Holly Mitchell Bill to Offer Arrestee Calls for Childcare up for Senate Action

June 26, 2012

AB 2015 would allow an arrested parent to make prompt arrangements for children's care, deemed critical when arrestee faces jail or deportation

SACRAMENTO-Passed unanimously by the Assembly on May 31, AB 2015 would require that arrested men and women be asked if they are custodial parents of a minor and, if so, be allowed two calls to make arrangements for supervision and childcare during their absence. The bill is now up for approval in the state Senate.

Bail bondsmen don't do child care – and who would want them to?, asked Assemblymember Holly J. Mitchell (D-Culver City), the bill's author and chair of  the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services. Current law guarantees that persons placed under arrest are offered three phone calls; to an attorney, bondsman and relative – calls usually used to make bail arrangements. A child whose parent has been taken into custody is in more, not less, need of being properly looked after. It's time the state stopped acting as though children deserve abandonment when a parent gets into trouble.

The bill also calls for notice of this right to be communicated to an arrestee in their own language, and posted in police facilities in languages habitually used in the neighborhood. It is expected to lower the number of minors placed in foster homes at public expense, as well as reduce the number of siblings separated from each other in the aftermath of their parent's arrest.

Expected to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in cost savings for the state by keeping children of arrestees out of foster care, AB 2015 is also supported by a wide array of organizations, from the state chapter of the National Association of Social Workers to the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). It faced no opposition in the Assembly, although concerns recently expressed by law enforcement advocates about burdening the arresting procedure with a new duty may be raised in the Senate.

Officers already have a duty to allow two calls for childcare if they become aware that a person taken into custody will be leaving an under-age child in the home, Mitchell added, pointing out that since officers have to attempt to inform alleged perpetrators of their civil rights in a language they understand anyway, AB 2015 calls for no additional resources to satisfy its terms. All this bill does is require that arrestees be asked if such a child exists, in a language they understand.

The bill comes up for its first Senate hearing and vote on July 3 in the Public Safety Committee.