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AB-1140 Foster care: rights.(2021-2022)

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Date Published: 09/27/2021 02:00 PM
AB1140:v94#DOCUMENT

Assembly Bill No. 1140
CHAPTER 297

An act to amend Section 1530.91 of the Health and Safety Code, and to amend Section 16164 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, relating to foster care.

[ Approved by Governor  September 24, 2021. Filed with Secretary of State  September 24, 2021. ]

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 1140, Robert Rivas. Foster care: rights.
Existing law provides for the licensing and regulation of community care facilities, including foster family homes and group homes, by the State Department of Social Services, and requires the department to ensure that licensed or certified foster care facilities and providers accord children and nonminor dependents in foster care their personal rights. Existing law establishes the Office of the State Foster Care Ombudsperson to, among other things, investigate and attempt to resolve complaints made by or on behalf of children placed in foster care, related to their care, placement, or services.
This bill would specify that these duties of the department and the Office of the State Foster Care Ombudsperson include children who are placed in residential facilities and homes by the Office of Refugee Resettlement of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
This bill would incorporate additional changes to Section 16164 of the Welfare and Institutions Code proposed by AB 317 to be operative only if this bill and AB 317 are enacted and this bill is enacted last.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: NO   Local Program: NO  

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


SECTION 1.

 Section 1530.91 of the Health and Safety Code is amended to read:

1530.91.
 (a) Except as provided in subdivision (b), a care provider that provides foster care for children pursuant to this chapter shall provide each schoolage child and the child’s authorized representative, as defined in regulations adopted by the department, who is placed in foster care, with an age and developmentally appropriate orientation that includes an explanation of the rights of the child, as specified in Section 16001.9 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, and addresses the child’s questions and concerns.
(b) Any facility licensed to provide foster care for six or more children pursuant to this chapter shall post a listing of a foster child’s rights specified in Section 16001.9 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, as developed by the Office of the State Foster Care Ombudsperson pursuant to Section 16164 of the Welfare and Institutions Code. The Office of the State Foster Care Ombudsperson shall provide the posters it has designed pursuant to Section 16164 of the Welfare and Institutions Code to each facility subject to this subdivision. The posters shall include the telephone number of the Office of the State Foster Care Ombudsperson.
(c) The department shall ensure that a facility licensed, and a home certified or approved by a foster family agency to provide foster care, pursuant to this chapter, including residential facilities and foster homes in which children have been placed by the Office of Refugee Resettlement of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, shall accord children and nonminor dependents in foster care their personal rights, including, but not limited to, the rights specified in Section 16001.9 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, as applicable. The department shall adopt regulations to implement and enforce this subdivision. Notwithstanding 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), the department may implement and enforce this subdivision by written directives until regulations are adopted.

SEC. 2.

 Section 16164 of the Welfare and Institutions Code is amended to read:

