BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



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          Date of Hearing:   June 28, 2016


                        ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON HUMAN SERVICES


                                Susan Bonilla, Chair


          SB  
          1060 (Leno) - As Amended June 22, 2016


          SENATE VOTE:  31-7


          SUBJECT:  Postadoption contact:  siblings of dependent children  
          or wards


          SUMMARY:  Requires the court, when considering an adoption  
          petition, to inquire about development of a voluntary  
          postadoption sibling contact agreement, and requires the county  
          placing agency, when parental rights are terminated and the  
          court orders a child be placed for adoption, to the extent  
          practicable, to convene a meeting for the purpose of determining  
          whether to voluntarily execute a postadoption sibling contact  
          agreement, as specified.  


          Specifically, this bill:  


          1)Defines "sibling" to mean a person related to the identified  
            child by blood, adoption, or affinity through a common legal  
            or biological parent.











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          2)Adds direct reference to siblings in a number of provisions  
            related to postadoption contact between an adoptive child and  
            his or her birth relatives, including:



             a)   Legislative findings and declarations regarding the  
               benefits for some adoptive children of having contact with  
               siblings and regarding voluntary postadoption contact  
               agreements with siblings;



             b)   The prohibition that nothing in the adoption laws of  
               California shall be construed to prevent any siblings and a  
               child from voluntarily executing a written agreement to  
               permit continuing contact if the agreement is found by the  
               court to have been executed voluntarily and to be in the  
               best interest of the child at the time the adoption  
               petition is granted;



             c)   The requirement that the terms of any postadoption  
               contact agreement with siblings shall be limited to the  
               sharing of information about the child, unless the child  
               has a preexisting relationship with the sibling;



             d)   The prohibition that the court shall not set aside a  
               decree of adoption, rescind a relinquishment, or modify an  
               order to terminate parental rights or any other prior court  
               order because of the failure of a sibling to comply with  
               the postadoption contact agreement, as specified; and 



             e)   Other requirements regarding postadoption contact  








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               agreements, as specified.



          3)Requires the court, at the time of consideration of an  
            adoption petition, to inquire into the status of the  
            development of a voluntary postadoption sibling contact  
            agreement, as specified.



          4)Requires the court order for the permanent placement of a ward  
            of the court, as specified, to include specification of the  
            nature and frequency of visiting arrangements with any  
            siblings.



          5)Requires, when parental rights are terminated and the court  
            orders a dependent child or ward to be placed for adoption,  
            the county placing agency, to the extent practicable, to  
            convene a meeting with the child, sibling(s) of the child,  
            prospective adoptive parent(s), and a facilitator for the  
            purpose of determining whether to voluntarily execute a  
            postadoption sibling contact agreement, as specified.   
            Further, authorizes the county placing agency to comply with  
            this requirement by allowing a nonprofit organization  
            authorized to provide permanency placement and postadoption  
            mediation, as specified, to facilitate the meeting and develop  
            the agreement.



          6)States that the county placing agency is not required to  
            convene a meeting to determine whether to voluntarily execute  
            a postadoption sibling contact agreement, as specified, in  
            either of the following circumstances:










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             a)   It determines that such a meeting or agreement would be  
               contrary to the safety and well-being of the child; or



             b)   The child requests that a meeting not occur.



          7)Permits a child to petition the court for an order requiring  
            the county placing agency to convene a meeting to determine  
            whether to voluntarily execute a postadoption sibling contact  
            agreement, as specified, and further states that if the court  
            determines by a preponderance of the evidence that such a  
            meeting or agreement is contrary to the safety and well-being  
            of the child, the reasons for that determination shall be  
            noted in the court order, and the meeting is not required to  
            occur.



          8)Requires both counsel to the child and to the sibling(s) who  
            are dependents of the court to be notified, and permitted to  
            attend, both the meeting and the hearing, as specified.



          9)Stipulates that attendance by a child, sibling, or other party  
            shall not be required at a meeting to determine whether to  
            voluntarily execute a postadoption sibling contact agreement,  
            as specified, if the child, sibling, or other party cannot be  
            located or does not wish to attend.  Further, states that this  
            shall not prohibit a county placing agency from convening a  
            meeting if not all of the parties are secured to attend.



          10)Makes technical changes.








