BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                    AB 1879


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          Date of Hearing:  April 12, 2016


                           ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON JUDICIARY


                                  Mark Stone, Chair


          AB 1879  
          (McCarty) - As Amended March 28, 2016


                    PROPOSED CONSENT (As Proposed to be Amended)


          SUBJECT:  Foster youth: permanency


          KEY ISSUE:  IN ORDER TO HELP FOSTER YOUTH FIND PERMANENT  
          FAMILIES TO LOVE AND SUPPORT THEM, SHOULD SPECIALIZED,  
          CHILD-CENTERED PERMANENCY SERVICES BE REQUIRED FOR YOUTH WHO  
          MIGHT OTHERWISE AGE OUT OF LONG-TERM FOSTER CARE WITHOUT A  
          FAMILY AND WITHOUT EVEN A CONNECTION TO A SUPPORTIVE ADULT?


                                      SYNOPSIS


          California's child welfare system is responsible for ensuring  
          the protection and safety of children at risk of abuse, neglect  
          or abandonment.  When it is necessary for the state to remove a  
          child from his or her parents, the primary objective of the  
          child welfare system is to safely reunify the child with his or  
          her family.  If reunification is not an option or later fails,  
          another permanent arrangement is sought for the child, which can  
          include adoption, guardianship or, historically, long-term  
          foster care, today called "another planned permanent living  
          arrangement" or APPLA.  However, the outcomes for children in  








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          long-term foster care or APPLA who end up emancipating from  
          foster care without the support of a loving family are  
          notoriously poor.  According to the author, within two years of  
          leaving the foster care system, 50 percent are homeless,  
          victimized, incarcerated or dead.  Even with extended foster  
          care until 21, the odds are stacked against youth who remain in  
          the foster care system for years and then age out without a  
          strong connection to a loving, supportive family.


          This bill, sponsored by Families Now and supported by a broad  
          range of child welfare organizations and children's advocates,  
          seeks to improve those odds by requiring special efforts to find  
          permanent families for these youth by requiring that (1)  
          child-centered specialized permanency services be provided for  
          children at risk of long-term foster care and (2) that potential  
          adoptive families and guardians be provided with information to  
          support their hopefully long-term relationship with the foster  
          child.  The author states that these highly effective  
          child-centered specialized permanency practices will help  
          provide permanency, love and support for children most likely to  
          age-out of foster care without the safety net of a family:   
          "There is no question that this bill will result in more of our  
          children achieving the permanent families they need and  
          deserve."  There is no reported opposition.


          SUMMARY:  Requires that child-centered specialized permanency  
          services be provided to specified foster youth in order to  
          facilitate the placement of these youth with permanent families.  
             Specifically, this bill:  


          1)Defines "child-centered specialized permanency services" to  
            mean services designed for, and with, a child to:


             a)   Address the child's history of trauma, separation and  
               loss; 








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             b)   Include mental health services or other services, as  
               specified, that are needed to ameliorate impairments in  
               significant areas of life functioning that may reduce the  
               likelihood of the child achieving a permanent family;


             c)   Utilize enhanced family finding and engagement to assist  
               the child in achieving a permanent family through  
               reunification, adoption, legal guardianship or other  
               lifelong connections to caring adults, as specified; 


             d)   Prepare the permanent family to meet the child's needs,  
               set appropriate expectations for before and after  
               permanency; and


             e)   Stabilize the placement.


          2)Requires a court, when it has determined that it is not in the  
            best interests of a child to hold a hearing to terminate  
            parental rights, to order the provision of child-centered  
            specialized permanency services for:


             a)   A child who is not placed with a fit and willing  
               relative; 
             b)   A child 16 years or age or older for whom the court has  
               ordered placement in an "another planned permanent living  
               arrangement" ("APPLA," i.e., long-term foster care);


             c)   A child placed in a residential treatment facility for  
               whom the court has determined that adoption is currently  
               unlikely or undesirable;


             d)   A child that the court has determined to have a  








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               probability for adoption but is determined difficult to  
               place, as specified; and


             e)   A child for whom an available and suitable legal  
               guardian has not yet been found, as specified.