16164.
 (a) The Office of the State Foster Care Ombudsperson shall do all of the following:
(1) (A) Disseminate information and provide training and technical assistance to foster youth, social workers, probation officers, tribes’ child welfare agencies, child welfare organizations, children’s advocacy groups, consumer and service provider organizations, and other interested parties on the rights of children and youth in foster care, reasonable and prudent parent standards, and the services provided by the office. The rights of children and youth in foster care are listed in Section 16001.9. The information shall include methods of contacting the office and notification that conversations with the office may be disclosed to other persons, as necessary to adequately investigate and resolve a complaint.
(B) At the end of every two-year legislative session, review amendments to the laws applicable to foster youth and determine whether updates to the rights listed in Section 16001.9 should be recommended in the compilation prepared pursuant to paragraph (8). The office shall update the standardized information prepared pursuant to paragraph (1) of subdivision (e), and any training materials prepared pursuant to subparagraph (A), in accordance with the legislative review.
(2) Investigate and attempt to resolve complaints made by or on behalf of children placed in foster care, related to their care, placement, or services, including for children placed by the Office of Refugee Resettlement of the United States Department of Health and Human Services in residential facilities and homes that are subject to regulation by the State Department of Social Services pursuant to the California Community Care Facilities Act (Chapter 3 (commencing with Section 1500) of Division 2 of the Health and Safety Code) or pursuant to Article 2 (commencing with Section 16519.5) of Chapter 5.
(3) Decide, in its discretion, whether to investigate a complaint, or refer complaints to another agency for investigation.
(4) Upon rendering a decision to investigate a complaint from a complainant, notify the complainant of the intention to investigate. If the office declines to investigate a complaint or continue an investigation, the office shall notify the complainant of the reason for the action of the office.
(5) Update the complainant on the progress of the investigation and notify the complainant of the final outcome.
(6) Document the number, source, origin, location, and nature of complaints.
(7) Receive data from the State Department of Education regarding complaints about foster youth education rights made through the uniform complaint process.
(8) (A) Compile and make available to the Legislature all data collected over the course of the year, including, but not limited to, the number of contacts to the office, the number of complaints made, including the type and source of those complaints, the number of investigations performed by the office, the trends and issues that arose in the course of investigating complaints, the number of referrals made, the number of pending complaints, and a summary of the data received from the State Department of Education pursuant to paragraph (7). The office shall include recommendations consistent with this data for improving the child welfare system.
(B) Present this compiled data, on an annual basis, at appropriate child welfare conferences, forums, and other events, as determined by the department, that may include presentations to, but are not limited to, representatives of the Legislature, the County Welfare Directors Association of California, Chief Probation Officers of California, Indian tribes, child welfare agencies, child welfare organizations, children’s advocacy groups, consumer and service provider organizations, and other interested parties.
(C) It is the intent of the Legislature that representatives of the organizations described in subparagraph (B) consider this data in the development of any recommendations offered toward improving the child welfare system.
(D) The compiled data shall be posted so that it is available to the public on the existing internet website of the office.
(E) Nothing shall preclude the office from issuing data, findings, or reports other than the annual compilation of data described in this paragraph.
(9) Have access to copies of any record of a state or local agency, and contractors with state and local agencies, that is necessary to carry out their responsibilities, and may meet or communicate with any foster child in their placement or elsewhere.
(b) The office may establish, in consultation with a committee of interested individuals, regional or local foster care ombudsperson offices for the purposes of expediting investigations and resolving complaints, subject to appropriations in the annual Budget Act.
(c) Information obtained by the office from a complaint, regardless of whether it is investigated by the office, referred to another entity for investigation, or determined not to be the proper subject of an investigation, shall remain confidential under relevant state and federal confidentiality laws. Disclosure of information shall occur only as necessary to carry out the mission of the office and as permitted by law.
(d) The office shall provide administrative and technical assistance to county, regional, or local foster care ombudsperson’s offices, including, but not limited to, assistance in developing policies and procedures consistent with the policies and procedures used by the office.
(e) (1) The office, in consultation with the County Welfare Directors Association of California, Chief Probation Officers of California, Indian tribes located in the state, foster youth advocate and support groups, groups representing children, families, foster parents, children’s facilities, and other interested parties, shall develop standardized information explaining the rights specified in Section 16001.9. The information shall be developed in an age-appropriate manner, and shall reflect any relevant licensing requirements with respect to foster care providers’ responsibilities to adequately supervise children in care.
(2) The office, counties, foster care providers, and others shall use the information developed in paragraph (1) in carrying out their responsibilities to inform foster children and youth of their rights pursuant to Section 1530.91 of the Health and Safety Code, Sections 27 and 16501.1, and this section.
(3) The office shall measure the distribution of the standardized materials for purposes of evaluating and improving the degree to which foster youth are adequately informed of their rights. This data shall be included in the compilation prepared pursuant to paragraph (8) of subdivision (a).

SEC. 2.5.

 Section 16164 of the Welfare and Institutions Code is amended to read:

