Here Are California’s Newest Child Welfare Laws

The Chronicle of Social Change

October 17, 2017

This year, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed an unusually robust number of bills aimed at helping foster youth and other at-risk children and families.

Last week, we noted several pieces of juvenile justice legislation signed into law in the state, including a ban on the practice of assessing administrative fees on children in the juvenile justice system and increased protections for children 15 years old and under during police interrogation.

Gov. Brown also signed the following bills.

Child Welfare, Juvenile Justice Bills Signed

Assembly Bill (AB) 404 (Mark Stone) is a “clean-up bill” aimed at easing implementation of the state’s Continuum of Care Reform (CCR) initiative by creating changes to policies for foster family agencies and Intensive Services Foster Care program, among many others.

AB 501 (Sebastian Ridley-Thomas) increases crisis services for youth by adding a new category for children’s mental health crisis residential programs, which will also align with the state’s changes to congregate care under CCR.

Sponsored by the California Youth Connection, AB 507 (Blanca Rubio) requires that counties offer specialized training to foster parents in the state, in addition to the basic state-mandated foster parent training program.

AB 604 (Mike Gipson) allows older foster youth who were involved in sex trafficking to access extended foster care benefits. It also removes some barriers for older transition-age youth to re-enter foster care if they experienced a failed guardianship or adoption after age 18.

AB 766 (Laura Friedman) helps support foster youth attending college who have not reached 18 years of age, but who are staying in college housing.

AB 878 (Mike Gipson) limits the use of restraints, including handcuffs, belly belts, and leg shackles, while youth in the juvenile justice system are being transported outside of juvenile detention. Now, restraints will not be used during court appearances, and their use in other settings during transportation will be reduced.

AB 1006 (Brian Maienschein) requires adoptive and resource families in the state’s child welfare system to receive information about specialized permanency and mental health services.

AB 1371 (Mark Stone) offers legal protections in dependency court for parenting foster youth by affording them the opportunity to consult with an attorney prior to their children being removed from their custody.

AB 1520 (Autumn Burke) creates the Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Task Force, which will be charged with submitting a report to the California Legislature about strategies to reduce the child poverty rate in the state.

Senate Bill (SB) 12 (Jim Beall) widens access to the Pell Grant by helping foster youth during the grant’s application process by making the verification process less burdensome and increasing help for foster students at community colleges in the state.

SB 213 (Holly Mitchell) aims to boost the number of placements of foster children with relative caregivers in the state by changing the types of criminal convictions that can disqualify a caregiver’s ability to participate in the foster care system.

Signed by Gov. Brown in July, SB 332 (Henry Stern) increases voter registration opportunities for youth in California.

SB 384 (Scott Wiener and Joel Anderson) allows people who were placed on a sex offender registry as a juvenile to petition for their removal from that list after five or 10 years.

SB 612 (Holly Mitchell) provides updates to the state’s transitional housing program for current and former foster youth.

SB 233 (Jim Beall) increases access for caregivers to foster children’s education records and requires training on the educational rights of foster youth for foster parents.

AB 1567 (Chris Holden) provides information to self-identified foster youth at some California colleges about existing campus support programs when they enrolled.

Vetoed Bills

Two bills related aimed at the rights on youth placed in out-of-home care in the child welfare or juvenile justice systems were also vetoed.

AB 811 (Mike Gipson) hoped to offer “reasonable access” to the internet for juvenile justice-involved youth and foster youth. However, Brown vetoed the bill, saying that it would cost $15 in “infrastructure upgrades.” He did, however, instruct the state’s Division of Juvenile Justice to “present a plan in the coming year to provide computer and internet access as soon as is practicable.”

SB 304 (Anthony Portantino) would have required individualized transition plans and academic record portfolios for students in juvenile court schools. Gov. Brown sent back a veto message for the bill, saying that a 2014 bill he signed into law provides enough guidance for students transitioning from juvenile court schools to other schools. AB 2276 required county offices of education and probation departments to develop joint planning policies for these students.

Correction: SB 233 and AB 1567 were signed over the weekend by Gov. Brown.