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AB-2741 Children’s advocacy centers.(2019-2020)

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Date Published: 02/20/2020 09:00 PM
AB2741:v99#DOCUMENT


CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2019–2020 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill
No. 2741


Introduced by Assembly Member Blanca Rubio

February 20, 2020


An act to add Section 11166.4 to the Penal Code, relating to child abuse.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 2741, as introduced, Blanca Rubio. Children’s advocacy centers.
Existing law states the intent of the Legislature that the law enforcement agencies and the county welfare or probation department of each county develop and implement cooperative arrangements in order to coordinate existing duties in connection with the investigation of suspected child abuse or neglect cases. Existing law requires a local law enforcement agency having jurisdiction over a reported case of child abuse to report to the county welfare or probation department that it is investigating the case, and requires the county welfare department or probation department, in certain cases, to evaluate what action or actions would be in the best interest of the child and to submit its findings to the district attorney, as specified.
This bill would authorize a county, in order to implement a multidisciplinary response to investigate reports involving child physical or sexual abuse, exploitation, or maltreatment, to use a children’s advocacy center that includes representatives from specified disciplines and provides dedicated child-focused settings for interviews and other services. The bill would authorize members of a multidisciplinary team associated with a children’s advocacy center to share with each other information in their possession concerning the child, the family of the child, and the person who is the subject of the abuse or neglect investigation, as specified. The bill would exempt an employee or designated agent of the center from liability under specified circumstances.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: NO   Local Program: NO  

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


SECTION 1.

 The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) Perpetration of child abuse and neglect is detrimental to children.
(b) All victims of child abuse or neglect deserve to be treated with dignity, respect, courtesy, and sensitivity as a matter of high public importance.
(c) In any investigation of suspected child abuse or neglect, all persons participating in the investigation of the case should consider the needs of the child victim and do whatever is necessary to prevent psychological harm to the child and ensure that children disclosing abuse are not further victimized by the intervention systems designed to protect them.
(d) A multidisciplinary approach to investigating child abuse and neglect is associated with less anxiety, fewer interviews, and increased support for the child, as well as interagency collaboration, coordination, intervention, and sharing of information.
(e) A multidisciplinary response to allegations of child abuse and neglect has been found most effective and least traumatic when coordinated through a children’s advocacy center.
(f) The use of multidisciplinary teams and the establishment of children’s advocacy centers throughout the State of California are necessary to coordinate investigation and prosecution of child abuse and neglect and to facilitate treatment referrals.

SEC. 2.

 Section 11166.4 is added to the Penal Code, to read:

11166.4.
 (a) Each county may use a children’s advocacy center to implement a coordinated multidisciplinary response pursuant to Section 18961.7 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, to investigate reports involving child physical or sexual abuse, exploitation, or maltreatment.
(b) A county that utilizes a child advocacy center to coordinate its multidisciplinary response pursuant to subdivision (a) shall require the children’s advocacy center to meet the following standards:
(1) The multidisciplinary team associated with the children’s advocacy center shall consist of a representative of the children’s advocacy center and at least one representative from each of the following disciplines: law enforcement, child protective services, district attorney’s offices, medical providers, mental health providers, and victim advocates. Members of the multidisciplinary team may fill more than one role, within the scope of their practice, as needed.
(2) The multidisciplinary team associated with the children’s advocacy center shall have cultural competency and diversity training to meet the needs of the community it serves.
(3) The children’s advocacy center shall have a designated legal entity responsible for the governance of its operations. This entity shall oversee ongoing business practices of the children’s advocacy center, including setting and implementing administrative policies, hiring and managing personnel, obtaining funding, supervising program and fiscal operations, and conducting long-term planning.
(4) The children’s advocacy center shall provide a dedicated child-focused setting designed to provide a safe, comfortable, and neutral place where forensic interviews and other children’s advocacy center services may be appropriately provided for children and families.
(5) The children’s advocacy center shall use written protocols for case review and case review procedures, and shall use a case tracking system to provide information on essential demographics and case information.
(6) The children’s advocacy center shall verify that members of the multidisciplinary team responsible for medical evaluations have specific training in child abuse or child sexual abuse examinations.
(7) The children’s advocacy center shall verify that members of the multidisciplinary team responsible for mental health services are trained in and deliver trauma-focused, evidence-supported mental health treatments.
(8) The children’s advocacy center shall verify that interviews conducted in the course of investigations are conducted in a forensically sound manner and occur in a child-focused setting designed to provide a safe, comfortable, and dedicated place for children and families.
(c) This section does not preclude a county from utilizing more than one children’s advocacy center.
(d) The files, reports, records, communications, and working papers used or developed in providing services through a children’s advocacy center are confidential and are not public records.
(e) Notwithstanding any other law providing for the confidentiality of information or records relating to the investigation of suspected child abuse or neglect, the members of a multidisciplinary team associated with a children’s advocacy center, including agency representatives, child forensic interviewers, and other providers at the children’s advocacy center, are authorized to share with other multidisciplinary team members any information or records concerning the child and family and the person who is the subject of the investigation of suspected child abuse or neglect for the sole purpose of facilitating a forensic interview or case discussion or providing services to the child or family, provided, however, that the shared information or records shall be treated as confidential to the extent required by law by the receiving multidisciplinary team members.
(f) An employee or designated agent of a child and family advocacy center that meets the requirements of subdivision (b) is immune from any civil liability that arises from the employee’s or designated agent’s participation in the investigation process and services provided by the child and family advocacy center, unless the employee or designated agent acted with malice or has been charged with or is suspected of abusing or neglecting the child who is the subject of the investigation or services provided. This subdivision does not supersede or limit any other immunity provided by law.