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AB-340 Child welfare services: resource family pilot program.(2007-2008)

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Assembly Bill No. 340
CHAPTER 464

An act to amend Section 8712 of the Family Code, and to amend Section 18260 of, and to add Sections 16519 and 16519.5 to, the Welfare and Institutions Code, relating to public social services.

[ Approved by Governor  October 11, 2007. Filed with Secretary of State  October 11, 2007. ]

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 340, Hancock. Child welfare services: resource family pilot program.
Existing law requires the placement of dependent children by the juvenile court according to specified procedures. Existing law requires the state, through the State Department of Social Services and county welfare departments, to establish and support a system of statewide child welfare, which includes services related to foster care placement of dependent children and adoption. Existing law provides for the licensure of foster care providers, and the approval of adoptive parents.
This bill would require the State Department of Social Services, in consultation with county welfare agencies, to implement a pilot program to establish a unified resource family approval process to replace the existing multiple processes for licensing foster family homes, approving relatives and nonrelative extended family members as foster care providers, and approving adoptive families, as provided in the bill. The bill would define a resource family for its purposes as an individual or couple that a participating county has approved to care for a related or unrelated child who is under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court or otherwise in the care of a county child welfare agency.
This bill would require the department, prior to implementing the pilot program, to promulgate standards for home approval and permanency assessment for placing children in a resource family.
This bill would require the pilot program to be conducted in up to 5 counties that volunteer to participate. It would authorize the pilot program to continue through the 2010–11 fiscal year, or for 3 full fiscal years following the receipt of funding for the program, whichever is later.
Existing law establishes the Aid to Families with Dependent Children-Foster Care (AFDC-FC) program, under which counties provide payments to foster care providers on behalf of qualified children in foster care. The program is funded by a combination of federal, state, and county funds, with moneys from the General Fund being continuously appropriated to pay for the state’s share of AFDC-FC costs. Existing law requires that a child be in one of 7 designated placements in order to be eligible for AFDC-FC.
This bill also would require a child placed in a resource family home that meets specified standards to be eligible for AFDC-FC. The bill would provide that a resource family be paid a specified AFDC-FC rate, and would apply existing sharing ratios for state financial participation.
This bill would make its implementation contingent upon the continued availability of federal funds for costs associated with the placement of children with resource families as provided in the bill.
This bill would provide that no appropriation pursuant to the provision continuously appropriating funds for the AFDC-FC program would be made for purposes of the bill.
The bill would also set forth specified responsibilities for the department and counties participating in the pilot program for implementing and enforcing standards provided in the bill.
Existing law requires the State Department of Social Services or licensed adoption agency to require each person filing an application for adoption to be fingerprinted, and to secure from an appropriate law enforcement agency any criminal record of that person to determine whether the person has ever been convicted of a crime other than a minor traffic violation, and authorizes the department or a licensed adoption agency to secure the person’s full criminal record, if any.
This bill would require that any federal level criminal offender record requests submitted to the Department of Justice be submitted with fingerprint images and related information required by the Department of Justice, as specified. The bill would require the Department of Justice to forward any such record requests received pursuant to those provisions to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), to review the information returned to the department from the FBI, and to compile and disseminate a response to the State Department of Social Services or to the licensed adoption agency.
Existing law authorizes the State Department of Social Services to conduct a specified foster care demonstration project in up to 20 counties, to allow flexible use of federal and state foster care funds by utilizing a federal capped allocation model over a 5-year period, based on the terms and conditions of a prescribed federal waiver. Existing law provides that any county, state, or federal savings in the foster care program that occur as a result of the demonstration project shall be reinvested by the counties in child welfare services program improvements.
This bill instead would provide that any unexpended federal or state funds may be retained by the county for expenditure in subsequent fiscal years, consistent with the prescribed purposes of the demonstration project.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 Section 8712 of the Family Code is amended to read:

