BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    




                                                                  SB 342
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          SENATE THIRD READING
          SB 342 (Yee)
          As Amended  September 3, 2013
          Majority vote 

           SENATE VOTE  :39-0  
           
           HUMAN SERVICES      7-0         APPROPRIATIONS      17-0        
           
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          |Ayes:|Stone, Maienschein,       |Ayes:|Gatto, Harkey, Bigelow,   |
          |     |Ammiano,                  |     |Bocanegra, Bradford, Ian  |
          |     |Ian Calderon, Garcia,     |     |Calderon, Campos,         |
          |     |Grove, Dickinson          |     |Donnelly, Eggman, Gomez,  |
          |     |                          |     |Hall, Holden, Linder,     |
          |     |                          |     |Pan, Quirk, Wagner, Weber |
          |-----+--------------------------+-----+--------------------------|
          |     |                          |     |                          |
           ----------------------------------------------------------------- 
           SUMMARY  :  Allows a foster youth to request a private  
          conversation with his or her social worker or probation officer.  
           Specifically,  this bill  :

          1)Requires the monthly visit of a foster youth in a group home  
            by a social worker or probation officer to include a private  
            discussion with the foster youth and for the visit to occur in  
            the group home.

          2)Requires the visit of a foster youth in a foster home by a  
            social worker or probation officer to occur in the foster  
            home.

          3)Requires visits of a foster youth to comply with federal law,  
            as specified, providing that no more than two consecutive  
            visits may be held outside of the foster youth's residence.

          4)Requires the social worker or probation officer to document in  
            the case file and in the court report the location of the  
            visit, the reason for the visit, and whether the visit  
            occurred outside the foster youth's residence.

          5)Requires a social worker or probation officer to inform a  
            foster youth placed in a group home or foster home of their  
            right to have the private discussion either in or outside of  









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            the foster home or group home. 

          6)Requires a social worker or probation officer to hold a  
            private discussion with a foster youth outside of the foster  
            home or group home, if requested by the foster youth.

          7)Provides that a private discussion held with a foster youth  
            does not replace the obligation of the social worker or  
            probation officer to physically visit the foster home or group  
            home.

           FISCAL EFFECT  :  According to the Assembly Appropriations  
          Committee:  
          
          1)General Fund (GF) costs likely in excess of $500,000 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. 

          2)Proposition 30, passed by the voters in November 2012  
            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  
            do 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.  

           COMMENTS :

           Foster care visitation  :  The visitation of children in foster  
          care on a regular basis provides numerous benefits ranging from  
          ensuring the health and safety of a child to helping to either  
          reunify the child with his or her biological parents or family,  
          or take the appropriate steps towards permanency, through  
          adoption or guardianship.  It can also help to provide proactive  
          services that the child may need, including counseling,  
          educational support, mental health services, and other  
          supportive services that help to improve the child's quality of  
          life. 









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          Social worker and probation officer foster care visitation  
          requirements are established in state statute and the Department  
          of Social Services (DSS) Child Welfare Services (CWS) Manual of  
          Policies and Procedures (MPP).  Established pursuant to DSS'  
          general authority to "formulate, adopt, amend or repeal  
          regulations and general policies affecting the purposes,  
          responsibilities, and jurisdiction of the department and which  
          are consistent with the law and necessary for the administration  
          of public social services?"<1> the CWS MPP further specifies the  
          frequency by which a foster youth in a licensed, certified, or  
          approved foster home is visited. 

          Although group home visitation requirements are established in  
          statute, foster home visitations requirements are not.  Rather,  
          they are provided for in the CWS MPP, which requires foster  
          youth in foster homes to be visited once a month.  However,  
          unlike statute, the MPP permits exceptions for foster home  
          visits.  Specifically, it allows a social worker to have less  
          frequent visits, up to once every six months provided that the  
          following criteria are met:

          1)The child has no severe physical or emotional problems caused  
            or aggravated by the placement;

          2)The child has been in the same placement for at least six  
            months and the social worker has determined that the placement  
            is stable; and

          3)The child is visited once each calendar month by social worker  
            staff of a foster family agency pursuant to the child's case  
            plan and is documented and reported to the child's social  
            worker.

           Federal visitation requirements  :  In September 2011, the United  
          States Congress passed the federal Child and Family Services  
          Improvement and Innovation Act (P.L. 112-34), which amended part  
          of Title IV of the Social Security Act to extend the Child and  
          Family Services Program through federal fiscal year (FFY) 2016. 

          Among its many provisions, and in recognition of the positive  
          correlation between frequent caseworker visits and outcomes for  
          children, states are now required to take necessary steps to  



          ---------------------------
          <1> Section 10553(e) of the Welfare and Institutions Code.








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          ensure that caseworkers visit at least 90% of children in foster  
          care, rising to 95% for FFY 2015 and thereafter, each month.  It  
          also requires that the majority of a child's monthly visits  
          occur in the home.  If states fail to comply with these  
          requirements, they can face penalties for noncompliance, which  
          could include a reduction in federal funding. 

          According to the United States Department of Health and Human  
          Services Administration for Children and Families, California  
          has steadily increased the number of foster youth receiving  
          visits in the home, from 63% in 2008 to 74% in 2011.  However,  
          progress is still needed to not only ensure federal compliance,  
          but to help improve the lives of children in foster care. 

           Need for the bill  :  With the implementation of CWS realignment  
          from the state to counties, it has become increasingly important  
          to enhance state oversight, where necessary, to ensure  
          compliance with federal child welfare funding requirements and  
          to help meet federal outcome measures.  Additionally, with the  
          adoption of the federal Child and Family Services Improvement  
          and Innovation Act, which significantly increased foster home  
          and group home requirements, the state has needed to take  
          proactive steps in ensuring greater compliance. 

          According to the California Youth Connection, the sponsor of  
          this measure, recent data from DSS demonstrates that  
          approximately 30% 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.  Not only does this raise policy concerns that a  
          group home or foster home is not being visited as often as it  
          should, it also raises concerns that the state is not complying  
          with federal requirements.


           Analysis Prepared by  :    Chris Reefe / HUM. S. / (916) 319-2089 


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