Code Section

Welfare and Institutions Code - WIC

DIVISION 9. PUBLIC SOCIAL SERVICES [10000 - 18999.8]

  ( Division 9 added by Stats. 1965, Ch. 1784. )
  

PART 2. ADMINISTRATION [10500 - 10985]

  ( Part 2 added by Stats. 1965, Ch. 1784. )
  

CHAPTER 5. Records [10850 - 10853]
  ( Chapter 5 added by Stats. 1965, Ch. 1784. )

  
10850.45.  

(a) Within 10 business days of learning that a child near fatality that has been determined to have been caused by abuse or neglect, as described in paragraph (4) of subdivision (l), has occurred in the county, the custodian of records for the county child welfare agency, upon request, shall release all of the following information:

(1) The age and gender of the child.

(2) The date of the near fatality.

(3) Whether the child resided in foster care or in the home of his or her parent or guardian at the time of the near fatality.

(4) Whether an investigation is being conducted by a law enforcement agency or the county child welfare agency.

(b) All cases in which abuse or neglect leads to a child’s near fatality, as described in paragraph (4) of subdivision (l), shall be subject to the disclosures required in subdivisions (c) and (d).

(c) Findings or information disclosed under this subdivision, upon request, shall consist of a written report that includes all of the following information:

(1) The age and gender of the child.

(2) The date the abuse or neglect occurred that resulted in the near fatality, if known, and the date that a licensed physician determined the child victim to be in serious or critical medical condition, if known.

(3) Whether the child resided in foster care or in the home of his or her parent or guardian at the time of the near fatality.

(4) The cause of, and circumstances regarding, the near fatality.

(5) A description of reports received, child protective or other services provided, and actions taken by the county child welfare services agency and juvenile court, if applicable, regarding both of the following:

(A) Suspected or substantiated abuse or neglect of the child near fatality victim.

(B) Suspected or substantiated abuse or neglect of other children that is related to the abuse or neglect described in subparagraph (A).

(6) The description required by paragraph (5) shall provide a written narrative that includes, but is not limited to, the following information:

(A) The dates of reports, investigations, services provided, and actions taken.

(B) The investigative disposition for each report.

(C) Any comments provided by the involved social worker or workers for the written narrative regarding the investigations, services provided, and actions taken.

(d) Upon completion of the child abuse or neglect investigation into a child’s near fatality, as described in paragraph (4) of subdivision (l), the following documents from the juvenile case file shall be released by the custodian of records upon request, subject to the redactions described in subdivision (f):

(1) For cases in which the child’s near fatality occurred while living with a parent or guardian, all previous referrals of abuse or neglect of the child suffering the near fatality while living with that parent or guardian, along with the following documents:

(A) The emergency response referral information form and emergency response notice of referral disposition form completed by the county child welfare agency relating to the abuse or neglect that caused the near fatality of the child.

(B) Any cross reports completed by the county child welfare services agency to law enforcement relating to the child suffering the near fatality.

(C) All risk and safety assessments completed by the county child welfare services agency relating to the child suffering the near fatality.

(D) Copies of police reports about the person against whom the child abuse or neglect was substantiated.

(2) For cases in which the child’s near fatality occurred while the child was in foster care, the following documents, in addition to those specified in paragraph (1), generated while the child was living in the foster care placement that was the placement at the time of the child’s near fatality:

(A) Records pertaining to the foster parents’ initial licensing and renewals and type of license or licenses held if in the case file.

(B) All reported licensing violations, including notices of action, if in the case file.

(C) Records of the training completed by the foster parents if in the case file.

(e) (1) When disclosure is requested pursuant to subdivisions (c) and (d), all required findings and information shall be released to the public by the custodian of records within 30 calendar days of either the request or the disposition of the investigation, whichever is later.

(2) When disclosure is requested pursuant to subdivision (c), the county shall submit a copy of the description and written narrative required in subdivision (c) to the State Department of Social Services within 20 calendar days of the request or the disposition of the investigation, whichever is later. Within 10 calendar days of receipt, the State Department of Social Services shall review the description and written narrative submitted by the county against the case file and notify the county of any discrepancies or other concerns prior to the county’s release of the information pursuant to paragraph (1).

(f) The information and records subject to disclosure pursuant to subdivisions (c) and (d) shall not include, and the custodian of records shall not disclose, any of the following information:

(1) The name, address, telephone number, ethnicity, religion, or any other identifying information of any person or institution, other than the county or the State Department of Social Services, that is referenced in subdivision (c) or (d).

(2) Any information that would, after consultation with the district attorney, jeopardize a criminal investigation or proceeding.

(3) Any information that is privileged, confidential, or not subject to disclosure pursuant to any other state or federal law.

(4) All health care records related to the child or the child’s family.