          3)Permits a court to order the provision of child-centered  
            specialized permanency services for a nonminor dependent for  
            whom the court has ordered placement in long-term foster care.


          4)Requires a court in some cases and permits it in others, when  
            it has determined that it is not in the best interests of the  
            child to hold a hearing to terminate parental rights and when  
            it has ordered a child 16 years of age or older or a nonminor  
            dependent to be placed in long-term foster care, to order that  
            the appropriateness of the child's continuation in long-term  
            foster care be assessed at the next review hearing, as  
            specified.


          5)Includes child-centered specialized permanency services among  
            the efforts a child welfare agency or probation department  
            must show the court it has made in an attempt to achieve  
            permanency for the child or nonminor dependent when the court  
            is reviewing the status of a dependent child or nonminor  
            dependent or ward of the juvenile court, as specified.


          6)Requires a court, at hearings reviewing the status of a  
            dependent child, as specified, to assess progress towards  
            placement in a permanent family for a child placed in a  
            residential treatment facility when the court has determined  
            that adoption is currently unlikely or undesirable for that  
            child and that it is not in the best interests of the child to  
            hold a hearing to terminate parental rights.









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          7)Stipulates that permanent placement services, designed to  
            provide an alternate permanent family structure for children  
            who because of abuse, neglect or exploitation cannot safely  
            remain at home and who are unlikely to ever return home,  
            shall, as needed to achieve a permanent family, include  
            child-centered specialized permanency services.  Further,  
            permits permanent placement services for nonminor dependents  
            to include child-centered specialized permanency services and  
            requires permanent placement services for nonminor dependents  
            to include supportive transition services.  


          8)Requires information regarding, and documentation of the  
            provision of, child-centered specialized permanency services  
            to be included in a youth's case-planning processes, as  
            specified.


          9)Requires a social worker or probation officer, when the court  
            has ordered a dependent child or a ward of the juvenile court  
            placed for adoption or has appointed a relative or nonrelative  
            legal guardian, to provide the prospective adoptive family or  
            guardian written information regarding the importance of  
            working with mental health providers that have specialized  
            adoption or permanency clinical training and experience if the  
            family needs clinical support, and a description of the  
            desirable clinical expertise the family should look for when  
            choosing an adoption- or permanency-competent mental health  
            professional.


          10)Makes various legislative findings and states the intent of  
            the Legislature to improve permanency outcomes and stability  
            for older foster youth by improving the stability of adoptive  
            and guardianship families and requiring child-centered,  
            specialized permanency services for children whose  
            reunification services have been terminated, who are not  
            placed with a fit and willing relative, and who are considered  








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            unlikely to achieve a permanent family.


          EXISTING LAW:  


          1)Provides that a juvenile court has jurisdiction over a child  
            who is subject to abuse or neglect.  (Welfare and Institutions  
            Code Section 300.  Unless stated otherwise, all further  
            statutory references are to that code.)


          2)States that the purpose of dependency law is to provide  
            maximum safety and protection for children who are currently  
            being physically, sexually, or emotionally abused, neglected,  
            or exploited, and to ensure the safety, protection, and  
            physical and emotional well-being of children who are at risk  
            of harm.  (Section 300.2.)


          3)Declares the intent of the Legislature to, whenever possible,  
            preserve and strengthen a child's family ties and, when a  
            child must be removed from the physical custody of his or her  
            parents, to give preferential consideration to placement with  
            relatives.  States the intent of the Legislature to reaffirm  
            its commitment to children who are in out-of-home placement to  
            live in the least restrictive family setting and as close to  
            the child's family as possible, as specified.  Further states  
            the intent of the Legislature that all children live with a  
            committed, permanent, nurturing family and states that  
            services and supports should be tailored to meet the specific  
            needs of the individual child and family being served, as  
            specified.  (Section 16000.)


