BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                    AB 1702


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          Date of Hearing:   April 26, 2016


                        ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON HUMAN SERVICES


                                Susan Bonilla, Chair


          AB 1702  
          (Mark Stone) - As Amended March 16, 2016


          SUBJECT:  Juveniles:  dependent children:  reunification  
          services


          SUMMARY:  Expands the court's ability to deny reunification  
          services to the parent or guardian of a dependent child to  
          include instances in which the court finds, by clear and  
          convincing evidence, that the parent has participated in or  
          consented to the child's sexual exploitation, as specified.


          EXISTING LAW: 


          1)Establishes that the purpose of the dependency system is the  
            maximum safety and protection of children who are currently  
            being abused, neglected, or exploited.  Provides that the  
            focus is on the preservation of the family, as well as the  
            safety, protection, and physical and emotional well-being of  
            the child. (WIC 300.2)


          2)States the intent of the Legislature to preserve and  
            strengthen a child's family ties whenever possible and to  
            reunify a foster youth with his or her biological family  
            whenever possible, or to provide a permanent placement  








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            alternative, such as adoption or guardianship.  (WIC 16000)


          3)Requires the court, if at the initial hearing the juvenile  
            court orders a child be removed from his or her parent or  
            guardian due to abuse or neglect, to order that child welfare  
            reunification services be provided to the family as soon as  
            possible in order to reunify the child with his or her family,  
            if appropriate.  (WIC 319 (e))


          4)Requires the court, at a dispositional hearing, to order a  
            social worker to provide child welfare services to a child who  
            has been removed from his or her parents' or guardians'  
            custody and to the parents or guardians in order to support  
            the goal of reunification, for a specified time period, except  
            under certain circumstances.  Provides that children and  
            families in the child welfare system should typically receive  
            a full six months of reunification services if the child is  
            under three years of age, and twelve months if the child is  
            over three years of age, but that may be extended up to 18 or  
            24 months, as provided.  (WIC 361.5 (a))


          5)Provides that reunification services need not be provided if  
            the court finds, by clear and convincing evidence, that  
            specified conditions exist, including: 


             a)   The parent or guardian is suffering from a mental  
               disability that renders the parent incapable of using the  
               reunification services;


             b)   The parent or guardian has caused the death of another  
               child through abuse or neglect;


             c)   The child or a sibling has been adjudicated a dependent  








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               as the result of severe physical or sexual abuse; 


             d)   The parent or guardian has been convicted of a violent  
               felony; and


             e)   The parent or guardian has a history of drug or alcohol  
               abuse and has failed to comply with treatment programs as  
               provided.  (WIC 361.5 (b))


          6)Prevents the court from ordering reunification services for a  
            parent or guardian in specified situations, unless the court  
            finds that reunification is in the child's best interest.   
            (WIC 361.5 (c))


          7)Allows any party to petition the court to terminate  
            reunification services early, and allows the court to  
            terminate those services after finding, by clear and  
            convincing evidence, that: 


             a)   Circumstances now exist that, had they previously  
               existed, would have led the court to bypass or not order  
               reunification services; or, 


             b)   The action or inaction of the parent or guardian creates  
               a substantial likelihood that reunification will not occur,  
               including but not limited to the parent's or guardian's  
               failure to visit the child, or the failure to participate  
               regularly and make substantive progress in a court-ordered  
               treatment plan.  (WIC 388 (c))


          8)Defines "sexual exploitation" and "commercial sexual  
            exploitation" of a child.  (PEN 11165.1 (c) and (d))








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          FISCAL EFFECT:  Unknown. 


          COMMENTS:  


          Child Welfare Services:  The purpose of California's Child  
          Welfare Services (CWS) system is to protect children from abuse  
          and neglect and provide for their health and safety.  When  
          children are identified as being at risk of abuse, neglect or  
          abandonment, county juvenile courts hold legal dependency  
          jurisdiction; these children are served by the CWS system  
          through the appointment of a social worker.  Through this  
          juvenile dependency system, there are multiple opportunities for  
          the custody of the child, or his or her placement outside of the  
          home, to be evaluated, reviewed and determined by the judicial  
          system, in consultation with the child's social worker, to help  
          provide the best possible services to the child.  The CWS system  
          seeks to help children who have been removed from their homes  
          reunify with their parents or guardians, whenever appropriate.   
          However, the court may determine that an alternate permanent  
          placement is more fitting; the court must give preference to  
          potential placements in this order:  relatives, nonrelative  
          extended family members, or family foster homes.  Placement in  
          group homes or other intensive treatment placement settings are  
          considered only in more challenging situations where a child may  
          need stabilization services in order to transition to a less  
          restrictive placement, such as with a relative or foster  
          caregiver.  There are currently close to 63,000 children and  
          youth in California's CWS system. 