(5) (A) Any information referenced in the report prepared pursuant to subdivision (c) or contained in any document listed in subdivision (d) that is not relevant to the near fatality, consistent with regulations or all-county letters or similar instructions issued pursuant to subdivision (r). Subject to subparagraphs (B) and (C), those regulations or all-county letters or similar instructions shall provide further guidance regarding persons or conduct that is not relevant. This includes, but is not limited to, any information referenced in the report prepared pursuant to subdivision (c) or contained in any document listed in subdivision (d) regarding any adult whose activities are not part of an event or events or do not have a material bearing on the circumstances that led to the near fatality, pursuant to subparagraph (B).

(B) Information regarding the agency’s handling of the case that may indicate a pattern of events or have a material bearing on the circumstances that led to the near fatality is relevant for purposes of subparagraph (A).

(C) Any record of any action or observation of any individual acting in his or her professional capacity is relevant for purposes of subparagraphs (A) and (B).

(g) Upon receiving a request for the information described in subdivisions (c) and (d), the custodian of records shall notify and provide a copy of the request to the counsel for any child who is directly or indirectly connected to the juvenile case file. If the counsel for a child, including the child near fatality victim or any sibling of the child victim, objects to the release of any part of the information listed in subdivisions (c) and (d), counsel may petition the juvenile court for relief to prevent the release of any document or part of a document requested pursuant to paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) of Section 827.

(h) Juvenile case file records that are not subject to disclosure pursuant to this section shall only be disclosed upon an order by the juvenile court pursuant to Section 827.

(i) Once documents have been released by the custodian of records pursuant to this section, the State Department of Social Services or the county welfare department or agency may comment on the case within the scope of the release. If the county welfare department or agency comments publicly about the case within the scope of the release pursuant to this subdivision, the social worker on the case may also comment publicly about the case within the scope of the release.

(j) Information released by a custodian of records consistent with the requirements of this section does not require prior notice to any other individual.

(k) Each county child welfare services agency shall notify the State Department of Social Services of every child near fatality that occurred within its jurisdiction that was the result of child abuse or neglect. Based on these notices and any other relevant information in the State Department of Social Services’ possession, the department shall annually issue a report identifying the child near fatalities and any systemic issues or patterns revealed by the notices and other relevant information.

(l) For purposes of this section, the following definitions apply:

(1) “Child abuse or neglect” and “abuse or neglect” have the same meaning as defined in Section 11165.6 of the Penal Code. “Child abuse or neglect” and “abuse or neglect” shall not include near fatalities caused by the following persons, unless neglect by a parent, guardian, or foster care provider contributed to the circumstances of the near fatality:

(A) An alleged perpetrator who was unknown to the child or family prior to the abuse that caused the near fatality.

(B) A minor, unless acting in the role of a caretaker, who is alleged to have caused the near fatality.

(2) “Custodian of records” means the county welfare department or agency.

(3) “Juvenile case files” or “case files” includes any juvenile court files, as defined in Rule 5.552 of the California Rules of Court, and any county child welfare department or agency or State Department of Social Services records regardless of whether they are maintained electronically or in paper form.

(4) (A) “Near fatality” has the same meaning as defined in Section 5106a of Title 42 of the United States Code under the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act.

(B) Abuse or neglect is deemed to have resulted in a child’s near fatality if either of the following conditions is met:

(i) A law enforcement investigation concludes that child abuse or neglect occurred.

(ii) A county child welfare services agency determines that the child abuse or neglect was substantiated.

(5) “Substantiated” has the same meaning as that term is used with respect to a substantiated report as defined in Section 11165.12 of the Penal Code.

(m) A person disclosing juvenile case file information as required by this section shall not be subject to liability in any civil or criminal proceeding for complying with the requirements of this section.

(n) This section shall apply only to near fatalities that occur on or after January 1, 2017.

(o) This section does not require a custodian of records to retain documents beyond any date otherwise required by law.

(p) This section does not require a custodian of records to obtain documents not in the case file.

(q) This section does not authorize the disclosure of information that reveals the identity of a person or persons who provided information related to suspected abuse, neglect, or maltreatment of a child.

(r) 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), until regulations are filed with the Secretary of State, the State Department of Social Services may implement this section through all-county letters or similar instructions following consultation with stakeholders. This consultation shall commence no later than October 1, 2016, and shall include, but not be limited to, the following stakeholders: child welfare advocates, representatives of organizations that have filed requests pursuant to Section 10850.4, advocates for foster youth, labor organizations, representatives of counties, and legislative staff. Rulemaking to implement this section pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act shall commence no later than January 1, 2018, and shall be concluded as soon as practicable.

(Added by Stats. 2016, Ch. 320, Sec. 4. (AB 1625) Effective September 13, 2016.)