          4)Requires out-of-home placement of a child in foster care to be  
            based upon selection of a safe setting that is the least  
            restrictive family setting that promotes normal childhood  
            experiences and the most appropriate setting that meets the  








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            child's individual needs, as specified.  Further requires the  
            selection of placement to consider, in order of priority,  
            placement with:  relatives, nonrelated extended family  
            members, and tribal members; foster family homes, resource  
            families, and nontreatment certified homes of foster family  
            agencies; followed by treatment and intensive treatment  
            certified homes of foster family agencies or multidimensional  
            treatment foster care homes or therapeutic foster care homes;  
            group care placements in the order of short-term residential  
            treatment centers, group homes, community treatment  
            facilities, and out-of-state residential treatment, as  
            specified.  (Section 16501.1 (d)(1).)


          5)Establishes requirements and processes for the court, and  
            further provides for various hearings to review the status of  
            the dependent child during which certain case information  
            regarding the child must be provided and reviewed, including  
            hearings to terminate parental rights and establish  
            alternative permanent arrangements for the child, including  
            long-term foster care.  (Sections 360-370.)


          6)Defines "nonminor dependent" as a current or former foster  
            youth who is between 18 and 21 years old, in foster care under  
            the responsibility of the county welfare department, county  
            probation department, or Indian Tribe, and participating in a  
            transitional independent living plan, as specified.  (Section  
            11400 (v).)


          7)Establishes in federal law the Preventing Sex Trafficking and  
            Strengthening Families Act, which includes new requirements  
            for states and counties regarding sex trafficking prevention  
            and reporting, data collection, reasonable and prudent parent  
            standards, adoption incentives payments, successor  
            guardianship, and successful adulthood.  (Public Law 113-183.)  










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          8)Defines a "planned permanent living arrangement" to mean any  
            permanent living arrangement that is ordered by the court for  
            a minor 16 years of age or older when there is a compelling  
            reason or reasons to determine that it is not in the best  
            interest of the minor to have a permanent plan, as specified.   
            States that a planned permanent living arrangement can  
            include, but not be limited to, placement in a specific,  
            identified foster family home, program or facility on a  
            permanent basis or placement in a transitional housing  
            placement facility.  Further, permits a court to place a minor  
            in a planned permanent living arrangement only if the court  
            finds that there is a compelling reason, as specified, for  
            determining that terminating parental rights and adoption are  
            not in the best interest of the minor.  (Section 727.3.)


          FISCAL EFFECT:  As currently in print this bill is keyed fiscal.


          COMMENTS:  California's child welfare system is responsible for  
          ensuring the protection and safety of children at risk of abuse,  
          neglect or abandonment.  When it is necessary for the state to  
          remove a child from his or her parents, the primary objective of  
          the child welfare system is to safely reunify the child with his  
          or her family.  If reunification is not an option or later  
          fails, another permanent arrangement is sought for the child,  
          which can include adoption, guardianship or, historically,  
          long-term foster care or today "another planned permanent living  
          arrangement" or APPLA.  Of the 66,000 children living in foster  
          care in California, nearly 40 percent have been in care for over  
          two years, 25 percent have been in care for over three years and  
          almost 15 percent have been in care for over five years.  The  
          outcomes for children in long-term foster care or APPLA who end  
          up emancipating from foster care without the support of a loving  
          family are notoriously poor.  According to the author, within  
          two years of leaving the foster care system, 50 percent are  
          homeless, victimized, incarcerated or dead.  Even with extended  
          foster care until 21, the odds are stacked against children who  








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          remain in the foster care system for years and then age out  
          without a strong connection to a loving, supportive family.


          This bill seeks to improve those odds by requiring special  
          efforts to find permanent families for children in the foster  
          care system by requiring that child-centered specialized  
          permanency services be provided for children at risk of  
          long-term foster care and requiring that potential adoptive  
          families and guardians be provided with information to support  
          their hopefully long-term relationship with the foster child.   
          The author best explains the need for the bill, as well as the  
          bill itself:


            Far too many California foster children needlessly grow up in  
            a succession of foster care placements and age-out of care  
            without a safe and committed family to face dire outcomes.  
            Within two years 50% are homeless, victimized, incarcerated or  
            dead. . . .


