BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                                  SENATE HUMAN
                               SERVICES COMMITTEE
                            Senator Carol Liu, Chair

          BILL NO:       AB 1905                                      
          AUTHOR:        Cook                                         
          VERSION:       March 17, 2010
          HEARING DATE:  June 10, 2010                                
          FISCAL:        Appropriations                               

                   Foster care: funding: placement approvals


          Requires the approval of an approved relative or  
          nonrelative extended family member foster care provider to  
          remain in force during the reapproval process.


          Existing federal law:
          1.Authorizes federal funding for state foster care programs  
            pursuant to Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, under  
            an approved state plan.

          2.Requires states to apply the same licensing standards to  
            all foster family homes receiving Title IV-E funding,  
            including relative and nonrelative caregiver homes.

          Existing state law:
          1.Provides for the establishment and support of a statewide  


          STAFF ANALYSIS OF ASSEMBLY BILL 1905 (Cook)           Page  


            child welfare system through the Department of Social  
            Services (DSS) and county welfare departments. 

          2.Sets forth standards for the licensure of foster family  
            homes and approval of relative and nonrelative extended  
            family member homes.  Exempts the homes of relative and  
            nonrelative extended family members, as defined, from  
            licensure.  Requires the licensing standards for foster  
            family homes to be used in the evaluation and approval  
            process for relative and nonrelative caregiver homes.

          3.Provides for the Aid to Families with Dependent  
            Children-Foster Care (AFDC-FC) program, which provides  
            for the funding of foster care placements through a  
            combination of federal, state, and county funds.   
            Provides for AFDC-FC payment to eligible children placed  
            in licensed or approved homes, as specified, including  
            the approved home of a relative or nonrelative extended  
            family member.

          4.Requires county departments of welfare, with oversight  
            from DSS, to evaluate and approve or deny the home a  
            relative or a nonrelative extended family member, for  
            purposes of AFDC-FC eligibility, immediately following  
            the placement of a child in the home.

          This bill:

          1.Requires an approval to remain in full force and effect  
            when an annual reassessment visit is pending for the home  
            of a relative or nonrelative extended family member.

          2.Requires that payments to the relative or nonrelative  
            extended family member not be delayed or terminated  
            solely due to late completion in the annual reapproval  
            process, such as a late home visit or corrective action  

          3.Specifies that no appropriation shall be made pursuant to  
            specified law to implement these provisions.

                                  FISCAL IMPACT  

          According to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, no  


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          significant costs are associated with this legislation.   
          The committee analysis notes that eliminating the need for  
          county social workers to temporarily shift relative  
          caregivers from the federal foster care program to a  
          state-only program could result in some administrative  
          savings for the counties.

                            BACKGROUND AND DISCUSSION  

          Author's statement
          The author states that, for the purposes of receiving  
          federal payments for foster care and adoption assistance  
          (under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act), California  
          currently exceeds federal requirements for annual  
          reassessments of relative caregivers.  The author points  
          out that state law does not require annual renewals of  
          foster family homes, but does require annual reassessments  
          of relative homes, while the federal IV-E requirement  
          mandates the same standards for these homes.  The author  
          also points out that the state additionally requires  
          federal and state funding to be terminated when an annual  
          reassessment is not completed on time, while nothing in  
          federal law prohibits continued payment to a foster  
          provider once the provider is initially licensed and  
          approved to provide care.  The author states that, due to  
          high workloads at the local level, counties struggle to  
          complete these annual reassessments on time, and both the  
          state and counties lose federal funding.

          Additionally, the author notes that when this funding is  
          lost, payments for foster children are made from CalWORKs,  
          which creates additional workloads for the county, a  
          significant reduction in payment amount to the caregivers,  
          and the risk of placement disruption. The author points to  
          the recently concluded federal IV-E eligibility audit of  
          2009, which cited cases in error when the state failed to  
          stop AFDC-FC payments for a late relative reassessment.   
          The author argues that these errors, fiscal repayments, and  
          the subsequent performance improvement plan could have been  
          avoided if the state did not itself require that IV-E  
          payments cease when reassessments are late.

