BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ķ



                                                                  AB 709
                                                                  Page  1

          Date of Hearing:   March 30, 2011

                           ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION
                                Julia Brownley, Chair
                   AB 709 (Brownley) - As Amended:  March 23, 2011
           
          SUBJECT  :   Foster children: school placement 

           SUMMARY  :  Clarifies that children in foster care who change 
          schools have the right to be enrolled in their new school 
          immediately even if they are unable to produce medical records 
          including immunization records at the time of enrollment.  
          Specifically,  this bill  :  Adds a section to the Health and 
          Safety Code (HSC) to conform to Education Code provisions 
          requiring school districts to enroll a foster child in school 
          even if he or she is missing immunization records.  

           EXISTING LAW  :

          1)Allows a child or youth to remain in his or her school of 
            origin for the duration of the jurisdiction of the court when 
            his or her residential placement changes and when remaining in 
            the same school is in the child's best interest.

          2)Requires schools to immediately enroll a foster child even if 
            he or she has outstanding fees, fines, textbooks, or other 
            items to the school of last attendance or if the child is 
            unable to produce records or clothing required for enrollment, 
            including medical or academic records, proof of residency, or 
            school uniforms.  

          3)Requires the governing authority of each school to require 
            documentary proof of each pupil's immunization status, and 
            specifies that the governing authority shall record the 
            immunizations of each new pupil in the pupil's permanent 
            enrollment and scholarship record on a form provided by the 
            Department of Health Services (DHS). 

          4)Requires the immunization record of each new pupil admitted 
            conditionally to be reviewed periodically by the governing 
            authority to ensure that within the time periods designated by 
            regulation of the DHS he or she has been fully immunized 
            against all of the diseases specified, and immunizations 
            received subsequent to entry shall be added to the pupil's 
            immunization record.








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           FISCAL EFFECT  :  According to the Legislative Counsel, this bill 
          is non-fiscal. 

           COMMENTS  :  This bill seeks to clarify and conform the Education 
          Code and the HSC relative to immunization records required for 
          enrollment in school, particularly as they relate to children 
          and youth in foster care.  

           Background and need for the bill :  Children and youth in foster 
          care face many challenges to their educational success.  Those 
          challenges come from both the circumstances that caused them to 
          be in foster care -abuse and/or neglect -and the realities of 
          being in foster care.  One of those realities is that, although 
          efforts are made to provide stable home and school environments 
          for foster children and youth, far too many of them experience 
          numerous changes in where they live, and unfortunately those 
          changes at times necessitate a change of schools.  

          Recent state and federal laws have recognized the importance of 
          school stability for children and youth in foster care.  Several 
          provisions of the federal Fostering Connections Act of 2008 
          promote educational stability and require state child welfare 
          agencies to coordinate with schools to ensure a child does not 
          change schools when entering foster care or when a change in 
          placement occurs, unless remaining in the original school is not 
          in the child's best interest.  Additionally, in an effort to 
          reduce the disruption of changing schools, AB 490 (Steinberg), 
          Chapter 862, Statutes of 2003, and AB 1933 (Brownley), Chapter 
          563, Statutes of 2010, allow foster children and youth to remain 
          in their original school and school feeder pattern as long as it 
          is in their best interest to do so.  If it is in child's best 
          interest to change schools, current Education Code provisions 
          require that foster children and youth be immediately enrolled 
          in their new school even if they are unable to meet some of the 
          enrollment requirements imposed by a school district, including 
          immunization records. 

          However, provisions in the HSC and the implementing regulations 
          stipulate that all school districts shall require documentary 
          proof of each pupil's immunization status, and prohibit a school 
          from allowing the admission of any pupil who does not meet the 
          requirements for admission stipulated in the regulations.  The 
          HSC and regulations allow for an exemption for a pupil that 
          submits an affidavit stating that the immunizations are contrary 








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          to the pupil's beliefs or for a pupil whose parent submits a 
          statement from a physician indicating that a particular 
          immunization is not considered safe for the child.  However, the 
          regulations do not mention the existing allowable exemption for 
          pupils in foster care whose records are missing or cannot be 
          produced, as stipulated in the Education Code.  It has been 
          suggested that the inconsistencies between the two different 
          Codes have led to confusion in the field relative to the 
          application of these laws, and children in foster care continue 
          to encounter barriers to enrollment when their immunization 
          records are missing.  The Foster Youth Services 2010 report 
          notes that the incomplete or untimely transfer of health and 
          education records continues to present challenges for foster 
          youth.  

          This bill will clarify within the Education Code that the 
          missing medical records that foster youth can enroll in school 
          without, include immunization records.  Additionally this bill 
          adds a section in the HSC that conforms to the Education Code 
          provisions specifying that if a child or youth in foster care is 
          missing her or her immunization records, the school district 
          shall allow the child to enroll in school.  This bill seeks to 
          reconcile the two codes and thus remove any unnecessary barriers 
          and delays children and youth in foster care encounter to enroll 
          in school.  

           Suggested technical amendments :  The bill clarifies within 
          existing Education Code provisions that medical records include 
          "records or other proof of immunization history."  In order to 
          ensure this provision is not interpreted to mean that only 
          immunization records are covered by this term, staff recommends 
          the following technical amendment:

           On page 4, line 13, after "including" insert, "but not limited 
                                        to."

          In order to provide consistency with the Education Code 
          regarding the definition of a "foster child," the HSC language 
          in this bill should include a cross reference to the definition 
          of "foster child" in Education Code Section 48853.5.  Staff 
          recommends the following amendment:

               On page 5, line 22, after "child" insert "as defined in 
             subdivision (a) of Section 48853.5 of the Education Code."
           Additional amendment  :  The author wishes to make an amendment to 








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          add uncodified intent language as follows:

          It is the intent of the Legislature that a foster child be 
          immediately enrolled in school, even if he or she is unable to 
          produce records normally required for school attendance.  The 
          intent of this bill is to reconcile the Health and Safety Code 
          with the Education Code. 

           Previous legislation  :  AB 490 (Steinberg), Chapter 862, Statutes 
          of 2003, created new duties and rights related to the education 
          of dependents and wards in foster care, including giving foster 
          youth the right to remain in their school of origin for the 
          duration of the school year when their residential placement 
          changes and remaining in the same school is in the child's best 
          interest.  

          AB 1933 (Brownley), Chapter 563, Statutes of 2010, requires a 
          local educational agency (LEA) to allow a child in foster care 
          to remain in his or her school of origin for the duration of the 
          court's jurisdiction including in the school feeder pattern as 
          long as it is in the child's best interest.

           REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION  :   

           Support 
           
          Advancement Project 
          California Communities United Institute 
          California Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Association
          California State Association of Counties 

           Opposition 
           
          None on file. 
          
          Analysis Prepared by  :    Marisol Aviņa / ED. / (916) 319-2087