            Keeping children in foster care for extended periods of time  
            creates unnecessarily high costs, both fiscally and in human  
            terms.  We can do better for our children. We know how to  
            achieve permanent families for these children.  In fact, for  
            more than a decade California has provided leadership to the  
            nation in establishing highly-effective child-centered  
            specialized permanency practices.  Children receiving these  
            services, including those considered most-likely to age-out of  
            foster care without the safety net of a permanent family are  
            achieving permanent families.  These services have also been  
            documented to be highly cost-effective, resulting in  
            short-term county savings in excess of the cost of providing  
            services, as well as long-term savings at all levels of  
            government.  Unfortunately, these services are provided  
            sparingly, or not at all by most California counties resulting  
            in children needlessly languishing in foster care. . . . .









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            We know how to find them permanent families, and we know that  
            after a start-up period the services pay for themselves.  This  
            bill creates a statutory definition of child-centered  
            specialized permanency services designed to address the  
            child's history of separation and loss, and requires that  
            these services be provided to children whose reunification  
            services have been terminated, are not placed with a fit and  
            willing relative, and are considered unlikely to achieve a  
            permanent family.  It also requires that the services be  
            included in the statutory requirements to provide intensive  
            and ongoing efforts to place long-term foster care youth age  
            16 and above into a permanent family.  There is no question  
            that this bill will result in more of our children achieving  
            the permanent families they need and deserve.


            Placement into a permanent home is not a panacea.  These come  
            into adoptive families with tragic histories of trauma,  
            separation and loss, their new parents often need to seek the  
            help of mental health providers who understand the specialized  
            clinical issues associated with adoption and other forms of  
            permanency.  Clinical services provided by mental health  
            providers without specialized training and experience in  
            adoption/ permanency clinical issues has been shown to often  
            do more harm than good, putting the children at risk for  
            disruption of the adoption? one more preventable loss in a  
            litany of losses they have incurred.  AB 1879 requires that  
            potential adoptive parents and guardians be informed of the  
            importance of working with mental health providers with the  
            necessary specialized training and experience.


          This bill builds on state and federal legislation to improve the  
          lives of foster children and provide them with a hopeful future.  
           Recent state and federal legislation has sought to improve the  
          lives of children who might otherwise spent their youth in  
          foster care, often in groups homes, and emancipate without any  
          connection to a supportive adult.  First, the 2014 federal  








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          Preventing Sex Trafficking, and Strengthening Families Act made  
          numerous changes to the foster care program and enacted new  
          requirements regarding sex trafficking prevention and reporting,  
          data collection, reasonable and prudent parent standards,  
          adoption incentives payments, successor guardianship, and  
          successful adulthood in order to help protect youth and provide  
          them with permanent families.  Conforming state legislation (SB  
          794 (Senate Committee on Human Services), Chap. 425, Stats.  
          2015), eliminated the option of long-term foster care placement  
          or APPLA for dependent children under the age of 16, and  
          required permanency review hearing documents for children who  
          are 16 years of age or older and in an APPLA to include a  
          description of the intensive and ongoing efforts of the child  
          welfare agency to return the child to the home of the parent,  
          place the child for adoption, or establish a legal guardianship,  
          as appropriate.  Child welfare agencies are required, in these  
          documents, to describe any barriers to achieving the permanent  
          plan and the efforts made by the child welfare agency to address  
          those barriers.  Courts must then review that progress.


          In order to help foster children heal from the trauma and abuse  
          they have suffered, last year's AB 403 (Stone), Chap. 773,  
          Stats. 2015, established a comprehensive reform effort to make  
          sure that foster youth have their day-to-day physical, mental,  
          and emotional needs met; that they have the greatest chance to  
          grow up in permanent and supportive homes; and that they have  
          the opportunity to grow into self-sufficient, successful adults  
          by transitioning children away from congregate care into  
          home-based family care with resource families.  In addition to  
          new services and supports for resource families, AB 403  
          established targeted training and support that can better  
          prepare families to help care for foster youth. 


