BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    ”






                             SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE
                             Senator Noreen Evans, Chair
                              2011-2012 Regular Session


          AB 791 (Ammiano)
          As Amended March 30, 2011
          Hearing Date: June 7, 2011
          Fiscal: No
          Urgency: No
          EDO  
                    

                                        SUBJECT
                                           
                       Dependent Children: Birth Certificates

                                     DESCRIPTION  

          This bill would require the court, when denying or terminating 
          reunification services with a parent or guardian, to order that 
          a dependent child's caregiver be provided with the child's birth 
          certificate, or, when appropriate, if the child is 16 years of 
          age or older, that the child receive his or her birth 
          certificate.

                                      BACKGROUND  

          There are over 75,000 children in foster care in California, and 
          each year approximately 5,000 youth emancipate from foster care, 
          which is by far the largest number of any state in the union.  
          Over the past ten years, according to data from the state's 
          Child Welfare Services/Case Management System, managed by the 
          Center for Social Services Research at the University of 
          California, Berkeley, about 52,000 Californians have emancipated 
          from foster care (from 3,974 in 1998-99 to 5,387 in 2008-09).  
          (See Foster Care in California, Public Policy Institute of 
          California, 2010.)

          In 2000, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed, AB 686 
          (Aroner, Chapter 911, Statutes of 2000) which required the 
          county welfare department, prior to the dependency court's 
          termination of jurisdiction over a child who has reached the age 
          of 18, to submit a report verifying that specified documents, 
          including the child's birth certificate, have been provided to 
          the child.  
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          SB 591 (Scott, Chapter 812, Statutes of 2003) among other 
          things, required that a child placement agency provide a 
          caregiver with relevant identifying information that the 
          caregiver may need in order to provide the necessary care for a 
          foster child.  Specifically, SB 591 required that a caregiver be 
          provided with personal information indicating the child's age, 
          which would include the child's birth certificate.  In 2008, AB 
          2310 (Maze, Chapter 131, Statutes of 2008) required that the 
          county welfare department provide emancipating youth with 
          specified documents before the court terminates jurisdiction 
          over the child, including the youth's birth certificate. 

          This bill would provide a specific process for the court to 
          follow in order for the child or the child's caregiver to 
          receive the child's birth certificate more expediently. 
          Specifically, this bill would require the court, when denying or 
          terminating reunification services to order that the child or 
          the child's caregiver, depending on the child's age and other 
          factors, receive the child's birth certificate. 

                                CHANGES TO EXISTING LAW
           
           Existing law  provides that a child may be removed from his or 
          her parent's custody on the basis of abuse or neglect and 
          adjudged a dependent of the court.  (Welf. & Inst. Code Sec. 
          300.)

           Existing law  provides that it is the intent of the Legislature 
          that caregivers are provided with basic information about the 
          children placed in their care in order to provide for the 
          child's basic educational and health-related needs, including, 
          the child's birth certificate.  (Welf. & Inst. Code Sec. 
          16010.4.)

           Existing law provides that a placing agency must provide a 
          caregiver a copy of the child's birth certificate within 30 days 
          of receiving a copy of the birth certificate. (Welf. & Inst. 
          Code Sec. 16010.5.)

           Existing law  provides that children and families in the child 
          welfare system should receive a specified amount of time of 
          reunification services.  Existing law provides that the court 
          consider several factors when determining whether reunification 
          services will benefit the child. (Welf. & Inst. Code Sec. 
          361.5.)
                                                                      



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           Existing law  provides that when the court orders that a 
          termination of parental rights hearing be held, the court must 
          also order the termination of reunification services to the 
          parent or legal guardian.  (Welf. & Inst. Code Sec. 366.21.) 

           This bill  would require the court when ordering termination or 
          denial of reunification services to also order that the child's 
          caregiver receive the child's birth certificate in accordance 
          with existing laws.  

           This bill  would also require the court when ordering that 
          reunification services be denied or terminated to order, when 
          appropriate, that a child who is 16 years of age or older 
          receive his or her birth certificate. 
          




          
                                        COMMENT
           
          1.  Stated need for the bill  
          
          The author writes:
          
            ›This bill] clarifies existing law by initiating the process 
            of obtaining and providing a foster youth's birth certificate 
            when the court denies the order for reunification services or 
            orders the termination of reunification services for a foster 
            youth.  Caregivers will be the recipients of the birth 
            certificate and the youth shall receive his or her birth 
            certificate if he or she is 16 years of age or older.  
            Ensuring the birth certificate is received in a time 
            appropriate manner allows the social worker, caregiver and 
            youth enough time to engage in the process for correcting 
            inaccuracies on the birth certificate. 

            Many youth age out of the child welfare system and are not 
            provided with their correct and certified birth certificate.  
            Additionally, while in the child welfare system, caregivers of 
            foster youth are not being provided copies of birth 
            certificates, not only making it difficult to sign foster 
            youth up for educational and extracurricular activities, but 
            also making it difficult to correct missing information or 
                                                                      



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            inaccuracies on the birth certificate before the youth ages 
            out of care. 

