BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



          SENATE COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC SAFETY
                             Senator Loni Hancock, Chair
                                2015 - 2016  Regular 

          Bill No:    SB 478        Hearing Date:    April 14, 2015    
          
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          |Author:    |Huff                                                 |
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          |Version:   |February 26, 2015                                    |
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          |Urgency:   |No                     |Fiscal:    |Yes              |
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          |Consultant:|AA                                                   |
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             Subject:  Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act:  Mandated  
 
             Reporters:                        Internet Reporting Pilot  
 
                                       Program



          HISTORY

          Source:   Los Angeles County; County Welfare Directors  
          Association of California

          Prior Legislation:None known

          Support:  Junior Leagues of California State Public Affairs  
          Committee

          Opposition:None known

                                                



                                       PURPOSE


          The purpose of this bill is to authorize a 5-year pilot program  
          for Internet-based reporting of child abuse and neglect.







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          Current law establishes the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting  
          Act ("CANRA"), which generally is intended to protect children  
          from abuse and neglect.  (Penal Code  11164.)

          Current law enumerates 44 categories of mandatory child abuse  
          reporters.  (Penal Code  11165.7.)

          Current law requires mandated reporters to make reports of  
          suspected child abuse or neglect, as specified.  (Penal Code   
          11165.9.)

          Current law generally requires mandated reporters to make a  
          report to a specified agency "whenever the mandated reporter, in  
          his or her professional capacity or within the scope of his or  
          her employment, has knowledge of or observes a child whom the  
          mandated reporter knows or reasonably suspects has been the  
          victim of child abuse or neglect.  The mandated reporter shall  
          make an initial report by telephone to the agency immediately or  
          as soon as is practicably possible, and shall prepare and send,  
          fax, or electronically transmit a written follow-up report  
          within 36 hours of receiving the information concerning the  
          incident. The mandated reporter may include with the report any  
          non-privileged documentary evidence the mandated reporter  
          possesses relating to the incident."  (Penal Code  11166.)

          Current law requires that reports of suspected child abuse or  
          neglect be made "to any police department or sheriff's  
          department, not including a school district police or security  
          department, county probation department, if designated by the  
          county to receive mandated reports, or the county welfare  
          department. . . . " (Penal Code  11165.9.)    

          Pilot Program for Internet Reporting

          This bill would authorize a county welfare agency, as specified  
          below, to "develop a pilot program for Internet-based reporting  
          of child abuse and neglect."

          This bill would require the Department of Social Services to  
          "consult with the County Welfare Directors Association and any  
          interested county welfare agencies to determine which counties  
          may be involved in the pilot."









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          This bill would authorize the pilot program to "operate in a  
          specific region to receive reports of suspected child abuse or  
          neglect," and would require the program to meet all of the  
          following conditions:

             (1)  The suspected child abuse or neglect does not indicate  
               that the child is subject to an immediate risk of abuse,  
               neglect, or exploitation or that the child is in imminent  
               danger of severe harm or death.

             (2)  The agency provides an Internet form that includes  
               qualifying questions in order to obtain necessary  
               information required to assess the need for child welfare  
               services and a response.

             (3)  The mandated reporter is required to complete all  
               required fields, including identity and contact information  
               of the mandated reporter, in order to submit the report.

             (4)  The mandated reporter is required to cooperate with any  
               requests by the agency for additional information, if  
               needed, to investigate the report.

             (5)  The system can only be used by mandated reporters who  
               are any of the following:

               (A)    A peace officer, as specified; 

               (B)    A probation officer;

               (C)    A school teacher, counselor, or administrator;

               (D)    A physician and surgeon, psychiatrist, psychologist,  
                 licensed nurse, marriage and family therapist, or  
                 clinical social worker licensed as specified; or 

               (E)    A coroner.

          This bill would provide that in an area where the pilot program  
          is active, a mandated child abuse or neglect reporter may use  
          the Internet-based reporting tool in lieu of or in addition to  
          the required initial telephone report.

                     RECEIVERSHIP/OVERCROWDING CRISIS AGGRAVATION








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          For the past eight years, this Committee has scrutinized  
          legislation referred to its jurisdiction for any potential  
          impact on prison overcrowding.  Mindful of the United States  
          Supreme Court ruling and federal court orders relating to the  
          state's ability to provide a constitutional level of health care  
          to its inmate population and the related issue of prison  
          overcrowding, this Committee has applied its "ROCA" policy as a  
          content-neutral, provisional measure necessary to ensure that  
          the Legislature does not erode progress in reducing prison  
          overcrowding.   