          This bill adds tools to help ensure that children leave foster  
          care with lifelong support.  This bill seeks to build on the  
          federal and state legislative advances and help foster youth who  
          might otherwise emancipate from foster care without family and  








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          without support by making every effort to find permanent  
          families for these youth and, once that family is found, to help  
          make that relationship more stable and more successful.  This  
          bill creates a statutory definition of child-centered  
          specialized permanency services designed to address the child's  
          history of separation and loss, and requires that these services  
          be provided to children who are not placed with a fit and  
          willing relative, and are considered unlikely to achieve a  
          permanent family.  To help the child be ready for a permanent  
          family, these child-centered services include services to  
          address the child's history of trauma, separation and loss,  
          including mental health services needed to ameliorate  
          impairments in life functioning that may reduce the likelihood  
          of the child achieving a permanent family.  The bill also  
          requires that the services be included in the statutory  
          requirements to provide intensive and ongoing efforts to place  
          long-term foster care youth age 16 and above into a permanent  
          family.   In addition, the bill permits, but does not require,  
          the court to order these services for a nonminor dependent.  To  
                                               help find willing and able families, the bill requires enhanced  
          family finding and engagement to search for relatives, using  
          search technology and social media to locate possible family  
          members.  


          This list of efforts required as part of child-centered  
          specialized permanency services is neither new nor  
          revolutionary.  These are best practices that have developed in  
          California and across the nation over years of helping foster  
          youth heal from the trauma they have experienced and find  
          permanency.  Many of these services are already mandated in  
          certain instances.  What is new is the clear and concise  
          summary, in no uncertain terms, of what is required to help find  
          loving and permanent families for foster youth and its  
          application to all youth in the foster care system, as provided.


          Lastly, in an effort to support those permanent placements, once  
          found, and make sure that they can indeed remain permanent, this  








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          bill requires that the social worker or probation officer, when  
          the court has ordered a dependent child or a ward placed for  
          adoption or has appointed a relative or nonrelative legal  
          guardian, to provide the prospective adoptive family or guardian  
          written information, if the family needs clinical support,  
          regarding the importance of working with mental health providers  
          that have specialized adoption or permanency clinical training  
          and experience, and a description of the desirable clinical  
          expertise the family should look for when choosing an adoption-  
          or permanency-competent mental health professional.


          Author's Technical Amendments:  In order to ensure that these  
          important new permanency services are required in all  
          appropriate cases and properly reviewed, the author rightly asks  
          that the bill be amended in three places to ensure that if a  
          court orders a youth 16 or over into an APPLA, the court must  
          require that child-centered specialized permanency services be  
          provided and that the court review what was provided at the next  
          hearing.  This change is accomplished by the following three  
          amendments:


          On page 30, line 10, after the comma, inset:  if such a  
          permanent plan is ordered shall


          On page 42, line 29, after "and", insert:  if such a permanent  
          plan is ordered shall


          On page 51, line 37, after "and", insert:  if such a permanent  
          plan is ordered shall


          ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT:  Supporters write that this bill will  
          "significantly reduce the number of youth aging out of foster  
          care without a safe, committed family.  It will also improve the  
          stability of those families.  It is time for California to make  








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          child-centered specialized permanency services available to all  
          waiting children.  . . .  When we remove a child from their  
          biological family we make an implicit promise to give them  
          something better.  Approximately 4,000 youth age-out of foster  
          care each year.  Aging-out without a safe and stable permanent  
          family is not 'something better.'  Within two years, 50% are  
          homeless, victimized, incarcerated or dead.  We can do better.   
          Model programs in California and across the nation have  
          demonstrated that when given these services, even children and  
          youth considered the least-likely to achieve permanency, now  
          achieve the committed permanent family they need and deserve."


          REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION:




          Support


          Families Now (sponsor)


          Advokids


          Alliance for Children's Rights 


          Alternative Family Services


          Bienvenidos Children's Center


          California Alliance of Child and Family Services










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          California CASA Association


          California Youth Connection


          Children Now 


          Children's Advocacy Institute


          Children's Law Center of California


          County Welfare Directors Association of California


          David and Margaret Youth and Family Services


          Family Law Section of the State Bar 


          John Burton Foundation


          Kinship Center


          Lilliput Children's Services


          North Star Family Center


          Nuevo Amanecer Latino Children's Services










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          Sierra Vista Child & Family Services


          Youth Homes




          Opposition


          None on file




          Analysis Prepared by:Leora Gershenzon / JUD. / (916) 319-2334