16164.
 (a) The Office of the State Foster Care Ombudsperson shall do all of the following:
(1) (A) Disseminate information and provide training and technical assistance to foster youth, social workers, probation officers, tribes’ child welfare agencies, child welfare organizations, children’s advocacy groups, consumer and service provider organizations, and other interested parties on the rights of children and youth in foster care, reasonable and prudent parent standards, and the services provided by the office. The rights of children and youth in foster care are listed in Section 16001.9. The information shall include methods of contacting the office and notification that conversations with the office may be disclosed to other persons, as necessary to adequately investigate and resolve a complaint.
(B) At the end of every two-year legislative session, review amendments to the laws applicable to foster youth and determine whether updates to the rights listed in Section 16001.9 should be recommended in the compilation prepared pursuant to paragraph (8). The office shall update the standardized information prepared pursuant to paragraph (1) of subdivision (e), and any training materials prepared pursuant to subparagraph (A), in accordance with the legislative review.
(2) Receive complaints made by or on behalf of children placed in foster care, related to their care, placement, or services, including for children placed by the Office of Refugee Resettlement of the United States Department of Health and Human Services in residential facilities and homes that are subject to regulation by the State Department of Social Services pursuant to the California Community Care Facilities Act (Chapter 3 (commencing with Section 1500) of Division 2 of the Health and Safety Code) or pursuant to Article 2 (commencing with Section 16519.5) of Chapter 5.
(3) Decide, in its discretion, whether to investigate a complaint, or refer complaints to another agency for investigation. After rendering a decision to investigate a complaint, attempt to resolve the complaint without using a judicial or administrative proceeding.
(4) Upon rendering a decision to investigate a complaint from a complainant, notify the complainant of the intention to investigate. If the office declines to investigate a complaint or continue an investigation, the office shall notify the complainant of the reason for the action of the office.
(5) Update the complainant on the progress of the investigation and the attempts to resolve the complaint, and notify the complainant of the final outcome.
(6) Document the number, source, origin, location, and nature of complaints.
(7) Receive data from the State Department of Education regarding complaints about foster youth education rights made through the uniform complaint process.
(8) (A) Compile and make available to the Legislature all data collected over the course of the year, including, but not limited to, the number of contacts to the office, the number of complaints made, including the type and source of those complaints, the number of investigations performed by the office, the trends and issues that arose in the course of investigating complaints, the number of referrals made, the number of pending complaints, and a summary of the data received from the State Department of Education pursuant to paragraph (7). The office shall include recommendations consistent with this data for improving the child welfare system.
(B) Present this compiled data, on an annual basis, at appropriate child welfare conferences, forums, and other events, as determined by the department, that may include presentations to, but are not limited to, representatives of the Legislature, the County Welfare Directors Association of California, Chief Probation Officers of California, Indian tribes, child welfare agencies, child welfare organizations, children’s advocacy groups, consumer and service provider organizations, and other interested parties.
(C) It is the intent of the Legislature that representatives of the organizations described in subparagraph (B) consider this data in the development of any recommendations offered toward improving the child welfare system.
(D) The compiled data shall be posted so that it is available to the public on the existing internet website of the office.
(E) Nothing shall preclude the office from issuing data, findings, or reports other than the annual compilation of data described in this paragraph.
(9) Have access to copies of any record of a state or local agency, and contractors with state and local agencies, that is necessary to carry out their responsibilities, and may meet or communicate with any foster child in their placement or elsewhere.
(b) The office may establish, in consultation with a committee of interested individuals, regional or local foster care ombudsperson offices for the purposes of expediting investigations and resolving complaints, subject to appropriations in the annual Budget Act.
(c) (1) Information obtained by the office from a complaint, regardless of whether it is investigated by the office, referred to another entity for investigation, or determined not to be the proper subject of an investigation, shall remain confidential under relevant state and federal confidentiality laws. Disclosure of information that is not confidential under state and federal confidentiality laws shall occur only as necessary to carry out the mission of the office, including as necessary to provide explanation and support for the office’s recommendations for improving the child welfare system to the Legislature and state and local agencies that provide services and supports to children placed in foster care.
(2) The ombudsperson shall maintain confidentiality with respect to the identities of the complainants or witnesses coming before them, except insofar as disclosure may be necessary to enable the ombudsperson to carry out the duties of the office set forth in paragraphs (2) to (5), inclusive, of subdivision (a). The ombudsperson may not disclose a record that is confidential under relevant state and federal confidentiality laws.
(3) If a child or nonminor dependent is represented by counsel pursuant to Section 317, the office may notify the counsel of a complaint in order for counsel to satisfy their obligations specified under paragraph (3) of subdivision (e) of Section 317. If appropriate, the office may also share the outcome of any investigation performed by the office with the child’s or nonminor dependent’s counsel.
(d) The office shall provide administrative and technical assistance to county, regional, or local foster care ombudsperson’s offices, including, but not limited to, assistance in developing policies and procedures consistent with the policies and procedures used by the office.
(e) (1) The office, in consultation with the County Welfare Directors Association of California, Chief Probation Officers of California, Indian tribes located in the state, foster youth advocate and support groups, groups representing children, families, foster parents, children’s facilities, and other interested parties, shall develop standardized information explaining the rights specified in Section 16001.9. The information shall be developed in an age-appropriate manner, and shall reflect any relevant licensing requirements with respect to foster care providers’ responsibilities to adequately supervise children in care.
(2) The office, counties, foster care providers, and others shall use the information developed in paragraph (1) in carrying out their responsibilities to inform foster children and youth of their rights pursuant to Section 1530.91 of the Health and Safety Code, Sections 27 and 16501.1, and this section.
(3) The office shall measure the distribution of the standardized materials for purposes of evaluating and improving the degree to which foster youth are adequately informed of their rights. This data shall be included in the compilation prepared pursuant to paragraph (8) of subdivision (a).

SEC. 3.

 Section 2.5 of this bill incorporates amendments to Section 16164 of the Welfare and Institutions Code proposed by both this bill and Assembly Bill 317. That section of this bill shall only become operative if (1) both bills are enacted and become effective on or before January 1, 2022, (2) each bill amends Section 16164 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, and (3) this bill is enacted after Assembly Bill 317, in which case Section 2 of this bill shall not become operative.