel unanimously passes Leo’s Law
LANSING — Legislation establishing new standards for removing a child from their parents was approved by the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, said sponsor Sen. Rick Jones.
Senate Bill 320 would ensure that Michigan law meets the constitutional standards as defined by several of the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals. The proposal has four parts:
• Standard for emergency police removals;
• Process for judicial officer review of emergency placement;
• Standards for ex parte court-ordered emergency removals; and
• Preliminary hearing pretrial placement standards.
“The aim of foster care should be to remove children from a dangerous situation,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “If another parent or relative is capable of caring for the child they should be able to do so.”
A notorious foster care case occurred when 7-year-old Leo Ratte attended a Detroit Tigers ball game with his father in 2008. Leo was placed in foster care for three days and two nights when his father Christopher Ratte, a classics professor at the University of Michigan, inadvertently gave him a Mike’s Hard Lemonade, not knowing it was an alcoholic drink.
Leo was placed in foster care, even though physicians from Children’s Hospital found no alcohol in his blood and determined he was fine. When his mother Claire Zimmerman tried to get her child, she was denied although there were no charges against her.
“I believe that no state has a lower threshold for removal of children into foster care than Michigan,” Jones said. “I want to ensure that a child who is in immediate danger is protected, but also ensure that proper standards for removal are detailed in state law.”