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AB-381 Dependent children: placement.(2015-2016)

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Amended  IN  Assembly  March 26, 2015


Assembly Bill No. 381

Introduced by Assembly Member Calderon

February 18, 2015

An act to amend Section 361.3 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, relating to juveniles.


AB 381, as amended, Calderon. Dependent children: placement.
Existing law, in cases in which a minor is adjudged alleged to be a dependent child of the court on the ground that the minor has suffered abuse or neglect, allows the court to take the child from the physical custody of his or her parents or guardian if there would be a substantial danger to the physical health, safety, protection, or physical or emotional well-being of the minor if the minor were returned home, among other criteria. If a child is removed from the physical custody of his or her parents, existing law requires preferential consideration to be given to a request by a relative of the child for placement of the child with the relative. Existing law requires that the best interest of the child be considered, among other specified factors, in making that determination. Existing law also requires that, subsequent to the hearing on the proper disposition to be made of the child, whenever a new placement of the child must be made, consideration for placement again be given to relatives who have not been found to be unsuitable, as specified.
This bill would state the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation to ensure the best possible outcome for children removed from the physical custody of his or her parents. require the county social worker and the court, when determining whether placement with a relative is appropriate, to consider the above-described factors on a case-by-case basis. The bill also would require that consideration for placement with a relative subsequent to the disposition hearing be given without regard to whether a new placement of a child must be made, and would direct the social worker to report and the court to consider additional enumerated factors in making this determination. By increasing the duties of county social workers, this bill would create a state-mandated local program. The bill would also require the Judicial Council to adopt a rule of court on or before January 1, 2017, that implements these provisions.
The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.
This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: NOYES   Local Program: NOYES  

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


 Section 361.3 of the Welfare and Institutions Code is amended to read:

