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AB-31 Office of the Child Protection Ombudsperson.(2021-2022)

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Date Published: 04/08/2021 09:00 PM
AB31:v97#DOCUMENT

Revised  April 22, 2021
Amended  IN  Assembly  April 08, 2021
Amended  IN  Assembly  February 25, 2021

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2021–2022 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill
No. 31


Introduced by Assembly Member Lackey Members Lackey and Gipson
(Coauthor: Assembly Member Davies)

December 07, 2020


An act to add Chapter 6 (commencing with Section 16550) to Part 4 of Division 9 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, relating to child welfare.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 31, as amended, Lackey. Office of the Child Protection Ombudsperson.
Existing law requires the state, through the State Department of Social Services and county welfare departments, to establish and support a public system of statewide child welfare services, as specified, and declares the intent of the Legislature, in providing for this statewide system of child welfare services, that all children are entitled to be safe and free from abuse and neglect. Existing law requires the Office of the State Foster Care Ombudsperson to be established in the State Department of Social Services with prescribed powers and duties relating to the management of foster children, including the dissemination of information on the rights of children and youth in foster care. Existing law requires the Director of Social Services, in consultation with a committee of interested individuals chosen by the director, to appoint the ombudsperson for a term of 4 years.
This bill would establish the Office of the Child Protection Ombudsperson, with the intent to provide all California children with similar protections. The bill would require the State Child Protection Ombudsperson to be appointed by the Governor Governor, subject to confirmation by the Senate, for a term of 2 years, from a list of qualified candidates selected by a committee of interested persons convened by the Director of Social Services, in consultation with the chairs of the Senate and Assembly human services committees. years. The bill would specify the duties of the office, including to investigate and attempt to resolve complaints made by or on behalf of children who have cases with the State Department of Social Services, related to their care. investigating specified child deaths caused by abuse or neglect. The bill would also authorize the office to take specified actions, including investigating systemic issues and suggesting corrective action accordingly. The bill would require the Office of the State Child Protection Ombudsperson to report to the Legislature, at the end of each 2-year legislative session, data collected by the office describing the nature of the complaints received and systemic suggestions to improve the child welfare system.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: NO  

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


SECTION 1.

 (a) This act shall be known, and may be cited, as Gabriel’s Law.
(b) The Legislature finds and declares that the people of California have benefited from the establishment of a long-term care ombudsperson pursuant to Section 9710 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, and a foster care ombudsperson pursuant to Section 16160 of the Welfare and Institutions Code. It is the intent of the Legislature to provide similar protections for all California children by establishing a child protection ombudsperson program within the State Department of Social Services.

SEC. 2.

 Chapter 6 (commencing with Section 16550) is added to Part 4 of Division 9 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, to read:
CHAPTER  6. Child Protection Ombudsperson

16550.
 (a) The Office of the State Child Protection Ombudsperson is established as an autonomous entity within the State Department of Social Services for the purpose of reviewing individual casework, observing management structures, and suggesting systematic alteration.

(b)(1) The Director of Social Services, in consultation with the chairs of the Senate and Assembly human services committees, shall convene a candidate selection committee of interested individuals, the majority of whom shall be representatives of children’s advocacy organizations and current or former foster youth.

(2)The candidate selection committee shall recommend to the Governor six candidates, qualified by training and experience to perform the duties of the office. The Governor shall appoint the State Child Protection Ombudsperson from the list of qualified candidates. The

(b) The Governor shall appoint the State Child Protection Ombudsperson, subject to Senate confirmation. The ombudsperson shall serve for a term of two years.

16551.
 The department shall State Child Protection Ombudsperson shall, in consultation with the department, hire the necessary personnel to perform the functions of the office. Priority shall be given to former foster youth in hiring decisions.

16552.
 The Office of the State Child Protection Ombudsperson shall do all of the following:
(a) Disseminate information on the rights of children and youth in foster care and the services provided by the office. The information shall include notification that conversations with the office may not be confidential.

(b)Investigate and attempt to resolve complaints made by or on behalf of children who have cases with the State Department of Social Services, related to their care.

(c)Investigate systemic issues, at the ombudsperson’s discretion, and suggest corrective action accordingly.

(d)Decide, in its discretion, whether to investigate a complaint, or refer the complaint to another agency for investigation.

(e)

(b) 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 that action.

(f)

(c) Update the complainant on the progress of the investigation and notify the complainant of the final outcome.
(d) Investigate all child deaths caused by abuse or neglect if, at the time of a child’s death, there was an active investigation by the child welfare system to determine if the child was being abused or neglected or there was a report that the child was subject to abuse or neglect, whether or not the report was investigated and whether or not the report was found to be substantiated, unsubstantiated, or inconclusive, within 24 months prior to the child’s death.
(e) Serve as the ombudsperson reviewing a county child welfare system operated by a county if the county does not have a local ombudsperson to conduct that review.
(f) Provide for the operation of a toll-free telephone hotline to receive complaints related to child welfare.
(g) (1) Submit a report to the Legislature at the end of each two-year legislative session with data collected by the office describing the nature of the complaints received and systemic suggestions to improve the child welfare system.
(2) A report submitted pursuant to this section shall be submitted in accordance with Section 9795 of the Government Code.

16553.
 The Office of the State Child Protection Ombudsperson may do any of the following:
(a) Investigate files relating to children taken into protective custody, including portions of files created prior to a child being taken into protective custody and files relating to the cases of children taken into protective custody that have been closed.
(b) Investigate systemic issues and suggest corrective action accordingly.
(c) Review the cases of children whose families have been referred to family maintenance and reunification services.
(d) Except with regard to the investigations described in subdivision (d) of Section 16552, decide whether to investigate a complaint, or refer the complaint to another agency for investigation.
(e) Work with a county-level ombudsperson, if available.

16554.
 For the purposes of this chapter, “investigation” means an act of factfinding, document review, or systematic inquiry or examination to determine if there is a correlation between an administrative act and the death of a child, the outcome in a child’s case, or to determine if a trend or systematic issue is identified.

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REVISIONS:
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