BILL ANALYSIS Senate Appropriations Committee Fiscal Summary Senator Christine Kehoe, Chair 1048 (Torrico) Hearing Date: 08/17/2009 Amended: 07/16/2009 Consultant: Jacqueline Wong-HernandezPolicy Vote: Judiciary 4-1 _________________________________________________________________ ____ BILL SUMMARY: AB 1048 extends the period during which a person may safely surrender a baby at designated sites as long as the proper procedures under the existing Safely Surrendered Baby law are followed. Specifically, this bill: 1) Allows the safe surrender of a baby up to 30 days old, (rather than 72 hours). 2) Permits a fire agency to designate a safe surrender site, upon approval of the appropriate local governing body. 3) Immunizes a safe surrender site from liability for a surrendered child prior to taking actual physical custody of the child, or prior to the time the surrender site or its personnel knows, or should know, that the child has been surrendered. 4) Require the Department of Social Services (DSS) to report specified information to the Legislature by January 1, 2013. _________________________________________________________________ ____ Fiscal Impact (in thousands) Major Provisions 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 Fund Authorizes new sites $0 $0 $0 General Expands safe surrender eligibility Unknown, likely very minor new costs Local* Expands mandate on CPS Unknown, likely very minor** General Requires new DSS report $16 $32 General *These costs are not reimbursable **Potentially reimbursable state mandate on county child protective services (CPS) _________________________________________________________________ ____ STAFF COMMENTS: This bill may meet the criteria for referral to the Suspense File. A safe surrender site is a designated place at which, up to 72 hours after being born, a baby may be surrendered anonymously and without legal ramifications. The intent of creating safe surrender sites is to avoid the abandonment of babies in places where they may not be found and/or may suffer harm. Existing law requires that every hospital in the state of California, both private and public, designate a safe surrender site on its premises. Because this mandate applies equally to county (public) and private hospitals, it is not eligible for reimbursement by the state. This bill allows a local fire agency to also designate a safe surrender site, with approval of the appropriate local governing body of the agency, but does not require any new sites. These sites, if designated by local governing bodies, would be subject to the Page 2 AB 1048 (Torrico) same intake procedures as existing hospital safe surrender sites, as well as the same notification requirements to local CPS agencies. This bill increases the amount of time during which a baby is eligible to be surrendered at a safe surrender site. Existing law allows for surrender in the first 72 hours after birth. Under this existing law, 280 babies have been surrendered statewide in the past 8 years. During this same time period, 149 babies were found alive, illegally abandoned. Increasing the length of eligibility to 30 days will likely result in some increase of surrendered babies, but it is not clear to what extent. Babies older than 72 hours can be put up for adoption or otherwise turned over to local CPS agencies, and it is not possible to determine how many babies would have remained in their homes (instead of being turned over in another way), who will now be surrendered at a safe surrender site. It is likely that the same children will enter the child welfare system, but through different avenues. Local CPS agencies are, under existing law, required to respond to a notification that a baby was surrendered at a safe surrender site within its jurisdiction. To the extent that this bill results in additional surrenders, CPS would have to respond to those cases. Research suggests that a baby is most likely to be abandoned in the first 7 days, which is an increase of approximately double the current time allowed.* Considering the limited number of children surrendered currently, approximately 35 per year, doubling the amount of time may result in doubling the number of abandoned babies, which is still a very small number relative to CPS caseloads. If this bill resulted in 70 babies surrendered annually, from up to 56 counties (Alpine and Sierra counties do not have safe surrender sites), it is unlikely the $1,000 threshold for a reimbursable mandate will be met by more than a few counties. This bill requires DSS to report the effects of this bill to the Legislature by January 1, 2013. The report must include: (a) The number of children one year of age or younger who are found abandoned, dead or alive; (b) the number of infants surrendered pursuant to this act, with their approximate age; (c) the number of medical history questionnaires completed in those cases; (d) the number of instances in which a parent or other person having lawful custody seeks to reclaim custody of a surrendered child, both during and after the initial period following surrender, and the outcome; (e) whether a person seeking to reclaim custody is the individual who surrendered the child; (f) the number of children surrendered pursuant to this act who show signs of neglect or abuse and the disposition of those cases; (g) the number of parents or legal guardians eventually located and contacted by social workers. *There is very limited evidence of the likelihood of abandonment at a safe surrender site between the 7th and 30th day after a baby's birth. The author's office has indicated that post-partum depression most often sets in during the first 30 days after the birth. This can result in psychotic episodes and pose a great danger to the child. It is, however, unclear if a mother suffering from post-partum depression is more likely to abandon her child at a safe surrender site because of the provisions of this bill. There are numerous variables in behavior, and options for individual mothers. Page 3 AB 1048 (Torrico) The topic areas required for inclusion in the specified report will require additional information to be gathered and tracked by DSS, which it does not currently aggregate. Because of the small number of surrenders in a given year, the information required to be compiled and reported will be limited. The estimated cost to DSS, identified on Page 1, reflects PY in additional workload.