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A07117 Memo:

submitted in accordance with Assembly Rule III, Sec 1(f)
SPONSOR: Persaud
  TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the family court act and the social services law, in relation to notice of indicated reports of child maltreatment and changes of placement in child protective and voluntary foster care placement and review proceedings; and to repeal certain provisions of the family court act, in relation to technical changes thereto This is one in a series of measures being introduced at the request of the Chief Administrative Judge upon the recommendation of her Family Court Advisory and Rules Committee. This measure would amend provisions of the Family Court Act and the Social Services Law to ensure that parties to child protective and voluntary foster care placement and review proceedings and the attorneys for affected children are promptly informed of any changes in placement and of any indicated reports of maltreatment that may warrant court intervention. Reflecting a pronounced legislative trend at both Federal and State levels, the ongoing oversight responsibility of the Family Court with respect to children in foster care has increased sharply in the past two decades, culminating in passage of the Federal Adoption and Safe Fami- lies Act of 1997 (Public Law 105-89), its state implementing legislation (L.1999, c. 7), the landmark New York State permanency law (L.2005, c. 3) and, most recently, the Federal Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act   Public Law 113-183. Both the Federal and State Adoption and Safe Families Acts emphasize that child safety is paramount, compelling the conclusion that the court and parties must be informed promptly of all events affecting child safety, especially indi- cated reports of abuse or maltreatment. Recognizing that children in foster care are at significant risk of becoming victims of human traf- ficking, Public Law 113-183 reinforces that conclusion, in particular, with respect to children who abscond. Equally important, the Federal ASFA measures success in terms of outcomes, i.e., the States' ability to reach Federally-established targets for timely achievement of permanency for children. The second "Child and Family Service Review (CFSR)," conducted by the Adminis- tration for Children and Families of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HEN) in 2008, concluded that New York State again ranked among the lowest scores in the nation and demonstrated how far the State needs to progress in order to achieve Federal targets.* Legislative action is thus compelled in order to ensure that Family Courts can exercise their important monitoring functions on the basis of complete, timely information. The 2005 permanency legislation, with its salutary provisions for continuing jurisdiction, was an important step, but further legislation is necessary to ensure that information regard- ing the most compelling of circumstances is conveyed to the Court, the child's attorney and the parties on a timely basis in order to bring New York State into compliance with ASFA. This measure would supply the necessary reform. It would amend sections 1055 and 1089 of the Family Court Act, as well as section 358-a of the Social Services Law, to require an agency with which a child has been placed, either voluntarily or as a result of an abuse or neglect find- ing, or to whom guardianship and custody has beeri transferred as a result of the child being freed for adoption, to report to the attorney for the child not later than ten days in advance of any change in the child's placement status and not later than the next business day in any case in which an emergency placement change has been made. These provisions are consistent with the recently issued policy directives of the State Office of Children and Family Services and the New York City Administration for Children's Services, but would have the stronger force of statute.** The measure adds two important requirements not contained in the new agency policies. First, it requires a report within five days of the date that any report of abuse or maltreatment is found to be indicated. Indicated reports include those naming the child and, where the subjects of the reports involve the person or persons caring for the child, reports naming other children in the home. It contains an important proviso that such reports notify the recipients that the information shall be kept confidential, shall be used only in connection with the child protective, foster care or related proceedings under the Family Court Act and may not be re-disclosed except as necessary for such proceeding or proceedings and as authorized by law. Second, recognizing that fairness also compels such notifications to be made to the attor- neys for all parties, not simply the attorneys for the children, the measure requires that both notices of changes in placement and indicated child maltreatment reports be conveyed to attorneys for the birth parents except in cases involving children freed for adoption. The two types of reports, in fact, are related, as the existence of an indicated report of maltreatment may bear directly upon the suitability