Code Section Group

Welfare and Institutions Code - WIC

DIVISION 9. PUBLIC SOCIAL SERVICES [10000 - 18999.82]

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

PART 4. SERVICES FOR THE CARE OF CHILDREN [16000 - 16545]

  ( Heading of Part 4 amended by Stats. 1978, Ch. 429. )

CHAPTER 2.5. Foster Child Ombudsman Program [16160 - 16167]
  ( Chapter 2.5 added by Stats. 1998, Ch. 311, Sec. 66. )

16160.
  

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 child care ombudsperson program pursuant to Section 1596.872a of the Health and Safety Code. It is the intent of the Legislature to provide similar protections for foster children by establishing a foster care ombudsperson program within the State Department of Social Services.

(Added by Stats. 1998, Ch. 311, Sec. 66. Effective August 19, 1998.)

16161.
  

The Office of the State Foster Care Ombudsperson shall be established as an autonomous entity within the department for the purpose of providing children who are placed in foster care, either voluntarily or pursuant to Section 300 and Sections 600 and following, with a means to resolve issues related to their care, placement, or services.

(Added by Stats. 1998, Ch. 311, Sec. 66. Effective August 19, 1998.)

16162.
  

The director, in consultation with a committee of interested individuals, shall appoint an ombudsperson qualified by training and experience to perform the duties of the office for a term of four years. The director may reappoint the ombudsperson for consecutive terms. The director shall select the committee members, the majority of whom shall be representatives of children’s advocacy organizations and current or former foster youth.

(Amended by Stats. 2002, Ch. 1160, Sec. 2. Effective January 1, 2003.)

16163.
  

The department shall hire the necessary personnel to perform the functions of the office. Priority shall be given to former foster youth in hiring decisions.

(Added by Stats. 1998, Ch. 311, Sec. 66. Effective August 19, 1998.)

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.

(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).

(Amended by Stats. 2019, Ch. 416, Sec. 4. (AB 175) Effective January 1, 2020.)

16165.
  

In his or her efforts to resolve complaints related to foster care, the ombudsperson may do all of the following:

(a) Conduct whatever investigation he or she deems necessary.

(b) Attempt to resolve the complaint informally.

(c) Submit a written plan to the relevant state or county agency recommending a course of action to resolve the complaint. If the ombudsperson makes a written recommendation, the state or county agency shall submit a written response to the ombudsperson within 30 business days.

(Added by Stats. 1998, Ch. 311, Sec. 66. Effective August 19, 1998.)

16167.
  

(a) A toll-free number shall be established for the office.

(b) Social workers shall provide foster children with the toll-free number for the office and verbal or written information regarding the existence and purpose of the office.

(Added by Stats. 1998, Ch. 311, Sec. 66. Effective August 19, 1998.)

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