 (a) In any case in which a child is removed from the physical custody of his or her parents pursuant to Section 361, preferential consideration shall be given to a request by a relative of the child for placement of the child with the relative, regardless of the relative’s immigration status. In determining whether placement with a relative is appropriate, the county social worker and court shall, on a case-by-case basis, consider, but shall not be limited to, consideration of all the following factors:
(1) The best interest of the child, including special physical, psychological, educational, medical, or emotional needs.
(2) The wishes of the parent, the relative, and child, if appropriate.
(3) The provisions of Part 6 (commencing with Section 7950) of Division 12 of the Family Code regarding relative placement.
(4) Placement of siblings and half siblings in the same home, unless that placement is found to be contrary to the safety and well-being of any of the siblings, as provided in Section 16002.
(5) The good moral character of the relative and any other adult living in the home, including whether any individual residing in the home has a prior history of violent criminal acts or has been responsible for acts of child abuse or neglect.
(6) The nature and duration of the relationship between the child and the relative, and the relative’s desire to care for, and to provide legal permanency for, the child if reunification is unsuccessful.
(7) The ability of the relative to do the following:
(A) Provide a safe, secure, and stable environment for the child.
(B) Exercise proper and effective care and control of the child.
(C) Provide a home and the necessities of life for the child.
(D) Protect the child from his or her parents.
(E) Facilitate court-ordered reunification efforts with the parents.
(F) Facilitate visitation with the child’s other relatives.
(G) Facilitate implementation of all elements of the case plan.
(H) Provide legal permanence for the child if reunification fails.
However, any finding made with respect to the factor considered pursuant to this subparagraph and pursuant to subparagraph (G) shall not be the sole basis for precluding preferential placement with a relative.
(I) Arrange for appropriate and safe child care, as necessary.
(8) The safety of the relative’s home. For a relative to be considered appropriate to receive placement of a child under this section, the relative’s home shall first be approved pursuant to the process and standards described in subdivision (d) of Section 309.
In this regard, the Legislature declares that a physical disability, such as blindness or deafness, is no bar to the raising of children, and a county social worker’s determination as to the ability of a disabled relative to exercise care and control should center upon whether the relative’s disability prevents him or her from exercising care and control. The court shall order the parent to disclose to the county social worker the names, residences, and any other known identifying information of any maternal or paternal relatives of the child. This inquiry shall not be construed, however, to guarantee that the child will be placed with any person so identified. The county social worker shall initially contact the relatives given preferential consideration for placement to determine if they desire the child to be placed with them. Those desiring placement shall be assessed according to the factors enumerated in this subdivision. The county social worker shall document these efforts in the social study prepared pursuant to Section 358.1. The court shall authorize the county social worker, while assessing these relatives for the possibility of placement, to disclose to the relative, as appropriate, the fact that the child is in custody, the alleged reasons for the custody, and the projected likely date for the child’s return home or placement for adoption or legal guardianship. However, this investigation shall not be construed as good cause for continuance of the dispositional hearing conducted pursuant to Section 358.
(b) In any case in which more than one appropriate relative requests preferential consideration pursuant to this section, each relative shall be considered under the factors enumerated in subdivision (a). Consistent with the legislative intent for children to be placed immediately with a responsible relative, this section does not limit the county social worker’s ability to place a child in the home of an appropriate relative or a nonrelative extended family member pending the consideration of other relatives who have requested preferential consideration.
(c) For purposes of this section:
(1) “Preferential consideration” means that the relative seeking placement shall be the first placement to be considered and investigated.
(2) “Relative” means an adult who is related to the child by blood, adoption, or affinity within the fifth degree of kinship, including stepparents, stepsiblings, and all relatives whose status is preceded by the words “great,” “great-great,” or “grand,” or the spouse of any of these persons even if the marriage was terminated by death or dissolution. However, only the following relatives shall be given preferential consideration for the placement of the child: an adult who is a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or sibling.
(d) (1) Subsequent to the hearing conducted pursuant to Section 358, whenever a new placement of the child must be made, consideration for placement shall again be given as described in this section to relatives who have not been found to be unsuitable and who will fulfill the child’s reunification or permanent plan requirements. In addition to the factors described in subdivision (a), the county social worker shall report and the court shall consider whether all of the following factors:
(A) Whether the relative has established and maintained a relationship with the child. child or is able and willing to do so.
(B) The length of time the child has been in his or her current placement.
(C) The relationship of the child with the current caregiver.
(D) The child’s progress toward permanency with that caregiver.
(E) The placement preference of the child.
(2) The Judicial Council shall adopt a rule of court on or before January 1, 2017, that implements this subdivision in regard to the consideration of relatives for placement subsequent to the hearing conducted pursuant to Section 358.
(e) If the court does not place the child with a relative who has been considered for placement pursuant to this section, the court shall state for the record the reasons placement with that relative was denied.
(f) (1) With respect to a child who satisfies the criteria set forth in paragraph (2), the department and any licensed adoption agency may search for a relative and furnish identifying information relating to the child to that relative if it is believed the child’s welfare will be promoted thereby.
(2) Paragraph (1) shall apply if both of the following conditions are satisfied:
(A) The child was previously a dependent of the court.
(B) The child was previously adopted and the adoption has been disrupted, set aside pursuant to Section 9100 or 9102 of the Family Code, or the child has been released into the custody of the department or a licensed adoption agency by the adoptive parent or parents.
(3) As used in this subdivision, “relative” includes a member of the child’s birth family and nonrelated extended family members, regardless of whether the parental rights were terminated, provided that both of the following are true:
(A) No appropriate potential caretaker is known to exist from the child’s adoptive family, including nonrelated extended family members of the adoptive family.
(B) The child was not the subject of a voluntary relinquishment by the birth parents pursuant to Section 8700 of the Family Code or Section 1255.7 of the Health and Safety Code.

SEC. 2.

 To the extent that this act has an overall effect of increasing the costs already borne by a local agency for programs or levels of service mandated by the 2011 Realignment Legislation within the meaning of Section 36 of Article XIII of the California Constitution, it shall apply to local agencies only to the extent that the state provides annual funding for the cost increase. Any new program or higher level of service provided by a local agency pursuant to this act above the level for which funding has been provided shall not require a subvention of funds by the state nor otherwise be subject to Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution.

It is the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation to ensure the best possible outcome for children removed from the physical custody of his or her parents.