8712.
 (a) The department or licensed adoption agency shall require each person filing an application for adoption to be fingerprinted and shall secure from an appropriate law enforcement agency any criminal record of that person to determine whether the person has ever been convicted of a crime other than a minor traffic violation. The department or a licensed adoption agency may also secure the person’s full criminal record, if any. Any federal level criminal offender record requests to the Department of Justice shall be submitted with fingerprint images and related information required by the Department of Justice for the purposes of obtaining information as to the existence and content of a record of an out-of-state or federal conviction or arrest of a person or information regarding any out-of-state or federal crimes or arrests for which the Department of Justice establishes that the person is free on bail, or on his or her own recognizance pending trial or appeal. The Department of Justice shall forward to the Federal Bureau of Investigation any such requests for federal summary criminal history information received pursuant to this section. The Department of Justice shall review the information returned from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and shall compile and disseminate a response to the department or a licensed adoption agency.
(b) The criminal record, if any, shall be taken into consideration when evaluating the prospective adoptive parent, and an assessment of the effects of any criminal history on the ability of the prospective adoptive parent to provide adequate and proper care and guidance to the child shall be included in the report to the court.
(c) Any fee charged by a law enforcement agency for fingerprinting or for checking or obtaining the criminal record of the applicant shall be paid by the applicant. The department or licensed adoption agency may defer, waive, or reduce the fee when its payment would cause economic hardship to prospective adoptive parents detrimental to the welfare of the adopted child, when the child has been in the foster care of the prospective adoptive parents for at least one year, or if necessary for the placement of a special-needs child.

SEC. 2.

 Section 16519 is added to the Welfare and Institutions Code, to read:

16519.
 The Legislature finds and declares the following:
(a) Safety, permanency, and well-being are crucial for the more than 82,000 California children in foster care, and are paramount to achieving both federal and state child welfare system improvement goals. Foster children need safe homes with permanent connections to family or other caring adults. The current licensing and approval system, which screens families to care for foster children, fails to support these outcomes.
(b) Children in foster care live in a variety of out-of-home care settings: licensed foster family homes, approved relative and nonrelative extended family member homes, foster family agencies, and group homes. All of these placement types, considered facilities under current law, are required to meet the respective health and safety standards in order to be licensed or approved. This has produced administrative inefficiencies and confusion among stakeholders, and has contributed to difficulty in recruiting suitable foster family homes for children in out-of-home care. Increasing the number of available suitable homes will improve the likelihood that the best home will be initially identified to meet a child’s particular needs.
(c) Child safety and well-being are not achieved solely by ensuring that the home the child is placed in is free from physical hazards and that adults living in the home do not have disqualifying criminal convictions or past reports of child abuse. Child safety and well-being are also dependent upon consideration of the resource family’s psychosocial history that includes physical health, mental health, alcohol and substance abuse, family violence or abuse, and experience caring for children.
(d) Research shows that children in out-of-home care placed with relatives and nonrelative extended family members are more stable, more likely to be placed with siblings, and more likely to stay connected to their community and extended family. California statutory and regulatory provisions should maximize the likelihood that a child will initially be placed in the care of a safe relative or nonrelative extended family member who is willing to provide permanent care if reunification cannot be achieved.
(e) Families living in the same neighborhood as a family from which a child has been removed are often best suited to provide for the immediate placement needs of that child.
(f) Families who provide care to children in out-of-home placement are a valuable resource to the people of this state and to the children for whom they provide care.

SEC. 3.

 Section 16519.5 is added to the Welfare and Institutions Code, to read:

16519.5.
 (a) The State Department of Social Services, in consultation with county child welfare agencies, foster parent associations, and other interested community parties, shall implement a pilot program to establish a unified, family friendly, and child-centered resource family approval process to replace the existing multiple processes for licensing foster family homes, approving relatives and nonrelative extended family members as foster care providers, and approving adoptive families.
(b) Up to five counties shall be selected to participate on a voluntary basis in the pilot program, according to criteria developed by the department in consultation with the County Welfare Directors Association. In selecting the pilot counties, the department shall promote diversity among the participating counties in terms of size and geographic location.
(c) (1) For the purposes of this section, “resource family” means an individual or couple that a participating county determines to have successfully met both the home approval standards and the permanency assessment criteria adopted pursuant to subdivision (d) necessary for providing care for a related or unrelated child who is under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, or otherwise in the care of a county child welfare agency or probation department. A resource family shall demonstrate all of the following:
(A) An understanding of the safety, permanence, and well-being needs of children who have been victims of child abuse and neglect, and the capacity and willingness to meet those needs, including the need for protection, and the willingness to make use of support resources offered by the agency, or a support structure in place, or both.
(B) An understanding of children’s needs and development, effective parenting skills or knowledge about parenting, and the capacity to act as a reasonable, prudent parent in day-to-day decisionmaking.
(C) An understanding of his or her role as a resource family and the capacity to work cooperatively with the agency and other service providers in implementing the child’s case plan.
(D) The financial ability within the household to ensure the stability and financial security of the family.
(E) An ability and willingness to maintain the least restrictive and most familylike environment that serves the needs of the child.
(2) Subsequent to meeting the criteria set forth in this subdivision and designation as a resource family, a resource family shall be considered eligible to provide foster care for related and unrelated children in out-of-home placement, shall be considered approved for adoption or guardianship, and shall not have to undergo any additional approval or licensure as long as the family lives in a county participating in the pilot program.
(3) Resource family assessment and approval means that the applicant meets the standard for home approval, and has successfully completed a permanency assessment. This approval is in lieu of the existing foster care license, relative or nonrelative extended family member approval, and the adoption home study approval.
(4) Approval of a resource family does not guarantee an initial or continued placement of a child with a resource family.
(d) Prior to implementation of this pilot program, the department shall adopt standards pertaining to home approval and permanency assessment of a resource family.
(1) Resource family home approval standards shall include, but not be limited to, all of the following:
(A) (i) Criminal records clearance of all adults residing in the home, pursuant to Section 8712 of the Family Code, utilizing a check of the Child Abuse Central Index (CACI), a check of the Child Welfare Services/Case Management System (CWS/CMS), receipt of a fingerprint-based state criminal offender record information search response, and submission of a fingerprint-based federal criminal offender record information search.
(ii) Consideration of any prior allegations of child abuse or neglect against either the applicant or any other adult residing in the home. An approval may not be granted to applicants whose criminal record indicates a conviction for any of the offenses specified in clause (i) of subparagraph (A) of paragraph (1) of subdivision (g) of Section 1522 of the Health and Safety Code.
(iii) Exemptions from the criminal records clearance requirements set forth in this section may be granted by the director or the pilot county, if that county has been granted permission by the director to issue criminal records exemptions pursuant to Section 316.4, using the exemption criteria currently used for foster care licensing as specified in subdivision (g) of Section 1522 of the Health and Safety Code.
(B) Buildings and grounds, outdoor activity space, and storage requirements set forth in Sections 89387, 89387.1, and 89387.2 of Title 22 of the California Code of Regulations.
(C) In addition to the foregoing requirements, the resource family home approval standards shall also require the following:
(i) That the applicant demonstrate an understanding about the rights of children in care and his or her responsibility to safeguard those rights.
(ii) That the total number of children residing in the home of a resource family shall be no more than the total number of children the resource family can properly care for, regardless of status, and shall not exceed six children, unless exceptional circumstances that are documented in the foster child’s case file exist to permit a resource family to care for more children, including, but not limited to, the need to place siblings together.
(iii) That the applicant understands his or her responsibilities with respect to acting as a reasonable and prudent parent, and maintaining the least restrictive and most family-like environment that serves the needs of the child.
(D) The results of a caregiver risk assessment are consistent with the factors listed in subparagraphs (A) to (D), inclusive, of paragraph (1) of subdivision (c). A caregiver risk assessment shall include, but not be limited to, physical and mental health, alcohol and other substance use and abuse, and family and domestic violence.
(2) The resource family permanency assessment standards shall include, but not be limited to, all of the following:
(A) The applicant shall complete caregiver training.
(B) The applicant shall complete a psychosocial evaluation.
(C) The applicant shall complete any other activities that relate to a resource family’s ability to achieve permanency with the child.
(e) (1) A child may be placed with a resource family that has received home approval prior to completion of a permanency assessment only if a compelling reason for the placement exists based on the needs of the child.