o f a planned status change. Indeed, there have been instances in which the existence of indicated child abuse reports has not come to light until the point of finalization of adoptions. Significantly, this measure is fully responsive to concerns raised in the Governor's Veto Message regarding A 8418, a bill requiring notifica- tion to children's attorneys of changes in placement that passed both houses of the Legislature in 2010. First, by explicitly authorizing electronic transmittal of notices, the measure minimizes the burden imposed upon placement agencies. Second, since notifications are sent to the attorneys but not to the courts, the measure insures that court intervention would only occur in the rare eases in which an application is made by one of the attorneys. In few areas of Family Court's functioning is its continuing jurisdic- tion as critical as in child welfare, where complex decisions regarding children must be adjusted to the dynamic of their constantly changing needs and circumstances. Federal and State statutes emphasize that child safety must be deemed the paramount consideration and that timely achievement of permanence must be the central goal. Not only are these matters of statutory imperative, but they are also determinative of the State's eligibility for over $500 million of annual Federal foster care aid. Prompt receipt by the Court, the parties and attorneys for children of information regarding a child's ever-changing circumstances, both as to any child maltreatment suffered by the child and as to changes in the child's placement, is vital to the effective exercise of the Family Court's continuing jurisdiction and is a critical component of the State's ability to comply with the ASFA funding eligibility mandates. Changes in placement covered by the notification requirement would include, but not be limited to, cases in which the child has been moved from the foster or pre-adoptive home or program into which he or she has been placed, cases in which the foster or pre-adoptive parents move out of state with the child and, with respect to children not freed for adoption, cases in which a trial or final discharge of the child from foster care has been made. The report of a change in placement must provide enough information for litigants and Family Court to assess whether further judicial intervention may be warranted. It must state the reasons for the change, as well as the grounds for the agency's conclusion that change is in the child's best interests. This notifica- tion requirement does not contemplate court action in every case; nor does it interfere with the discretion of social services agencies to make necessary changes. Both the Adoption and Safe Families Act and recent permanency legis- lation increased the frequency of judicial reviews of children in foster care, thus minimizing the problem of stale information. However, the ability of the Family Court and of the litigants to respond effectively is seriously impeded - and harm to children may be compounded - if information regarding significant changes in status of the children, and, importantly, indicated reports of neglect or abuse of the children, is not conveyed to parties until the next permanency hearing, often a delay of several months. This measure will facilitate timely, informed responses to changes in children's placements and incidents of maltreat- ment, thus prompting more expeditious and effective resolution of their cases. This measure, which would have no fiscal impact upon the State, would take effect immediately, provided that sections one, three, four and five of this act shall take effect on the one hundred twentieth day after it shall have become a law; and provided further that section two of this act shall be deemed to have taken effect on the same date as section one of chapter 342 of the laws of 2010, took effect.   REPEAL NOTE: Section 67 of chapter 41 of the laws of 2010 contains language incon- sistent with language in chapter 342 of the laws of 2010.   2013-14 LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: Senate 4081-B (Sen. Felder) (ref to Children and Families) Assembly 2599-13 (M. of A. Paulin) (Passed)   2011-12 LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: Senate 5456 (Sen. Savino) (committed to Rules) Assembly 7598 (M. of A. Paulin) (Passed) Assembly 2602-B (M. of A. Paulin) (Passed)   2012 LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: Senate 7581 (Sen. Gallivan) (Rules) Assembly 10520 (Committee on Rules, at request of M. of A. Paulin, et al) (Codes) *As in 2001, New York State scored poorly in the time for children to achieve permanency. See Final Report of the Child and Family Services Review of New York State: Executive Summary, p. 2 (March, 2009)(available at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/cwrp/executive/ny/html) **N.Y.S. Office of Children and Family Services, "Notice of Placement Change to Attorneys for Children," Administrative Directive 10-OCFS-ADM-16 (Dec. 14, 2010); Memorandum of John B. Mattingly, Commissioner, N.Y.C. Administration for Children's Services, entitled "Notice of Placement Change to Attorneys for Children," dated Aug. 30, 2010,
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