THE INTRODUCTION OF THE REHAB AND AHMED AMER FOSTER CARE IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 2012
(Extensions of Remarks - June 26, 2012)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E1139-E1140]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




 THE INTRODUCTION OF THE REHAB AND AHMED AMER FOSTER CARE IMPROVEMENT 
                              ACT OF 2012

                                 ______
                                 

                         HON. JOHN CONYERS, JR.

                              of michigan

                    in the house of representatives

                         Tuesday, June 26, 2012

  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, today, I introduced the Rehab and Ahmed 
Amer Foster Care Improvement Act of 2012. The Act will enhance the 
existing federal policy of encouraging state foster care programs to 
place children in the care of willing and able relatives.
  This legislation accomplishes that goal by requiring States that 
receive federal funding for foster care programs to add certain 
procedural enhancements to their foster care programs so as to ensure a 
more fair placement decision-making process.
  Specifically, my bill requires that, within 90 days after a State 
makes a foster care placement decision, the State must provide notice 
of such decision to the following affected parties:
  the child's parents;
  relatives who have informed the State of their interest in caring for 
the child;
  the guardian;
  the guardian ad litem of the child;
  the attorney for the child;
  the attorney for each parent of the child;
  the prosecutor involved; and
  the child if he or she is able to express an opinion regarding 
placement.
  Additionally, States must establish procedures that:
  allow any of the parties who receive notice of the State's placement 
decision to request, within five days after receipt of the notice, 
documentation of the reasons for the State's decision;
  allow the child's attorney to petition the court involved to review 
the decision; and
  require the court to commence such review within seven days after 
receipt of the petition and conduct such review on the record.
  The harrowing story of Rehab and Ahmed Amer of Dearborn, Michigan 
prompted me to craft this bill.
  In 1985, the Amers lost two of their children to Michigan's foster 
care system after Rehab had been subject to criminal charges related to 
the death of her two-year-old son Samier, who died because of head 
injuries resulting from a fall in a bathtub.
  Although Rehab had been acquitted in August 1986 of any criminal 
wrongdoing in connection with Samier's death, the State refused to 
return the Amers' other two children to them and, in fact, removed a 
third child from the Amers' custody four months after Rehab's 
acquittal.
  As a temporary alternative, Rehab's brother petitioned to be a foster 
parent to the Amers' three children, but was denied his petition even 
though he had previously served as a foster parent for other children.
  It is important to note that the Amers are Muslim. Nevertheless, the 
State, rather than placing the Amers' children with a foster family of 
the same faith and cultural background, sent them to live with an 
evangelical Christian family, which re-named the Amers' children--
Mohamed Ali, Sueheir, and Zinabe--with Christian names and raised them 
as Christians.
  Today, only the oldest of the Amers' three living children, Mohamed 
Ali, now known as Adam, communicates with them.
  In reaction to the Amers' story, Michigan enacted what became known 
as the Amer Law. That law requires foster care placement agencies in 
Michigan to consider and give special preference for relatives when 
making a foster care placement decision.
  The Amer Law is consistent with federal foster care policy, which 
also seeks to give preference to a child's relatives and, for Native 
American children, a family of the same cultural background as the 
child, when making placement decisions.
  The Amer Law, however, has several provisions that go beyond current 
federal law to ensure due process. In sum, this law gives parents, 
relatives, guardians, and the child in certain cases additional 
procedural rights, including the right to written notice and an 
explanation of a placement decision. In addition, it authorizes 
judicial review of a placement decision by a foster care agency.
  My legislation simply adds these enhanced due process features of the 
Amer Law to existing federal foster care law.
  The best interests of the child should always be the overriding 
consideration when making foster care placement decisions. That 
standard, however, should also require foster care agencies to give 
special preference to placing a child with relatives, where the child 
can be raised in the same culture or religion as his or her own, all 
other things being equal.
  I thank Rehab and Ahmed Amer for bringing this issue to light and for 
their tireless efforts to make the foster care placement process fairer 
for everyone, first in Michigan, and, now, nationally.

[[Page E1140]]



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