Assembly Unanimously Supports New Protections for Foster Children

August 07, 2014

SACRAMENTO: Legislation that will allow state and county child welfare agencies to share vital information necessary for the safe placement and monitoring of children in foster care earned the unanimous support of the State Assembly during a floor vote today. SB 1136, authored by Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) and Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), will permit the California Department of Social Services (DSS) to share criminal history exemption information of foster care providers with county child welfare agencies.

Senator Huff and Senator Mitchell introduced the legislation at the request of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors following dozens of abuse and neglect deaths in recent years involving foster children who had been under the care of the county’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).

“When the state removes children from their homes for their personal safety, the state and county assume an obligation to keep these vulnerable children from greater abuse or neglect a second time,” said Senator Huff. “Yet, at the same time, we have a section of state law that prevents the DSS from sharing vital applicant criminal waiver information with county welfare agencies, who are responsible for the placement of at-risk and special needs children. We should allow state and local agencies to work together and share information to protect innocent children from additional harm or danger. Our legislation will allow this.”

Current California law prevents county child welfare agencies like the DCFS, from obtaining access to a listing of all non-relative foster parents and employees who have been granted a criminal exemption by DSS.  Due to the changes spelled out under SB 1136, counties will no longer be kept in the dark and can receive an explanation for each approved criminal exemption.  This allows county social workers to make better informed placement decisions prior to placing a child in a Foster Family Agency Home or State licensed home.

“This legislation eliminates a major barrier to state and county agencies working together effectively to seek and monitor placements for foster children,” said Senator Mitchell. “Senator Huff and I believe it is possible for government to better protect children while cutting red tape. Today our colleagues have agreed that this is the right approach.”

SB 1136 is sponsored by Los Angeles County and has earned the support of the Association of Community Human Services, County Welfare Directors Association, California Youth Authority, Orange County Board of Supervisors, Children Now, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, California Probation, Parole and Correctional Association, California Police Chiefs Association and the California State Foster Parent Association.