(2) The permanency assessment shall be completed within 90 days of the child’s placement in the approved home, unless good cause exists based upon the needs of the child.
(3) If additional time is needed to complete the permanency assessment, the county shall document the extenuating circumstances for the delay and generate a timeframe for the completion of the permanency assessment.
(4) The county shall report to the department on a quarterly basis the number of families with a child in an approved home whose permanency assessment goes beyond 90 days and summarize the reasons for these delays.
(5) A child may be placed with a relative, as defined in Section 319, or nonrelative extended family member, as defined in Section 362.7, prior to home approval and completion of the permanency assessment only on an emergency basis if all of the following requirements are met:
(A) Consideration of the results of a criminal records check conducted pursuant to Section 16504.5 of the relative or nonrelative extended family member and of every other adult in the home.
(B) Consideration of the results of the Child Abuse Central Index (CACI) consistent with Section 1522.1 of the Health and Safety Code of the relative or nonrelative extended family member, and of every other adult in the home.
(C) The home and grounds are free of conditions that pose undue risk to the health and safety of the child.
(D) For any placement made pursuant to this paragraph, the county shall initiate the home approval process no later than five business days after the placement, which shall include a face-to-face interview with the resource family applicant and child.
(E) For any placement made pursuant to this paragraph, AFDC-FC funding shall not be available until the home has been approved.
(F) Any child placed under this section shall be afforded all the rights set forth in Section 16001.9.
(f) The State Department of Social Services shall be responsible for all of the following:
(1) Selecting pilot counties, based on criteria established by the department in consultation with the County Welfare Directors Association.
(2) Establishing timeframes for participating counties to submit an implementation plan, enter into terms and conditions for participation in the pilot program, train appropriate staff, and accept applications from resource families.
(3) Entering into terms and conditions for participation in the pilot program by counties.
(4) Administering the pilot program through the issuance of written directives that shall have the same force and effect as regulations. Any directive affecting Article 1 (commencing with Section 700) of Chapter 7 of Title 11 of the California Code of Regulations shall be approved by the Department of Justice. The directives shall be exempt from the rulemaking provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act (Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 11340)) of Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government Code.
(5) Approving and requiring the use of a single standard for resource family home approval and permanency assessment.
(6) Adopting and requiring the use of standardized documentation for the home approval and permanency assessment of resource families.
(7) Requiring counties to monitor resource families including, but not limited to, all of the following:
(A) Investigating complaints of resource families.
(B) Developing and monitoring resource family corrective action plans to correct identified deficiencies and to rescind resource family approval if compliance with corrective action plans is not achieved.
(8) Ongoing oversight and monitoring of county systems and operations including all of the following:
(A) Reviewing the county’s implementation of the pilot program.
(B) Reviewing an adequate number of approved resource families in each participating county to ensure that approval standards are being properly applied. The review shall include case file documentation, and may include onsite inspection of individual resource families. The review shall occur on an annual basis, and more frequently if the department becomes aware that a participating county is experiencing a disproportionate number of complaints against individual resource family homes.
(C) Reviewing county reports of serious complaints and incidents involving approved resource families, as determined necessary by the department. The department may conduct an independent review of the complaint or incident and change the findings depending on the results of its investigation.
(D) Investigating unresolved complaints against participating counties.
(E) Requiring corrective action of counties that are not in full compliance with the terms and conditions of the pilot program.
(9) Terminating the participation of any county that fails to make corrective action or who otherwise violates the terms and conditions of participation in the pilot program.
(10) Preparing or having prepared within 180 days after the conclusion of the pilot program, and submitting to the Legislature, a report on the results of the pilot program. The report shall include all of the following:
(A) An analysis, utilizing available data, of state and federal data indicators related to the length of time to permanency including reunification, guardianship and adoption, child safety factors, and placement stability.
(B) An analysis of resource family recruitment and retention elements, including resource family satisfaction with approval processes and changes regarding the population of available resource families.
(C) An analysis of cost, utilizing available data, including funding sources.
(D) An analysis of regulatory or statutory barriers to implementing the pilot program on a statewide basis.
(g) Counties participating in the pilot program shall be responsible for all of the following:
(1) Submitting an implementation plan, entering into terms and conditions for participation in the pilot program, consulting with the county probation department in the development of the implementation plan, training appropriate staff, and accepting applications from resource families within the timeframes established by the department.
(2) Complying with the written directives pursuant to paragraph (4) of subdivision (f).
(3) Implementing the requirements for resource family home approval and permanency assessment and utilizing standardized documentation established by the department.
(4) Ensuring staff have the education and experience necessary to complete the home approval and permanency assessment competently.
(5) Approving and denying resource family applications, including all of the following:
(A) Rescinding home approvals and resource family approvals where appropriate, consistent with the established standard.
