BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



          SENATE COMMITTEE ON HEALTH
                          Senator Ed Hernandez, O.D., Chair

          BILL NO:                    AB 2872             
           --------------------------------------------------------------- 
          |AUTHOR:        |Patterson                                      |
          |---------------+-----------------------------------------------|
          |VERSION:       |June 6, 2016                                   |
           --------------------------------------------------------------- 
           --------------------------------------------------------------- 
          |HEARING DATE:  |June 15, 2016  |               |               |
           --------------------------------------------------------------- 
           --------------------------------------------------------------- 
          |CONSULTANT:    |Vince Marchand                                 |
           --------------------------------------------------------------- 
          
           SUBJECT  :  Children

           SUMMARY  :  Makes technical and clarifying changes related to adoption  
          laws, including requiring hospitals to complete a Health  
          Facility Minor Release Report upon the request of a birth  
          parent.
          
          Existing law:
          1)Provides a streamlined procedure for a stepparent to adopt a  
            stepchild. Requires the probation officer, qualified court  
            investigator, licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), licensed  
            marriage and family therapist (MFT), private licensed adoption  
            agency, or, at the option of the board of supervisors, the  
            county welfare department in the county in which the adoption  
            proceeding is pending, to make an investigation of each case  
            of stepparent adoption. Prohibits the court from making an  
            order of adoption until the person or entity making the  
            investigation has filed its report and recommendation and the  
            report has been considered by the court.


          2)Permits a peace officer, without a warrant, to take into  
            temporary custody a minor who is in a hospital if the release  
            of the minor to a prospective adoptive parent or a  
            representative of a licensed adoption agency poses an  
            immediate danger to the minor's health or safety. However, a  
            peace officer is prohibited from taking into temporary custody  
            a minor who is in a hospital if all of the following  
            conditions exist:

                  a)        The minor is a newborn who tested positive for  
                    illegal drugs or whose birth mother tested positive  
                    for illegal drugs;







          AB 2872 (Patterson)                                Page 2 of ?
          
          
                  b)        The minor is the subject of a proposed  
                    adoption and a Health Facility Minor Release Report  
                    (HFMR Report), developed by the Department of Social  
                    Services, has been completed by the hospital; 
                  c)        Provides that the HFMR Report does not  
                    constitute consent to adoption or relinquishment of  
                    parental rights and that the birth parents may reclaim  
                    the child at any time, as provided; 


                  d)        Release of the newborn to a prospective  
                    adoptive parent or an authorized representative of a  
                    licensed adoption agency does not pose an immediate  
                    danger to the child; and, 


                  e)        The prospective adoptive parents or the  
                    representative of a licensed adoption agency have  
                    provided the peace officer in the hospital seeking to  
                    take custody of the newborn with, among other things,  
                    a fully executed HFMR Report.  


          3)Limits access to juvenile case files, as defined, to specified  
            individuals and officials, including the child's parent or  
            guardian, attorneys for the parties, court and state  
            personnel, including law enforcement and child protective  
            services, and school district officials.  Allows a  
            court-appointed investigator when acting within the scope of  
            his or her duties in a guardianship case to inspect the  
            juvenile court case file in that case.  Prohibits any party  
            authorized to inspect a dependency court case file from  
            disseminating the file or its contents unless otherwise  
            permitted. 
          
          This bill:
          1)Revises the existing law requirement that a written  
            investigation be completed prior to a court approving a  
            stepparent adoption by specifying that the petitioner, at the  
            time of filing the adoption request, can elect an LCSW, an  
            MFT, or a private licensed adoption agency to perform the  
            investigation.

          2)Specifies that if the petitioner chooses an LCSW, MFT, or a  
            private licensed adoption agency to perform the investigation,  








          AB 2872 (Patterson)                                Page 3 of ?
          
          
            the petitioner is required to pay any investigation fee  
            directly to the investigator rather than having to pay the  
            court an investigative fee at the time of filing.

          3)Requires the appropriate hospital personnel, upon request by a  
            birth parent or parents of a newborn, to complete a HFMR  
            Report and provide copies of the report to the birth parent or  
            parents, and the person or persons who will receive physical  
            custody of the child upon discharge.

          4)Prohibits hospital personnel from refusing to complete a HFMR  
            Report for any reason, even if the minor is ineligible for  
            release at that time, but specifies that nothing in this bill  
            is to be construed to require hospital personnel to release a  
            minor contrary to the directives of a child welfare agency.

          5)Eliminates a requirement that birth parents be given a notice  
            prior to signing the HFMR Report with specified information,  
            and instead requires all of the information in the notice to  
            be included in the HFMR Report.

          6)Expands the list of investigators that are permitted to  
            inspect a juvenile case file to include statutorily authorized  
            or court-appointed investigators, who are conducting an active  
            investigation pursuant to specified provisions of existing law  
            related to the termination of parental rights and stepparent  
            adoptions.

           FISCAL  
          EFFECT  :  According to the Assembly Appropriations Committee,  
          this bill would have negligible fiscal impact.

           PRIOR  
          VOTES  :  
          
           ----------------------------------------------------------------- 
          |Assembly Floor:                     |79 - 0                      |
          |------------------------------------+----------------------------|
          |Assembly Appropriations Committee:  |19 - 0                      |
          |------------------------------------+----------------------------|
          |Assembly Judiciary Committee:       |10 - 0                      |
          |                                    |                            |
           ----------------------------------------------------------------- 
           
          COMMENTS  :








          AB 2872 (Patterson)                                Page 4 of ?
          