           Higgins v. Saenz (CPF-02-501937 (Cal. Supr. Crt., Los  
          Angeles County, Oct. 24, 2002)) 
           In 2002, the Youth Law Center filed a lawsuit, alleging the  


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          Department of Social Services had not provided adequate  
          oversight of the approval process for relative homes.  The  
          suit charged that some children were living in substandard  
          and dangerous conditions because of the state's failure to  
          require counties to investigate fully relative homes and to  
          provide assistance to relatives in meeting licensing  
          requirements. According to the National Center for Youth  
          Law, the settlement, which was filed October 31, 2002,  
          required uniform, statewide standards for foster parents  
          who are related to the children in their custody.  It also  
          called for audits and required counties to help unqualified  
          relatives meet the standards, rather than simply  
          discounting such relatives or removing the children from  

           As part of the Higgins v. Saenz settlement, DSS issued  
          several all county letters, implementing the relative  
          approval monitoring process.  As part of its instruction,  
          DSS required counties to perform an initial assessment of  
          relative caregiver homes, followed by annual reassessments  
          for all relative caregivers (which were stated in the  
          Higgins settlement).  DSS has also required that AFDC-FC  
          payments to relative caregivers be terminated if the annual  
          reassessment is not completed within one year of the  
          initial approval.  
           Arguments in support
          The sponsor of this bill, the County of San Bernardino,  
          writes that it currently has approximately 1,500 children  
          placed with relatives, and, due to the reduction in its  
          child welfare service allocation, processing the annual  
          reassessment in a timely fashion has become an extremely  
          daunting task.  San Bernardino County states that, under  
          state regulations, the federal funding for these placements  
          stop, resulting often in an "overpayment" to that home for  
          the month the home was not deemed in compliance; for any  
          overpayment to a relative caregiver, the state must re-pay  
          the federal government its share and cannot recoup these  
          costs from either foster parents or counties based on  
          current law.

          The California State Association of Counties (CSAC) writes  
          that the loss of these benefits ultimately harms the foster  
          children in these homes and may cause a disruption in  
          placement.  CSAC believes the bill will provide an  


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          economical way to streamline the continuation of critical  
          funding for foster children residing with relative  
          caregivers, and will help to conserve scarce state and  
          county dollars and staff time.  The County Welfare  
          Directors Association states that the bill will eliminate  
          the state penalizing itself for a requirement that does not  
          exist in federal law.

          Supporters argue that DSS effectively applies a higher  
          standard to the approval process for relative caregiver  
          homes, as only a portion of licensed nonrelative foster  
          family homes are reassessed on an annual basis; and  
          moreover, federal law does not prohibit continued payment  
          to a foster care provider once the provider is initially  
          licensed and approved to provide care, and such payments to  
          licensed homes are not terminated under the same  

          Related/prior legislation
          AB 1695 (Assembly Committee on Human Services) Chapter 653,  
          Statutes of 2001, conformed state law with the federal  
          Adoptions and Safe Families regulations requiring the same  
          standards for licensing and approving foster family homes,  
          and established the nonrelative extended family member  

          AB 2773 (Aroner) Chapter 1056, Statutes of 1998, conformed  
          state law to the federal Adoptions and Safe Families Act  
          (PL 105-89).  The federal act required several changes  
          intended to prevent delays in the decision by county child  
          welfare agencies to begin to seek a permanent home for  
          dependents other than with the child's natural parents.

          AB 1544 (Assembly Committee on Human Services) Chapter 793,  
          Statutes of 1997, established the priority of placing  
          foster children with relative caregivers and set forth  
          requirements for relative placements.
                                   PRIOR VOTES

          Assembly Floor:     74 - 0
          Assembly Appropriations:15 - 0
          Assembly Human Services:  6 - 0


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          Support:  County of San Bernardino (sponsor)
                    California State Association of Counties
                    Chief Probation Officers of California
                    County Welfare Directors Association of  
                    National Association of Social Workers

          Oppose:None received

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