(B) Providing disapproved resource families requesting review of that decision due process by conducting county grievance reviews pursuant to the department’s regulations.
(C) Notifying the department of any decisions denying a resource family’s application or rescinding the approval of a resource family.
(6) Updating resource family approval annually.
(7) Monitoring resource families through all of the following:
(A) Ensuring that social workers who identify a condition in the home that may not meet the approval standards set forth in subdivision (d) while in the course of a routine visit to children placed with a resource family take appropriate action as needed.
(B) Requiring resource families to comply with corrective action plans as necessary to correct identified deficiencies. If corrective action is not completed as specified in the plan, the county may rescind the resource family approval.
(C) Requiring resource families to report to the county child welfare agency any incidents consistent with the reporting requirements for licensed foster family homes.
(8) Investigating all complaints against a resource family and taking action as necessary. This shall include investigating any incidents reported about a resource family indicating that the approval standard is not being maintained.
(A) The child’s social worker shall not conduct the formal investigation into the complaint received concerning a family providing services under the standards required by subdivision (d). To the extent that adequate resources are available, complaints shall be investigated by a worker who did not initially perform the home approval or permanency assessment.
(B) Upon conclusion of the complaint investigation, the final disposition shall be reviewed and approved by a supervising staff member.
(C) The department shall be notified of any serious incidents or serious complaints or any incident that falls within the definition of Section 11165.5 of the Penal Code. If those incidents or complaints result in an investigation, the department shall also be notified as to the status and disposition of that investigation.
(9) Performing corrective action as required by the department.
(10) Assessing county performance in related areas of the California Child and Family Services Review System, and remedying problems identified.
(11) Submitting information and data that the department determines is necessary to study, monitor, and prepare the report specified in paragraph (10) of subdivision (f).
(h) Approved relatives and nonrelated extended family members, licensed foster family homes, or approved adoptive homes that have completed the license or approval process prior to full implementation of the pilot program shall not be considered part of the pilot program. The otherwise applicable assessment and oversight processes shall continue to be administered for families and facilities not included in the pilot program.
(i) Upon completion of the pilot program, the status of the resource family’s approval shall continue in full force and effect, and the resource family shall be deemed approved for licensing, relative and nonrelated extended family member approval, guardianship, and adoption purposes.
(j) The department may waive regulations that pose a barrier to implementation and operation of this pilot program. The waiver of any regulations by the department pursuant to this section shall apply to only those counties participating in the pilot program and only for the duration of the pilot program.
(k) Resource families approved under this pilot program, who move within a participating county or who move to another pilot program county, shall retain their resource family status if the new building and grounds, outdoor activity areas, and storage areas meet home approval standards. The State Department of Social Services or pilot county may allow a pilot program-affiliated individual to transfer his or her subsequent arrest notification if the individual moves from one pilot county to another pilot county, as specified in subdivision (h) of Section 1522 of the Health and Safety Code.
(l) (1) A resource family approved under this pilot program that moves to a nonparticipating pilot program county shall lose its status as a resource family. The new county of residence shall deem the family approved for licensing, relative and nonrelated extended family member approval, guardianship, and adoption purposes, under the following conditions:
(A) The new building and grounds, outdoor activity areas, and storage areas meet applicable standards, unless the family is subject to a corrective action plan.
(B) There has been a criminal records clearance of all adults residing in the home and exemptions granted, using the exemption criteria currently used for foster care licensing, as specified in subdivision (g) of Section 1522 of the Health and Safety Code.
(2) A program-affiliated individual who moves to a nonpilot county may not transfer his or her subsequent arrest notification from a pilot county to the nonpilot county.
(m) Implementation of the pilot program shall be contingent upon the continued availability of federal Social Security Act Title IV-E (42 U.S.C. Sec. 670) funds for costs associated with placement of children with resource families assessed and approved under the program.
(n) Notwithstanding Section 11402, a child placed with a resource family shall be eligible for AFDC-FC payments. A resource family shall be paid an AFDC-FC rate pursuant to Sections 11460 and 11461. Sharing ratios for nonfederal expenditures for all costs associated with activities related to the approval of relatives and nonrelated extended family members shall be in accordance with Section 10101.
(o) The Department of Justice shall charge fees sufficient to cover the cost of initial or subsequent criminal offender record information and Child Abuse Central Index searches, processing, or responses, as specified in this section.
(p) Approved resource families under this pilot program shall be exempt from all of the following:
(1) Licensure requirements set forth under the Community Care Facilities Act, commencing with Section 1500 of the Health and Safety Code and all regulations promulgated thereto.
(2) Relative and nonrelative extended family member approval requirements set forth under Sections 309, 361.4, and 362.7, and all regulations promulgated thereto.
(3) Adoptions approval and reporting requirements set forth under Section 8712 of the Family Code, and all regulations promulgated thereto.
(q) The pilot program shall be authorized to continue through the end of the 2010–11 fiscal year, or through the end of the third full fiscal year following the date that funds are made available for its implementation, whichever of these dates is later.

