BILL ANALYSIS Ó Senate Appropriations Committee Fiscal Summary Senator Kevin de León, Chair SB 342 (Yee) - Foster children: social worker visits. Amended: As Introduced Policy Vote: Human Services 6-0 Urgency: No Mandate: Yes (See Staff Comments) Hearing Date: May 23, 2013 Consultant: Jolie Onodera SUSPENSE FILE. AS PROPOSED TO BE AMENDED. Bill Summary: SB 342 would require mandated visits by county caseworkers to occur in the group home or foster home of the child. This bill would additionally require county caseworkers to advise the foster child that he or she has the right to request a private discussion outside of the group home or foster home. That private discussion would not replace the mandated visit in the group home or foster home. Fiscal Impact: Potential increased annual state costs (non-reimbursable) of an unknown, but potentially significant amount to the extent the provisions of this bill result in an extended amount of time per visit for certain cases than otherwise would occur under existing law. For every 10 percent of visits that currently occur outside the home (24 percent), which equates to 2.4 percent of total visits, 30 minutes of additional time could result in costs of approximately $475,000 per year. Background: Existing federal law pursuant to the Child and Family Services Improvement Act of 2006 (Public Law (P.L.) 109-288) requires that foster children be visited at least on a monthly basis. In order to avoid federal penalties for non-compliance, at least 90 percent of foster children must be visited each month, and the majority of the child's monthly visits must occur in the home. The Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-34) mandates that by 2015, at least 95 percent of children in foster care under the jurisdiction of the court must be visited monthly. Current state law requires all foster children placed in group homes by county human services departments or county probation departments to be visited at least monthly by a county social worker or probation officer. Each visit must include a private SB 342 (Yee) Page 1 discussion between the foster child and the county social worker or probation officer, and the discussion is not to be held in the presence or immediate vicinity of the group home staff. Similarly, when a county social worker or probation officer makes a regular visit with a child in any licensed, certified, or approved foster home, the visit must include a private discussion between the foster child and the caseworker, and the discussion may not be held in the presence or immediate vicinity of the foster parent or caregiver. Consistent with federal law, current state regulations do not mandate that each case worker visit must be made in the home of the child, but instead require the majority of caseworker visits with the child to take place in the child's residence. According to recent data from the Department of Social Services (DSS), approximately 24 percent of required monthly visits do not occur at the foster home or group home where the youth resides. Proposed Law: This bill: Requires the mandatory monthly caseworker visits of foster children placed in group homes or licensed, certified, or approved foster homes, to occur in the group home or foster home, respectively. Requires the caseworker to advise the foster child of his or her right to request the private discussion occur separately, outside the group home or foster home. Provides that this private discussion shall not replace the visit in the group home or foster home. Staff Comments: By requiring each monthly visit to a foster youth to occur in the home, and to require caseworkers to advise foster youth of their right to request a private discussion outside the home that would not replace the in-home visit, this bill could result in increased annual costs related to an increase in the number of caseworker visits or extended time spent per visit by caseworkers to accommodate the private discussion outside the home. It is estimated that 24 percent of monthly visits to foster youth currently occur outside the group home or foster home (i.e., at schools or restaurants). It is unknown how many visits that currently occur outside the home would continue to hold a visit outside the home in addition to the requirement to conduct a monthly in-home visit. For every 10 percent of total monthly visits currently conducted outside the SB 342 (Yee) Page 2 home, which would equate to about two percent of total annual visits, extending the visit for 30 minutes or conducting a separate visit could result in increased annual costs of $475,000 to $2 million per year. This estimate does not assume monthly visits that currently take place in the home (76 percent) would be impacted by the new requirements. Prior to Fiscal Year (FY) 2011-12, the state and counties contributed to the non-federal share of child welfare services expenditures. AB 118 (Committee on Budget) Chapter 40/2011 and ABX1 16 Chapter 13/2011 realigned state funding to the counties through the Local Revenue Fund (LRF) for various programs, including child welfare services. As a result, beginning in FY 2011-12 and for each fiscal year thereafter, non-federal funding and expenditures for child welfare services activities including monthly visits to foster youth are funded through the LRF. Proposition 30, passed by the voters in November 2012, among other provisions, eliminated any potential mandate funding liability for any new program or higher level of service provided by counties related to the realigned programs. Although the provisions of this bill are a mandate on local agencies, any increased costs would not appear to be subject to reimbursement by the state. Rather, Proposition 30 specifies that for legislation enacted after September 30, 2012, that has an overall effect of increasing the costs already borne by a local agency for realigned programs, the provisions shall apply to local agencies only to the extent that the state provides annual funding for the cost increase. Author amendments clarify that not more than one visit is required per month.