          Family reunification services:  Because the intent of the  
          dependency system is to, whenever possible, reunify children  
          with their families, parents are often provided reunification  
          services in order to safely reunify with their children in  
          foster care.  Reunification services often include efforts to  








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          address the circumstances under which a child was removed from  
          their parent's custody, including drug and alcohol treatment,  
          anger management counseling, or parenting classes.  Currently  
          reunification services may be denied to parents or guardians in  
          order to protect the child from further harm, including a parent  
          who:  is a registered sex offender, has willfully abducted the  
          child or a sibling, or has been convicted of a violent felony,  
          among others. 


          Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC):  Commercial  
          sexual exploitation of children is defined as the sexual  
          exploitation of children entirely, or at least primarily, for  
          financial or other economic reasons.  Under this definition, the  
          economic exchanges may be either monetary or non-monetary (i.e.,  
          for food, shelter, drugs).  Sex trafficking of minors is defined  
          as the "recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or  
          obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act"  
          where the person is a United States citizen or lawful permanent  
          resident under the age of 18 years. 


          According to DSS, approximately 800,000 victims annually are  
          trafficked across international borders worldwide, and between  
          14,500-17,500 of those victims are trafficked into the United  
          States.  Nearly 95% of CSEC victims in the U.S. are female, and  
          it is estimated that between 50-80% of child victims of  
          commercial sexual exploitation have been involved with the child  
          welfare system, according to the National Center for Youth Law.   
          According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited  
          Children, it is estimated that one in six endangered runaways  
          were likely sex trafficking victims in 2014.  Many experts  
          believe, however, that these statistics are underestimated;  
          challenges arise when identifying victims, collecting and  
          cross-referencing data, and deciding on common definitions in  
          order to collect accurate statistics.  Many youth also do not  
          identify as victims or may be reluctant to admit to  
          victimization due to fears of retaliation from traffickers,  
          deportation, or incarceration by law enforcement.








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          Need for this bill: According to the author's office, "The sex  
          trafficking of children is a serious problem in California;  
          three metropolitan areas (San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San  
          Diego) have been rated as 'high intensity child prostitution'  
          areas by the FBI.  Particularly at risk are children living in  
          unstable family environments.  It is estimated that as many as  
          59% of children being prostituted are or were formerly in the  
          foster care system according to the Los Angeles County Probation  
          Department.  Although the numbers of specific cases are low,  
          there have been instances in which parents have been responsible  
          for the trafficking of their child.  It is in these specific  
          instances that extra protections for commercially sexually  
          exploited children (CSEC) are needed.  [This bill] will add  
          commercial sexual exploitation of a child to the list of  
          circumstances under which family reunification may be eschewed  
          for the protection of the child.  Such a change in law will  
          offer local flexibility to juvenile courts in the decision of  
          whether reunification services should be provided to a parent.   
          It will also provide additional legal protections to foster  
          youth who have been the victim of exploitation.  Further, this  
          bill will include new protections in state law that ensure all  
          foster youth who have been sexually exploited are not at risk of  
          further exploitation by their parent or guardian."


          PRIOR LEGISLATION:


          SB 855 (Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review), Chapter 29,  
          Statutes of 2014, provided structure and incentives to encourage  
          county agencies to collaborate in identifying and serving CSEC.


           SECOND COMMITTEE OF REFERENCE  .  This bill was previously heard  
          in the Assembly Judiciary Committee on March 15, 2016 and was  
          approved on an 8-0 vote.









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          REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION:


          Support


          Alameda County - co sponsor
          Alameda County Social Services Agency - co-sponsor
          American Academy of Pediatrics
          Butte County Department of Emergency and Social Services
          California Coalition for Youth (CCY)
          California Immigrant Policy Center
          California Police Chiefs Association
          California Probation, Parole and Correctional Association  
          (CPPCA)
          California State Association of Counties
          Catholic Conference
          County of Madera Department of Social Services
          County Welfare Directors Association of California (CWDA)  
          -co-sponsor
          LIUNA Locals 777 & 792
          Los Angeles Professional Peace Officers Association 
          Madera County Board of Supervisors
          National Association of Social Workers 
          Urban Counties of California
          Ventura County Board of Supervisors



          Opposition





          Legal Services for Prisoners With Children










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          Analysis Prepared by:Kelsy Castillo / HUM. S. / (916) 319-2089