          On February 10, 2014, the federal court ordered California to  
          reduce its in-state adult institution population to 137.5% of  
          design capacity by February 28, 2016, as follows:   

                 143% of design bed capacity by June 30, 2014;
                 141.5% of design bed capacity by February 28, 2015; and
                 137.5% of design bed capacity by February 28, 2016. 

          In February of this year the administration reported that as "of  
          February 11, 2015, 112,993 inmates were housed in the State's 34  
          adult institutions, which amounts to 136.6% of design bed  
          capacity, and 8,828 inmates were housed in out-of-state  
          facilities.  This current population is now below the  
          court-ordered reduction to 137.5% of design bed capacity."(  
          Defendants' February 2015 Status Report In Response To February  
          10, 2014 Order, 2:90-cv-00520 KJM DAD PC, 3-Judge Court, Coleman  
          v. Brown, Plata v. Brown (fn. omitted).

          While significant gains have been made in reducing the prison  
          population, the state now must stabilize these advances and  
          demonstrate to the federal court that California has in place  
          the "durable solution" to prison overcrowding "consistently  
          demanded" by the court.  (Opinion Re: Order Granting in Part and  
          Denying in Part Defendants' Request For Extension of December  
          31, 2013 Deadline, NO. 2:90-cv-0520 LKK DAD (PC), 3-Judge Court,  
          Coleman v. Brown, Plata v. Brown (2-10-14).  The Committee's  
          consideration of bills that may impact the prison population  
          therefore will be informed by the following questions:

              Whether a proposal erodes a measure which has contributed  
               to reducing the prison population;
              Whether a proposal addresses a major area of public safety  








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               or criminal activity for which there is no other  
               reasonable, appropriate remedy;
              Whether a proposal addresses a crime which is directly  
               dangerous to the physical safety of others for which there  
               is no other reasonably appropriate sanction; 
              Whether a proposal corrects a constitutional problem or  
               legislative drafting error; and
              Whether a proposal proposes penalties which are  
               proportionate, and cannot be achieved through any other  
               reasonably appropriate remedy.


          COMMENTS

          1.Stated Need for This Bill

          The author states:

               The Child Protective Hotline and emergency response  
               system that sends social workers to investigate  
               allegations of abuse and neglect is the first touch  
               point between the public and the county agency  
               responsible for ensuring the safety of thousands of  
               vulnerable children.  Los Angeles County is the  
               largest in the state, with 2.4 million children and  
               youth between the ages of 0-20 years.   Currently the  
               Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) employs  
               7,500 workers, 3,200 of which are children's social  
               workers.  According to the DCFS current budget report,  
               over 214,000 calls were made to the Child Protection  
               Hotline last year.



               While DCFS has made great improvements to call/wait  
               times on the telephonic system, historically some  
               years have seen tremendous spikes in the amount of  
               calls placed.  1998 was likely the worst year in which  
               some peak-hour waits lasted anywhere from 45 minutes  
               to 4 hours!  Every possible resource is given to  
               ensure that any hotline calls are investigated and the  
               information is shared appropriately with law  
               enforcement and child advocates. Yet, it is clear that  
               child abuse and neglect cases go up with the poverty  








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               and unemployment rates.  Due to its sheer size, the  
               workload for Los Angeles County social workers can be  
               incredibly daunting at critical times when resources  
               become strained.

               This pilot program is absolutely essential for the  
               well-being of so many at-risk kids.  By virtually  
               eliminating wait times, an online reporting system  
               will increase efficiencies at every level of the  
               non-emergency and emergency response services.  SB 478  
               will be an excellent resource to help county social  
               workers assess and respond to child abuse and neglect  
               cases in a timely manner.   

          2.What This Bill Would Do

          As explained above, this bill would authorize a 5-year  
          pilot program to provide an Internet-based system for  
          making mandated child abuse or neglect reports.  The bill  
          provides that participating counties shall be determined by  
          the Department of Social Services in consultation with the  
          County Welfare Directors Association and interested county  
          welfare agencies.  The bill excludes situations where a  
          child is in imminent risk, and also limits the pilot to  
          five categories of mandated reporters, listed above.  This  
          form of reporting could be in lieu of the reporting now  
          required by law.

          3.Background

          In Los Angeles County, mandated reporters who have made a  
          verbal report to the Child Protection Hotline may complete  
          a Suspected Child Abuse Form online.  However, before doing  
          so mandated reports must make a verbal report to the Child  
          Protection Hotline and obtain the referral number of the  
          verbal report from the hotline staff.  Once a reporter has  
          made a verbal report to the Hotline, the reporter may  
          complete an online report, and will not be required to mail  
          a report to the Hotline.  (See https://mandreptla.  
          org/on-lineRep.htm.)   This bill would provide legislative  
          authority for a pilot program to allow for making the  
          initial report electronically.










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