            Some foster youth are aging out of the system with inaccurate 
            or missing information on their birth certificates.  Even 
            worse, some youth are aging out of the system without having a 
            birth certificate at all.  Despite law mandating otherwise, 
            many foster youth and their caregivers find themselves in this 
            situation far too many times. 

            Although the law says that caregivers and youth should and 
            must be provided a copy of their birth certificate, further 
            clarification is needed as to when and who is responsible for 
            obtaining the birth certificate.  ›This bill] provides this 
            clarification. 
          
          2.  This bill would help dependent youth receive their birth 
            certificates  

          Existing law provides that it is the intent of the Legislature 
          that caregivers of foster youth are provided with certain 
          identifying information, within a specified period of time, in 
          order to provide proper care for the child.  This care includes 
          enrolling the child in school and extracurricular activities, 
          and obtaining social and health services, thus needing to know 
          the child's age.  This bill would clarify existing law by 
          initiating the process for a child or his or her caregiver to 
          receive the child's birth certificate when the court denies or 
          terminates reunification services.   

          Although existing law already requires that a child or his or 
          her caregiver be provided with the child's birth certificate, 
          there are still instances when the child has not received his or 
          her birth certificate or the birth certificate contains 
          inaccurate or incomplete information.  In support of this bill, 
          the California Youth Connection writes "many youth age out of 
          the child welfare system and are not provided with their correct 
          and certified birth certificate.  Additionally, while in the 
          child welfare system, caregivers of foster youth are not being 
          provided copies of birth certificates, not only making it 
          difficult to sign foster youth up for educational and 
          extracurricular activities, but also making it difficult to 
          correct missing information or inaccuracies on the birth 
          certificate before the youth ages out."   Requiring the courts 
          to order that the birth certificate be provided to caregivers at 
          the same time the court denies or terminates reunification 
                                                                      



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          services should expedite the process leading to more efficient 
          access to the child's birth certificate.  

          The Human Rights Watch conducted a study of the California 
          foster care system, titled "My So-Called Emancipation" which 
          found that "90 percent of those emancipated young adults have no 
          source of income; 65 percent don't have a high school diploma; 
          and 20 percent or more become homeless."  As noted by The 
          Defenders Online, a civil rights blog, "the lack of proper 
          identification is a huge obstacle to obtaining a job or renting 
          an apartment."  (  http://www.thedefendersonline.com  No Birth 
          records=Tough Road Ahead When Aging Out of Foster Care, February 
          23, 2011.)  This bill seeks to remedy this problem by requiring 
          the court to order that a child or his or her caregiver receive 
          the child's birth certificate in a more timely manner.  The 
          California Youth Connection write in support that, "this is an 
          important and timely piece of legislation that clarifies 
          existing law by initiating the process of obtaining and 
          providing a foster youth's birth certificate when the court 
          denies the order for reunification services or orders the 
          termination of reunification services for a foster youth."   

          3.  Denying reunification services  

          Under existing law, the court must consider several factors when 
          determining whether to deny an order for reunification services. 
            While this process is separate and distinct from terminating 
          parental rights, it is still a significant decision issued by 
          the court.  At this point in the process, the court has 
          determined that reunification services will not benefit the 
          child.   Depending on the age of the child, this could mean that 
          he or she may never be reunified with his or her parents.  Since 
          the child will be placed with another guardian, it would be more 
          expedient to provide the child or his or her caregiver with the 
          child's birth certificate.  This bill would require the court, 
          if denying reunification services, to also order that the 
          child's caregiver receive the child's birth certificate.  Or, if 
          the child is 16 or older, to order that the child receive his or 
          her birth certificate, when appropriate. 

          4.  Terminating reunification services pursuant to the court 
            ordering a hearing to terminate parental rights
           
          Under existing law, when the court orders a hearing to terminate 
          parental rights, the court also orders that reunification 
          services must be terminated.  This bill would require the 
                                                                      



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          courts, when terminating reunification services pursuant to an 
          order for a hearing to terminate parental rights, to also order 
          that the child's caregiver receive the child's birth 
          certificate.  If the child is 16 years of age or older, then the 
          court must order that the child receive his or her birth 
          certificate, when appropriate.  

          5.  This bill would not address situations when a child was never 
            issued a birth certificate  

          This bill would clarify existing law by providing a more 
          specific procedure for when a foster child receives his or her 
          birth certificate.  However, this bill does not address 
          situations when a child is born, yet is never issued a birth 
          certificate. While this is a rare situation, it has occurred.  


           Support  :  California Youth Connection

           Opposition  :  None Known

                                        HISTORY
           
           Source  :  Author

           Related Pending Legislation  :  None Known

           Prior Legislation  :

          AB 2310 (Maze, Chapter 131, Statutes of 2008) (See Background.)

          SB 591 (Scott, Chapter 812, Statutes of 2003) (See Background.)

          AB 686 (Aroner, Chapter 911, Statutes of 2000) (See Background.)

           Prior Vote  :

          Assembly Floor (Ayes 77, Noes 0)
          Assembly Committee on Judiciary (Ayes 10, Noes 0)

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