Today's Law As Amended

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AB-859 Juveniles: dependency: judicial caseloads.(2019-2020)

 The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) When a child is found to be within the dependency jurisdiction of the juvenile court pursuant to Section 300 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, the state undertakes a responsibility like no other in government: the responsibility to make all significant parental decisions for a child.
(b) While foster parents and other placements provide daily care for dependent children, every major decision in the lives of these children is made by a judge in a courtroom; whether these children will ever see their siblings again, whether they may be forced to ingest psychotropic medications, where they will live, with whom they will live, and matters regarding their education.
(c) A judge’s dependency caseload must permit the judge to review relevant documents in detail, to question assessments and arguments of lawyers and social workers, and, perhaps most importantly, to get to know each child and be able to track the child as the child changes and grows.
(d) While there exist caseload maximums for lawyers assigned to represent foster children, there has been no analysis to determine if a maximum caseload for judges that make parental decisions for these children is necessary. For the Legislature to assess whether, and to what extent, judicial caseloads in dependency proceedings may be harming our most vulnerable children, an analysis of judicial caseloads in dependency proceedings, similar to that which has been done for lawyer caseloads in dependency proceedings, is essential.

SEC. 2.

 Section 246.5 is added to the Welfare and Institutions Code, to read:

 By January 1, 2021, the State Department of Social Services shall, in consultation with the Judicial Council, convene a stakeholder group that includes county counsel, nonprofit organizations composed of current or former foster youth, representatives of dependency counsel, and other stakeholders designated by the department, to make recommendations related to juvenile dependency proceedings that may, within existing resources and with the purpose of improving child and family outcomes, enhance collaboration between juvenile dependency courts and child welfare services and identify efficiencies in the provision of child welfare services that would reduce the workload for judges who adjudicate juvenile dependency proceedings, the time from commencement of a dependency case to its completion, or both.

SEC. 3.

 Section 247 is added to the Welfare and Institutions Code, to read:

 (a) The Judicial Council shall, in consultation with interested stakeholders, study and identify the appropriate caseload standards for judges who adjudicate proceedings pursuant to Section 300.
(b) (1) The Judicial Council shall, no later than January 1, 2021, report to the Legislature the results of the study conducted pursuant to subdivision (a).
(2) (A) The report to be submitted pursuant to paragraph (1) shall be submitted in compliance with Section 9795 of the Government Code.
(B) Pursuant to Section 10231.5 of the Government Code, the requirement for submitting a report imposed under paragraph (1) is inoperative on January 1, 2024.
(c) This section shall not be interpreted as requiring any of the following:
(1) The creation of a new stakeholder group.
(2) Consultation with stakeholders to be in person. The consultation described in subdivision (a) may be conducted by telephone, email, or any other means of communication.
(3) Research findings or data in addition to those already in the possession of the Judicial Council, including, but not limited to, research findings and data included in a report submitted to the Judicial Council, dated December 12, 2011, and titled Judicial Workload Assessment: Updated Caseweights. The study requirement described in subdivision (a) may be met by identifying caseloads based on existing research findings and data derived from superior courts that include judges assigned to only hear and adjudicate proceedings pursuant to Section 300.