SEC. 4.

 Section 18260 of the Welfare and Institutions Code is amended to read:

18260.
 (a) The department may conduct a demonstration project in up to 20 counties, to allow flexible use of federal and state foster care funds by utilizing a federal capped allocation model over a five-year period, based on the terms and conditions of the federal Title IV-E waiver. Participation shall be at the option of each county, subject to state approval, provided that each county has entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the department, as described in subdivision (c). The department shall not be required to conduct any demonstration projects under this section if no county elects to participate. It is the intent of the Legislature that this project will improve outcomes or safety for children, and that the state shall provide immediate assistance, as needed, if the department finds that children’s health, safety, or well-being has declined, or is at risk of declining, as a result of a county’s participation in the project.
(b) The department is authorized to conduct the demonstration project in order to provide participating counties with flexibility in their use of state and federal foster care maintenance and administrative funds that were previously restricted to payment for the care and supervision of children in out-of-home placements and administrative expenditures. Any county, state, or federal savings in the foster care program that occur as a result of the demonstration project shall be reinvested by the counties in child welfare services program improvements. These foster care savings will support the counties in developing a broader and more responsive array of services that will contribute to improved outcomes for children and families. Any unexpended state and federal funds may be retained by each county for expenditure in subsequent fiscal years for purposes consistent with this section.
(c) The department shall work with county welfare directors and other stakeholders to develop the terms and conditions of the MOU. The MOU shall incorporate the terms and conditions of the federal approval of the use of federal funds for the demonstration project, additional conditions as described in this section, and provisions deemed by the department and counties as reasonably necessary to fulfill the purpose of the demonstration project and to ensure compliance with its conditions and with this section. Provisions of the MOU shall include, but shall not be limited to, all of the following:
(1) The MOU shall specify the time periods for the county’s participation in the demonstration project, and shall set forth procedures for the county to opt out of participation in the demonstration project. A county electing to opt out of the demonstration project shall provide written notice to the department of its intent to do so in accordance with the MOU.
(2) The county is responsible for ensuring that adequate funds are available to protect children at risk of abuse and neglect, by out-of-home placement or otherwise, until funds are appropriated to the county through the Budget Act, including provisional language in the Budget Act that authorizes midyear funding adjustments, for this purpose.
(3) The MOU shall specify the allocation methodology for the capped amount of federal funds that will be allocated to the county for the demonstration project, as well as the county’s share of cost.
(4) The MOU shall specify the methodology for the provision of state General Fund resources that a county shall receive under the waiver and the liability for the county and the state for costs in excess of the capped federal amount.
(d) The county and state share of costs for the demonstration project shall be determined notwithstanding Sections 15200 and 10100.

SEC. 5.

 No appropriation for purposes of Section 15200 of the Welfare and Institutions Code shall be made for purposes of funding this act.