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          EXISTING LAW:   


          1)Permits the juvenile court to adjudge a child a dependent of  
            the court for specified reasons, including, but not limited  
            to, if a child has suffered or is at substantial risk of  
            suffering serious physical harm, emotional damage, or sexual  
            abuse, as specified.  (WIC 300)


          2)States that the purpose of foster care 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.  (WIC 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.  (WIC 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  
            child's individual needs, as specified.  Further requires the  
            selection of placement to consider, in order of priority,  








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            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.  (WIC 16501.1(d)(1))


          5)States Legislative intent to preserve and strengthen a child's  
            sibling relationship when that child or sibling has been  
            removed from the home, such that the court has authority to  
            develop a visitation plan for siblings, as specified, and  
            further delineates steps to be taken by various entities to  
            facilitate continued sibling contact.  (WIC 16002)


          6)Requires a social worker, to the extent that it is practical  
            and appropriate, place a minor together with any siblings or  
            half-siblings who are also detained or include in the case  
            report, as specified, a statement of his or her continuing  
            efforts to place the siblings together or why those efforts  
            are not appropriate.  (WIC 306.5)


          7)Provides for postadoption contact agreements to facilitate  
            direct or indirect contact between adoptive children and their  
            birth relatives.  (FAM 8616.5)


          FISCAL EFFECT:  According to the Senate Appropriations Committee  
          analysis from May 27, 2016, this bill may result in the  
          following costs: 


           1)Team meetings  :  Potentially significant increase in state  








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            costs (General Fund*) for additional meetings to the extent  
            the meetings consist of child and family team (CFT) members.   
            Estimated costs assuming only 50% of the 6,400 annual  
            dependent adoptions require a CFT meeting could cost in the  
            range of $850,000 to over $1.7 million annually based on the  
            average duration of 3.7 hours per CFT meeting and the  
            attendance of one or two local agency representatives.  These  
            costs do not include any additional time CFT members may incur  
            to identify and notify non-dependent siblings to coordinate  
            these meetings.  Actual costs could be substantially higher to  
            the extent the proportion of dependents with siblings is  
            higher than assumed above, or more than two CFT members  
            representing local agencies are in attendance at the meeting.   




           2)Sibling visitation  :  Potentially significant increase in state  
            costs (General Fund*) for local agencies to facilitate  
            additional sibling visits for dependent siblings of adopted  
            minors resulting from postadoptive sibling contact agreements.  
             Annual costs would be dependent on numerous factors that are  
            unknown at this time, including but not limited to the number  
            of adopted children with dependent siblings for which  
            postadoptive sibling contact agreements will be ordered, the  
            frequency of visits provided for in the agreements, and the  
            time involved for the social worker to provide for this  
            sibling visitation in each case (distance and duration). 



           3)Court impact  :  Minor workload impact and potentially future  
            cost savings to the extent the CFT meetings result in less  
            time spent during the court hearing on sibling visitation  
            issues.



           4)Proposition 30* :  Exempts the State from mandate reimbursement  








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            for realigned responsibilities for "public safety services"  
            including the provision of child welfare services, however,  
            legislation enacted after September 30, 2012, that has an  
            overall effect of increasing the costs already borne by a  
            local agency for public safety services apply to local  
            agencies only to the extent that the State provides annual  
            funding for the cost increase.  The provisions of Proposition  
            30 have not been interpreted through the formal court process  
            to date, however, to the extent the local agency costs  
            resulting from this measure are determined to be applicable  
            under the provisions of Proposition 30 could result in  
            additional costs to the State.



          COMMENTS:  





          Child Welfare Services:  The purpose of California's Child  
          Welfare Services (CWS) system is to protect children from abuse  
          and neglect and provide for their health and safety.  When  
          children are identified as being at risk of abuse, neglect or  
          abandonment, county juvenile courts hold legal jurisdiction and  
          children are served by the CWS system through the appointment of  
          a social worker.  Through this system, there are multiple  
          opportunities for the custody of the child, or his or her  
          placement outside of the home, to be evaluated, reviewed and  
          determined by the judicial system, in consultation with the  
          child's social worker, to help provide the best possible  
          services to the child.  The CWS system seeks to help children  
          who have been removed from their homes reunify with their  
          parents or guardians, whenever appropriate, or unite them with  
          other individuals they consider to be family.  There are  
          currently over 62,000 children and youth in California's child  
          welfare system.









