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SB-537 Child welfare: domestic violence.(2021-2022)

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Date Published: 04/29/2021 09:00 PM
SB537:v95#DOCUMENT

Amended  IN  Senate  April 29, 2021
Amended  IN  Senate  April 22, 2021
Amended  IN  Senate  April 13, 2021
Amended  IN  Senate  March 10, 2021

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2021–2022 REGULAR SESSION

Senate Bill
No. 537


Introduced by Senator Rubio
(Coauthor: Senator Eggman)

February 17, 2021


An act to add Section 300.4 to, and to add and repeal Section 16515 of, the Welfare and Institutions Code, relating to child welfare.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


SB 537, as amended, Rubio. Child welfare: domestic violence.
Existing law establishes the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, which may adjudge a child to be a dependent of the court under certain circumstances, including when the child suffered, or there is a substantial risk that the child will suffer, serious physical harm or illness as a result of the failure or inability of their parent or guardian to adequately supervise or protect the child, or a parent willfully or negligently fails to provide the child with adequate food, clothing, shelter, or medical treatment. Existing law prohibits a child from being found to be a dependent solely due to the lack of an emergency shelter for the family.

This bill would also prohibit a child from being found a dependent solely due to the parent or guardian being a victim of domestic violence, unless the court finds the conditions described above are met.

This bill would prohibit a court from deeming the parent or guardian to have failed to protect the child on the sole basis that the parent or guardian experienced domestic violence.
Existing law governs the provision of child welfare services, which is defined to mean public social services that are directed toward the accomplishment of specified purposes, including protecting and promoting the welfare of all children, preventing the unnecessary separation of children from their families, and restoring to their families children who have been removed.
This bill would require the State Department of Social Services, on or before July 1, 2022, to convene a workgroup to examine the nexus between child welfare and domestic violence and the impacts of child welfare policy on families experiencing domestic violence. The bill would require the membership of the workgroup to include interested parties and stakeholders, as specified, and would require the workgroup, among other things, to examine policies and procedures related to child welfare engagement in cases in which domestic violence is present in a child’s home, review best practices and recommendations from research related to child welfare and domestic violence, and identify gaps in the child welfare system in which additional training, oversight, or policy changes may be needed to achieve improved outcomes for children and families experiencing domestic violence. The bill would require the department, on or before December 31, 2022, and based on the findings of the workgroup, to submit a report to the Legislature containing recommendations on ways to improve outcomes for children and families referred to the child welfare system who are experiencing domestic violence.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: NO  

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


SECTION 1.

 (a) The Legislature finds and declares both of the following:
(1) Families that experience domestic violence are often brought to the attention of the child welfare system. The intersection between domestic violence and the welfare of a child is often complex, with multiple agencies involved in determining the best course of action to aid the child and the family.
(2) Individuals working in the child welfare system and domestic violence advocates have come together to better understand this nexus and to work together to address the impact of domestic violence on children, and the effects of child welfare policy on families experiencing domestic violence.
(b) It is the intent of the Legislature to ensure that child welfare policy reflects the most current understanding of domestic violence and trauma, and that both the parents and children are provided with the support they need, including support to prevent entry into the child welfare system or support to reunify as a family.

SEC. 2.

 Section 300.4 is added to the Welfare and Institutions Code, to read:

300.4.
 A child shall not be found to be a person described by subdivision (b) of Section 300 solely due to the parent or guardian being a victim of domestic violence unless the court finds the conditions stated in subdivision (b) of Section 300 are met. For purposes of subdivision (b) of Section 300, the fact that a parent or guardian experienced domestic violence shall not be the sole basis for deeming the parent or guardian to have failed to protect the child. This section does not supersede a determination pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 300 of whether the child has suffered, or there is a substantial risk that the child will suffer, serious harm or illness. For purposes of this section, “domestic violence” has the same meaning as defined in Section 6211 of the Family Code.

SEC. 3.

 Section 16515 is added to the Welfare and Institutions Code, to read:

16515.
 (a) On or before July 1, 2022, the department shall convene a workgroup to examine the nexus between child welfare and domestic violence and the impacts of child welfare policy on families experiencing domestic violence.
(b) For purposes of this section, “domestic violence” has the same meaning as defined in Section 6211 of the Family Code.
(c) The membership of the workgroup shall include interested parties and stakeholders, including, but not be limited to, representatives from all of the following:
(1) County agencies, including, but not limited to, county child welfare agencies and county agencies representing the domestic violence field.
(2) Domestic violence victim service organizations, as defined in subdivision (b) of Section 1037.1 of the Evidence Code.
(3) Child advocacy organizations.
(4) Organizations representing county child welfare workers.
(5) Persons with lived experience in both domestic violence and child welfare systems.
(6) Tribal representatives.
(d) At a minimum, the workgroup shall do all of the following:
(1) Examine policies and procedures related to child welfare engagement in cases in which domestic violence is present in a child’s home.
(2) Review best practices and recommendations from research within California and in other states related to child welfare and domestic violence.
(3) Review available data, and identify additional data needed, to track involvement and outcomes for children and families referred to the child welfare system under circumstances in which domestic violence is present in the home.
(4) Identify gaps in the child welfare system in which additional training, oversight, or policy changes may be needed to achieve improved outcomes for children and families experiencing domestic violence.
(e) (1) Based on the findings of the workgroup, the department, on or before December 31, 2022, shall submit a report to the Legislature containing recommendations on ways to improve outcomes for children and families referred to the child welfare system who are experiencing domestic violence.
(2) The report to be submitted to the Legislature pursuant to subdivision (a) shall be submitted in compliance with Section 9795 of the Government Code.
(f) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1, 2027, and as of that date is repealed.