BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                    AB 2872


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          Date of Hearing:  April 27, 2016


                        ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS


                               Lorena Gonzalez, Chair


          AB  
          2872 (Patterson) - As Amended April 5, 2016


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          Urgency:  No  State Mandated Local Program:  NoReimbursable:  No


          SUMMARY: The bill makes three non-controversial changes to  
          adoption laws. Specifically, this bill:  


          1)Clarifies that the investigation required as part of a  
            stepparent adoption may be, at the request of the adoption  
            petitioner, completed by a licensed social worker or therapist  
            or a private adoption agency, in which case the petitioner is  
            not required to pay any investigation fees.  










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          2)Makes the process for prospective adoptive parents to take  
            home a drug-exposed newborn easier by requiring, at the  
            request of a parent of a newborn, that appropriate hospital  
            personnel complete a Health Facility Minor Release (HFMR)  
            Report, which allows a hospital to release a minor to someone  
            other than the parents.


          3)Ensures that specified investigators, whether court-order or  
            statutorily required, are able to examine the relevant child's  
            juvenile court case file.  


          FISCAL EFFECT:


          Negligible fiscal impact.


          COMMENTS:


          1)Purpose. This is the Academy of California Adoption Lawyers'  
            annual bill to help better facilitate adoptions in California.  
             The bill makes three changes to the adoption laws. There is  
            no opposition.


          2)Stepparent Investigation Fees.  Adoption of a child by a  
            stepparent is generally a more simple and streamlined process  
            than that of a typical adoption.  While an investigation is  
            required, the more time consuming homestudy is generally not  
            required.  Under current law, specified individuals, including  
            probation officers, court investigators, licensed clinical  
            social workers and licensed marriage therapists and the county  
            welfare agency, if authorized by the county board of  
            supervisors, can conduct the stepparent investigation.  The  
            court may not make an order of adoption until after a report  
            and recommendation on the stepparent adoption has been filed  








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            and considered by the court.  The investigation is intended to  
            assure the court that the adoption is in the child's best  
            interest.  


            According to the sponsor, some counties are requiring that a  
            county employee do the investigation and are requiring an  
            investigative fee in all cases, even when a private  
            investigator is used.  This bill clarifies that a petitioner,  
            at his or her option, may get the investigation performed by a  
            licensed clinical social worker, a licensed marriage and  
            family therapist or a private adoption agency.  In this case,  
            the bill provides that the court may not charge an  
            investigation fee.  


          3)Drug-exposed Newborns.  In order to prevent child protective  
            services agencies from unnecessarily taking drug-exposed  
            newborns from the hospital into the foster care system when an  
            adoption plan was in place and an adoptive home was waiting  
            for them, current law allows the newborn to be released from a  
            hospital upon completion of a HFMR Report, developed by the  
            Department of Social Services, which must be signed by a  
            parent and the prospective adoptive parent or representative  
            of a licensed adoption agency stating that the child is the  
            subject of a proposed adoption. The report must be completed,  
            in part, by hospital personnel.


            According to the bill's sponsor, hospital personnel are not  
            always cooperative in completing the required HFMR Report.  If  
            the hospital refuses to complete the report, it may become  
            impossible for prospective adoptive parents to take temporary  
            custody of a drug-exposed baby at the hospital and keep the  
            child out of the foster care system.  This bill seeks to  
            correct this problem by requiring that hospital personnel  
            complete the report, even if the newborn is not yet ready for  
            release.  This should help ensure that, when the newborn is  
            ready for release, the prospective adoptive parent may take  








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            the child home and avoid an unnecessary placement in foster  
            care.


          4)Inspecting a Juvenile Case File.  Juvenile court case files --  
            both dependency and delinquency files -- are closed to the  
            public and may only be inspected by a limited group of  
            individuals, including court personnel, attorneys in the case,  
            and the juvenile's parents.  Included in that list is a  
            court-appointed investigator who is actively participating in  
            guardianship cases and acting within the scope of his or her  
            duties.  This bill expands that list to allow a  
            statutorily-authorized or court-appointed investigator who is  
            investigating a stepparent adoption, attempting to find a  
            parent for purposes of adoption, or investigating matters for  
            purposes of emancipation of a child to inspect a juvenile  
            court case file, provided the investigator is acting within  
            the scope of his or her investigative duties for an active  
            case. Moreover, because existing law prohibits any party  
            authorized to inspect a juvenile court case file from  
            disseminating the file or its contents unless otherwise  
            permitted, the information in the file is protected.  


          


          Analysis Prepared by:Jennifer Swenson / APPR. / (916)  
          319-2081


















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