BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ó






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          |SENATE RULES COMMITTEE            |                       AB 2872|
          |Office of Senate Floor Analyses   |                              |
          |(916) 651-1520    Fax: (916)      |                              |
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                                   THIRD READING 


          Bill No:  AB 2872
          Author:   Patterson (R) 
          Amended:  6/6/16 in Senate
          Vote:     21 

           SENATE HEALTH COMMITTEE:  9-0, 6/15/16
           AYES:  Hernandez, Nguyen, Hall, Mitchell, Monning, Nielsen,  
            Pan, Roth, Wolk

           SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  7-0, 6/21/16
           AYES:  Jackson, Moorlach, Anderson, Hertzberg, Leno, Monning,  
            Wieckowski

           SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE:  Senate Rule 28.8

           ASSEMBLY FLOOR:  79-0, 5/5/16 (Consent) - See last page for  
            vote

           SUBJECT:   Children


          SOURCE:    Academy of California Adoption Lawyers/Academy of  
                      California Family Formation Lawyers

          DIGEST:   This bill 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.


          ANALYSIS:  










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          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;


             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  







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               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,  
            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  







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            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.


          Comments


          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: a) eliminating the current backlog of  
            step-parent adoptions and ensuring that these cases can be  
            completed in a timely manner moving forward; b) 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, c) ensuring that  
            court-appointed or statutorily authorized investigators have  
            access to relevant information for completion of statutorily  
            mandated reports.








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          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 LCSW,  
               MFT, 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  
               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  







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               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.


          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.




          FISCAL EFFECT:   Appropriation:    No          Fiscal  
          Com.:YesLocal:   No


          SUPPORT:   (Verified8/1/16)




           Academy of California Adoption Lawyers/Academy of California  
            Family Formation Lawyers (source)











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          OPPOSITION:   (Verified8/1/16)


          None received

          ARGUMENTS IN 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 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 revises 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.









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          ASSEMBLY FLOOR:  79-0, 5/5/16
          AYES:  Achadjian, Alejo, Travis Allen, Arambula, Atkins, Baker,  
            Bigelow, Bloom, Bonilla, Bonta, Brough, Brown, Burke,  
            Calderon, Campos, Chang, Chau, Chávez, Chiu, Chu, Cooley,  
            Cooper, Dababneh, Dahle, Daly, Dodd, Eggman, Frazier,  
            Gallagher, Cristina Garcia, Eduardo Garcia, Gatto, Gipson,  
            Gomez, Gonzalez, Gordon, Gray, Grove, Hadley, Harper, Roger  
            Hernández, Holden, Irwin, Jones, Jones-Sawyer, Kim, Lackey,  
            Levine, Linder, Lopez, Low, Maienschein, Mathis, Mayes,  
            McCarty, Medina, Melendez, Mullin, Nazarian, Obernolte,  
            O'Donnell, Olsen, Patterson, Quirk, Ridley-Thomas, Rodriguez,  
            Salas, Santiago, Steinorth, Mark Stone, Thurmond, Ting,  
            Wagner, Waldron, Weber, Wilk, Williams, Wood, Rendon
          NO VOTE RECORDED:  Beth Gaines

          Prepared by:Vince Marchand / HEALTH / (916) 651-4111
          8/3/16 19:40:20


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