Please take a moment to look at the bills I have filed this session on behalf of families in Western Massachusetts and around the Commonwealth.
You can also view all bills I’ve co-sponsored this session here.
Allow Spouses to Serve as Caregivers
An Act allowing spouses to serve as caregivers
Current state policy penalizes seniors and people with disabilities who wish to employ their spouse as their caregiver. My bill reverses that policy and directs MassHealth to recognize and compensate spouses as caregivers if requested by the patient – just as other relatives are already permitted to serve as paid caregivers.
Assist Local Communities with Foster Student Transportation Costs
An Act fairly reimbursing local school transportation of foster children
When a foster child gets placed with a family outside their original city or town, it is often best for the child to remain at their original school. The district where the child attends school is required to pay for the child’s transportation. There are limited federal funds available to cover the cost, and under federal law the state is supposed to make up the rest. However, the state does not make these payments, leaving local school districts with an unreimbursed cost of around $4 million. My bill directs the state to reimburse schools for any foster student transportation costs not covered by federal funds.
Expand Access to Birth Centers
An Act updating the regulations governing licensed birth centers in Massachusetts
Birth centers are a homelike setting providing skilled midwifery care for low risk pregnancies. There are 400 such birth centers across the United States, but recent closures of hospital-affiliated birth centers in Massachusetts have reduced the already limited access to this birth option for families here. Currently, Massachusetts has just one birth center operating, even though birth centers are a proven model for improving birth outcomes while reducing health care costs. My bill directs the Department of Public Health to promulgate updated regulations that are consistent with the licensed practice of midwives and physicians and national standards to maximize safety and expand access to birth options. This approach is consistent with the recent reports from the Commission on Racial Inequities in Maternal Health and the Health Policy Commission which highlighted the benefits of birth centers and recommended addressing regulatory barriers to scaling up birth centers.
» Birth Centers (S.1355) Fact Sheet from the Bay State Birth Coalition
Foster Children Bill of Rights
An Act establishing a bill of rights for children in foster care
Every child in foster care is endowed with the rights inherently belonging to all children. In addition, because of the temporary or permanent separation from birth parents and other family members, children in foster care require special safeguards and resources. My bill codifies the rights of children in foster care into state law.
Strengthen Foster Care
An Act establishing the Massachusetts foster care review office
Some 10,000 children are in placements outside their homes and in state custody due to complex issues facing their birth families. Foster care reviews are required every six months to provide oversight and make sure that each child’s service plan is safe and appropriate. Currently, these reviews are performed by the state Department of Children and Families, which also oversees the foster care system, creating a conflict of interest. My bill transfers responsibility for foster care review to a new external and independent body, the Foster Care Review Office, and allows for chronic, systemic issues with the system to be addressed.
» Strengthen Foster Care (S.66) Fact Sheet from Friends of Children
Stop Confiscation of Federal Benefits for Children in Foster Care
An Act protecting benefits owed to foster children
As has been a longstanding practice, Massachusetts intercepts monthly Social Security payments and veterans benefits paid to foster children whose parents have died or have become disabled, using the funds to offset the state’s cost of foster care. Some $6.8 million was diverted in 2016. My bill reverses this policy and directs state officials to preserve these funds for the child to use as they transition to adulthood and independent living. This bill also establishes a reporting and accounting system to track the receipt and use of these funds.
» Protecting Federal Benefits for Children in Foster Care (S.65) Fact Sheet by the Disability Law Center and the Committee for Public Counsel Services
» Protecting Federal Benefits for Children in Foster Care (S.65) Infographic by the Disability Law Center and the Committee for Public Counsel Services
Support Farm to School Programs
An Act establishing farm to school grants to promote healthy eating and strengthen the agricultural economy
Providing fresh, locally grown agricultural products to schools strengthens local farms and fisheries while promoting healthy communities by increasing the availability of nutritious food. The successful “Farm to School” grant program provides all students with access to nutritious, high-quality, locally grown food so they are ready to learn and grow. The program also provides an important financial boost to the Commonwealth’s food system, creating new jobs and strengthening the local economy. My bill permanently establishes a robust Farm to School Grant Program by codifying the program into state law.
» Farm to School Programs (S.243) Fact Sheet from Massachusetts Farm to School