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          Postadoption contact agreements:  State law recognizes the  
          benefits often derived from adoptive children having either  
          direct or indirect contact with birth relatives after being  
          adopted, and provides for the development of postadoption  
          contact agreements.  These agreements are intended to establish  
          ongoing contact between a child who has been adopted and his or  
          her birth relatives; they are voluntarily entered into by birth  
          relatives and adoptive parents.  The purview of these agreements  
          is limited to, but does not need to include, provisions for  
          visitation, future contact, and sharing of information about the  
          child in the future.


          Foster youth and sibling relationships:  The importance of  
          maintaining relationships between siblings who have been  
          separated from each other due to involvement with the child  
          welfare system is well-recognized.  According to the Child  
          Welfare Information Gateway:                           


            "Sibling relationships are emotionally powerful and critically  
            important not only in childhood but over the course of a  
            lifetime.  As children, siblings form a child's first peer  
            group, and they typically spend more time with each other than  
            with anyone else.  Children learn social skills, particularly  
            in sharing and managing conflict, from negotiating with  
            brothers and sisters.  Sibling relationships can provide a  
            significant source of continuity throughout a child's lifetime  
            and are likely to be the longest relationships that most  
            people experience."


          The federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing  
          Adoptions Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-351) was the first  
          recognition in federal law of the importance of keeping siblings  
          together, and it required states to make reasonable efforts to  
          maintain sibling connections, stating that reasonable efforts  
          shall be made:








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          1)"To place siblings removed from their home in the same foster  
            care, kinship, guardianship, or adoptive placement, unless the  
            State documents that such a joint placement would be contrary  
            to the safety or well-being of any of the siblings; and




          2)In the case of siblings removed from their home who are not so  
            jointly placed, to provide for frequent visitation or other  
            ongoing interaction between the siblings, unless the State  
            documents that frequent visitation or other ongoing  
            interaction would be contrary to the safety or well-being of  
            any of the siblings."  (42 U.S.C. 671(a)(31))

          California state law requires a social worker, to the extent  
          that it is practical and appropriate, place a minor together  
          with any siblings or half-siblings who are also detained or  
          include in the case report a statement of his or her continuing  
          efforts to place the siblings together or why those efforts are  
          not appropriate.  

          Need for this bill:  According to the author: 


            "For an adoption to establish a lasting commitment between the  
            child and adopting parents, elements of healing and support  
            are essential.  Research confirms that sustaining  
            relationships with the biological family, especially siblings,  
            is effective in overcoming any negative effects of being  
            removed from one's family and placed into foster care.  [This  
            bill] will maintain sibling relationships through the adoption  
            process by elevating the function of the post adoption contact  
            agreement between siblings and prospective adoptive children  
            prior to adoption finalization." 









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          PRIOR AND RELATED LEGISLATION:


          AB 1997 (Stone), 2016, would adopt changes to further facilitate  
          implementation of Continuum of Care Reform (CCR) recommendations  
          to better serve children and youth in California's child welfare  
          services system.  It will be heard in the Senate Human Services  
          Committee on June 28, 2016.


          AB 403 (Stone), Chapter 773, Statutes of 2015, implemented CCR  
          recommendations to better serve children and youth in  
          California's child welfare services system.


          SB 1099 (Steinberg), Chapter 773, Statutes of 2014, encouraged  
          visitation with siblings for children in the dependency and  
          juvenile justice systems.


          AB 743 (Portantino), Chapter 560, Statutes of 2010, made changes  
          to the standards for sibling visitation, interaction, and  
          placement for children who are placed out-of-home, in foster  
          care, or adoption, to conform with language in the federal  
          Fostering Connections Act.


          AB 705 (Steinberg), Chapter 747, Statutes of 2001, ensured that  
          sibling relationships are considered at all appropriate hearings  
          and siblings are placed together when appropriate.


          AB 1987 (Steinberg), Chapter 909, Statutes of 2000, required the  
          juvenile court to consider the existence and nature of sibling  
          relationships in all placement, visitation and permanency  
          hearings.










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           SECOND COMMITTEE OF REFERENCE  .  This bill was previously heard  
          in the Assembly Judiciary Committee on June 21, 2016 and was  
          approved on a 10-0 vote.



          REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION:




          Support


          California Youth Connection - sponsor 
          Alliance for Boys and Men of Color 
          California Alliance 
          California CASA Association 
          Children Now
          Children's Law Center
          County Welfare Directors Association of CA (CWDA)
          Families Now
          Hillsides
          The John Burton Foundation
          National Association of Social Workers
          Public Counsel 




          Opposition


          None on file.










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          Analysis Prepared by:Daphne Hunt / HUM. S. / (916)  
          319-2089