          
          1)Author's statement.  According to the author, this bill  
            promotes the welfare of children, the efficiency and statewide  
            uniformity of court processes, and the fiscal well-being of  
            state and local public entities, by remediating the following  
            deficiencies in law: 1) eliminating the current backlog of  
            step-parent adoptions and ensuring that these cases can be  
            completed in a timely manner moving forward; 2) affirming a  
            birth parent's existing right to make an adoption plan at the  
            hospital by requiring hospital personnel to complete the  
            necessary forms upon request; and, 3) ensuring that  
            court-appointed or statutorily authorized investigators have  
            access to relevant information for completion of statutorily  
            mandated reports.

          2)Subject.  This bill address three separate issues related to  
            child adoption law.  Below is background information provided  
            by the author on the three components of this bill:

               a)     Use of independent investigators in stepparent  
                 adoptions.
               The author states that stepparent adoptions across the  
                 state are seriously backlogged, as much as 12-24 months  
                 in some counties. Existing law requires that an  
                 investigation must be completed prior to a stepparent  
                 adoption, and despite previous amendments made to this  
                 section of law that would allow petitioners to hire a  
                 licensed clinical social worker, marriage and family  
                 therapist, or a licensed adoption agency to complete the  
                 required investigation, many courts are interpreting the  
                 existing language to require the approval of the County  
                 Board of Supervisors before petitioners can utilize the  
                 statutory options. The changes proposed by this bill will  
                 make it clear that petitioners are allowed to use  
                 alternative professional investigators to complete the  
                 required investigation and get the case finalized. 

               b)     HFMR Report.
               Existing law allows the birth parent of a baby who has a  
                 positive drug screen test to make an adoption plan at the  
                 hospital, rather than having the child detained by Child  
                 Protective Services. According to the author, however,  
                 many hospitals have misinterpreted this code section and  
                 have actually prevented these voluntary placements by  
                 refusing to complete the necessary paperwork, which is  
                 the HFMR Report. The proposed change will require  








          AB 2872 (Patterson)                                Page 5 of ?
          
          
                 hospital personnel to complete the HFMR Report at the  
                 request of a birth parent, thereby ensuring that the  
                 underlying purpose of this statute is fulfilled. In  
                 addition, the existing statute includes confusing  
                 language about a separate "notice" that is actually  
                 already included in the mandated HFMR Report, so this  
                 bill deletes reference to the non-existent "notice" and  
                 just ensures that the notice language is included in the  
                 HFMR Report (which is current practice).

               c)     Access to juvenile records by appropriate parties.
               Certain investigators in guardianship and termination cases  
                 are not granted access to juvenile court files, despite  
                 the clear need for them to have all information available  
                 to present to the court in their report. According to the  
                 author, unnecessary time and resources are expended to  
                 file a formal petition to ensure that the records are  
                 reviewed and the results compiled into the  
                 statutorily-required reports. This bill ensures that  
                 court-appointed or statutorily-authorized investigators  
                 have access to juvenile court files for the limited  
                 purpose of completing designated investigations on behalf  
                 of the court.

          3)Double referral. This bill is double referred.  Should it pass  
            out of this committee, it will be referred to the Senate  
            Judiciary Committee.

          4)Prior legislation. AB 973 (Strickland, Chapter 440, Statutes  
            of 2010), revised the requirements that must be met before  
            prospective adoptive parents may take a drug-exposed newborn  
            into temporary custody from the hospital.

          AB 2279 (La Suer, Chapter 920, Statutes of 2002), limited the  
            ability of law enforcement to take custody of a child without  
            a warrant when the child is in a hospital and is the subject  
            of a prospective adoption plan.

          5)Support.  This bill is sponsored by the Academy of California  
            Adoption Lawyers/Academy of California Family Formation  
            Lawyers (Academy), which states that in its role as  
            practitioners of adoption law, it has first-hand knowledge  
            regarding the effects of existing law and how these laws can  
            be modified for the benefit of families and children. The  
            Academy states that this bill addresses three distinct  








          AB 2872 (Patterson)                                Page 6 of ?
          
          
            subjects: the use of independent investigations in stepparent  
            adoptions, HFMR Reports, and access to juvenile records by  
            appropriate parties. With regarding to the use of independent  
            investigators in stepparent adoption, the Academy states that  
            stepparent adoptions are seriously backlogged, and that a  
            previous amendment to this section of law that should have  
            alleviated this backlog has been misconstrued and is not  
            currently being utilized by the courts. This bill will clarify  
            that the petitioner can select from a range of specified  
            professional investigators to complete the required report, so  
            that the adoption may be finalized in a timely manner. With  
            regard to the HFMR Report, the Academy states that existing  
            law allows birth parents to make an adoption plan at the  
            hospital for a baby with a positive drug screen, rather than  
            have the child detained by Child Protective Services into an  
            unnecessary foster care proceeding at great public cost.  
            However, the Academy states that many hospitals have actually  
            prevented these voluntary placements by refusing to complete  
            the necessary paperwork, and so this bill will require  
            hospitals to complete this paperwork at the request of a birth  
            parent. Finally, with regard to access to juvenile records,  
            the Academy states that existing law requires court-appointed  
            or statutorily-authorized investigators to file petitions with  
            the court to gain access to juvenile court files, which  
            results in unnecessary delays and expenditures of public funds  
            related to processing the petitions. This bill would revise  
            the law so that persons who are statutorily authorized or  
            court appointed to complete child custody-related  
            investigations that are to be filed with the court can obtain  
            the necessary records without first needing to file a  
            petition.
          
           SUPPORT AND OPPOSITION  :
          Support:  Academy of California Adoption Lawyers/Academy of  
                    California Family Formation Lawyers (sponsor)
          
          Oppose:   None received

                                      -- END --
          
          
          











          AB 2872 (Patterson)                                Page 7 of ?