BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    






                                  SENATE HUMAN
                               SERVICES COMMITTEE
                          Senator Leland Y. Yee, Chair


          BILL NO:       SB 342                                       
          S
          AUTHOR:        Yee                                          
          B
          VERSION:       February 20, 2013
          HEARING DATE:  4/9/13                                       
          3
          FISCAL:        Appropriations                               
          4
                                                                      
          2
          CONSULTANT:    Sara Rogers
                                        

                                     SUBJECT
                                         
                       Foster Children: caseworker visits

                                     SUMMARY  

          This bill requires that statutorily mandated visits by  
          county caseworkers occur in the home residence of the  
          foster child. Additionally, requires the county caseworker  
          to advise the foster child that he or she has the right to  
          request that a private discussion occur outside the group  
          home or foster home that shall not replace the in home  
          visit.

                                     ABSTRACT  

           Existing Federal Law

           1.Pursuant to the Child and Family Services Improvement Act  
            of 2006 (Public Law 109-288), enacts all of the  
            following:  


                a.     Requires that foster children be visited at  
                 least on a monthly basis.  


                                                         Continued---



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                b.     Requires, by October 1, 2011, at least 90% of  
                 children under the jurisdiction of the court be  
                 visited each month they are in foster care, to avoid  
                 penalty.  


                c.     Requires, by October 1, 2011, the majority of  
                 the child's monthly visits to occur in the home. 


                d.     Requires states to annually report the  
                 frequency of caseworker visits with foster children  
                 according to a specified methodology.  


                e.     Establishes enforcement standards and penalties  
                 for non-compliance including the potential loss of  
                 title IV-B subpart 1 funding.   


                f.     Permits states to define who a caseworker is  
                 for purposes of compliance with these requirements.   
                  


           2.Pursuant to the Child and Family Services Improvement and  
            Innovation Act of 2011 (Public Law 112-34) requires by  
            2015, at least 95% of children in foster care under the  
            jurisdiction of the court be visited each month they are  
            in foster care.  


          Existing State Law


           1.Requires the state, through the Department of Social  
            Services (DSS) and county welfare departments, to  
            establish and support a public system of child welfare  
            services to protect and promote the welfare of children.  
            (WIC 16500)


          2.Requires all foster children with an approved case plan  
            to be visited at least once per calendar month by their  
            caseworker except the caseworker may have less frequent  




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            visits, up to a minimum of once every six months, if  
            specified conditions are met. (CDSS MPP Div. 31-320.31  
            and 31-320.611)


          3.Requires all foster children placed in group homes to be  
            visited at least monthly by their caseworker and that  
            each visit include a private discussion between the child  
            and caseworker away from group home staff, unless the  
            caseworker believes disclosure is necessary to meet the  
            needs of the child. (WIC 1656.5)


          4.Requires the majority of caseworker visits with the child  
            to take place in the child's residence. (CDSS MPP Div.  
            31-320.4)


          5.Requires a caseworker to have contact with a foster  
            child's out of home care provider once per month and to  
            visit no less than once every six months, except as  
            specified. (CDSS 31-330)


          6.Defines caseworker to include a foster family social  
            worker from a foster family agency, out of state social  
            worker, and probation officer in addition to county  
            social workers for the purpose of complying with  
            mandatory caseworker visits. (CDSS MPP Div.  
            31-002(v)(1)(A)). 


           This bill


           1.Requires the mandatory monthly caseworkers visits of  
            foster children placed in group homes to occur in the  
            group home.  


           2.Requires the mandatory caseworker visits of foster  
            children placed in any licensed, certified or approved  
            foster home to occur in the foster home.  






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           3.Requires the caseworker to advise the foster child of his  
            or her right to request their private discussion occur  
            separately, outside the group home or foster home.  


           4.Provides that this private discussion shall not replace  
            the visit in the group home or foster home.  
                                        
                                 FISCAL IMPACT  

          This bill has not been analyzed by a fiscal committee. 

                            BACKGROUND AND DISCUSSION  

           Purpose of the bill


           According to the author, caseworker visits are an essential  
          component of our child welfare system and are critical for  
          ensuring the safety of children placed in out-of-home care.  
          The author states that an important purpose of such visits  
          is to provide caseworkers with a consistent and recurring  
          opportunity to spend time with families, including the  
          child, and to forge relationships with the family that  
          support permanency and help the family meet the needs of  
          the child and the family as a whole. Thus, in-home  
          caseworker visits, which include opportunities to interact  
          with the larger family and to observe the home dynamic, are  
          critical for monitoring the child's emotional and physical  
          wellbeing.


          The author further cites an evaluation from the Office of  
          Inspector General within the federal Department of Health  
          and Human Services which evaluated state standards for the  
          content of caseworker visits of children in foster care and  
          which emphasized that "caseworker visits are not a friendly  
          visit or an opportunity to chat about how the kids are  
          doing," but should focus on substantive content and be  
          "focused on the child's safety and well-being as well as  
          permanency." (OEI-04-03-00351)


          Additionally, the author cites a recent report released by  
          the National Conference on State Legislatures which  




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          describes the role of the caseworker visit in "enabling  
          child welfare agencies to set boundaries; they are a  
          statement that child safety is the priority and that  
          caseworkers will monitor each child's circumstances and  
          hold adults accountable for their well-being." The report  
          stated:


            "Findings from the federal Child and Family Services  
            Reviews, which examine state child welfare agency  
            performance, have shown an association between a  
            positive rating on case worker visits and positive  
            ratings on other areas under review. The Children's  
            Bureau, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,  
            which administers the CFSRs believes that one of the  
            most important ways to promote positive outcomes for  
            children and families is to ensure the quality and  
            frequency of caseworker visits with the children and  
            their families in the agencies care." (NCSL. Child  
            Welfare Caseworker Visits with Children and Parents.  
            September 2006)


          According to the author and sponsor, recent data from the  
          DSS demonstrates that approximately 30 percent of required  
          social worker visits do not occur at the foster home or  
          group home where the child lives. This has resulted in  
          circumstances where a particular group home or foster home  
          was not visited by a case worker for an extended period of  
          time. The sponsor further states that costs associated with  
          this change will be minimal since most of the out-of-home  
          visits not in the child' currently occur at cafes or  
          schools which are close to where the child resides. 


          The Office of the Foster Care Ombudsman, which receives  
          complaints against foster homes and group homes, reports  
          that some group homes in California are not providing basic  
          needed services such as supervision, adequate food,  
          appropriate clothing, and adequate living conditions.  
          Complaints include inappropriate conditions at home such as  
          locked refrigerators and cupboards, mattresses on the  
          floor, or no doors on the bedrooms, and old damaged  
          furniture.  





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          The author states that this bill is essential to ensure the  
          safety and stability of the homes that have been entrusted  
          to care for our most vulnerable children.  

                                    POSITIONS  

          Support:       California Youth Connection (Sponsor)
                         Children's Law Center of California  
          (Sponsor)
                         Legal Advocates for Children and Youth  
                    (Sponsor)
                         Children's Advocacy Institute
                         Dependency Legal Group of San Diego
                         Junior Leagues of California
                         Juvenile Court Judges of California
                         National Association of Social Workers,  
                    California

          Oppose:   None received






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