Month: October 2019

cps, parental alienation syndrome
Parental Alienation- An Unforgivable Act of Child Abuse With Permanent Consequences

Intentional alienation of a child against one parent is absolutely wrong and virtually unforgivable.

note: This article describes the relationships between conflicting parents and the children – but it’s vitally important to remember that the targeted parent and child whose affections are alienated can also be the victims of others they are in a high conflict relationship with- such as a grandparent who has, for whatever reason, decided to destroy the parent/child bond with these tactics.

In many cases, others may witness this alienation as it occurs but, despite knowing that it is wrong, or feeling sad for the harm being done, they do not interfere or attempt to stop the alienation. Maybe they think it’s none of their business, or maybe they feel they have no standing, or maybe they, too, are intimidated by the abuser.

Standing idly by without a word can be potentially catastrophic with irreparable consequences for both the child and the targeted parent.

While any application which flows from a suspicion of alienation will be costly and worsen the conflict between the parents, it is urgent that the alienation be stopped immediately if its long-term impact is to be avoided”

The Difference Between an Estranged Cold and an Alienated Child

An estranged child is not the same thing as an alienated child. Parental alienation is AN INTENTIONAL ACT OF CHILD ABUSE, often with permanent lifelong negative effects.

The difference between an estranged child and an alienated child is that an estranged child has grown apart from the parent for reasons that are, to be blunt, reasonable and realistic.

An alienated child, however, is the victim of one parent‘s efforts to destroy the child‘s relationship with the other parent.

An estranged child is either absolutely ambivalent about the other parent or enraged by the other parent. These feelings are, however, justified by the child‘s experience of the separation or by the child‘s experience of that parent.

These children are usually estranged as a result of:

  • witnessing violence committed by that parent against the other parent,
  • being the victim of abuse from that parent,
  • the parent‘s persistently immature and self-centered behaviour,
  • the parent‘s unduly rigid and restrictive parenting style, and/or
  • the parent‘s own psychological or psychiatric issues.

The point here is that the feelings of estranged children are based on the child‘s lived experiences. In cases of estrangement, the child‘s rejection of a parent is reasonable, and is an adaptive and protective response to the parent‘s behaviour.

The feelings of alienated children, however, are neither reasonable nor the result of the rejected parent‘s conduct

Alienated children usually reject a parent without guilt or sadness and without an objectively reasonable cause.

The children’s views of the alienated parent are usually grossly distorted and exaggerated.

Alienation is most easily defined as the complete breakdown of a child‘s relationship with a parent as a result of the other parent‘s efforts to turn a child against that parent.

Typically, alienation begins to show itself as a problem when the parents are involved in extremely bitter and heated litigation. Not every case of high conflict litigation involves alienation, but alienation can and does happen.

A 1991 study by the American Bar Association found indications of alienation in the majority of 700 high conflict divorce cases studied over 12 years..

In some circumstances, alienation can amount to child abuse.

As J.M. Bone and M.R. Walsh put it in their article “Parental Alienation Syndrome: How to detect it and what to do about it,” published in 1999 in the Florida Bar Journal, 73(3): 44–48 I, usually because of an interim order or some other sort of temporary arrangement.

The sorts of behaviours that suggest an intention to alienate a child from the other parent include, among other things:

  • making negative comments about the other parent to the child,
  • stating or implying that the child is in danger when with the other parent,
  • grilling the child about their activities, meals, and living conditions when with the other parent,
  • stating or implying that the activities, meals, and living conditions offered by the other parent are deficient or problematic,
  • setting up activities that the child will enjoy during times when the child is with the other parent,
  • telling the child that it’s up to them to decide whether to visit the other parent, and/or
  • stating or implying that the child is being abused or maltreated by the other parent.

The consequences of parental alienation or attempted alienation can be quite profound.

Alienation at its best is a form of psychological programming; at worst, it’s brainwashing.

Alienation may result in the permanent destruction of a child‘s relationship with a parent and in long-lasting psychological problems for the alienated child.

In their article, Bone and Walsh conclude that when alienation has been identified, the solution is to deal with it immediately:

When attempted [parental alienation syndrome] has been identified, successful or not, it must be dealt with swiftly by the court. If it is not, it will contaminate and quietly control all other parenting issues and then lead only to unhappiness, frustration, and, lastly, parental estrangement. …

The study by Johnston and Campbell described children with strong alignments as “forfeiting their childhood” because of the adult role they are forced to play when they become the alienating parent‘s nurturer, ally, and support system.

Dr. Rand notes that:

Divorce almost inevitably burdens children with greater responsibilities and makes them feel less cared for. Children of chronically troubled parents bear a greater burden. … The needs of the troubled parent override the developmental needs of the child, with the result that the child becomes psychologically depleted and their own emotional and social progress is crippled.”

While the process of alienation is underway, children are subject to a tremendous conflict of loyalties, which compounds the burden of nurturing an emotionally troubled parent, particularly when the alienation is intentional.

When the parents were together, their children loved them both, and children naturally desire for this to continue even when their parents aren’t together. Alienating conduct essentially asks children to pick sides, to chose one parent permanently and irrevocably over the other parent.

In G.F. Cartwright’s article “Expanding the Parameters of Parental Alienation Syndrome,” published in the American Journal of Family Therapy in 1993, a number of long-term psychological problems were found in children in alienation situations, including:

  • depression, anxiety, and/or stress,
  • delayed emotional maturity,
  • psychosomatic illnesses, and
  • long-term feelings of guilt and loss.

In A. Lampel’s article “Children’s Alignment with Parents in Highly Conflicted Custody Cases,” published in the Family and Conciliation Courts Review in 1996, these psychological problems were found to include:

  • being angrier than non-alienated children,
  • being less well-adjusted, and
  • being less able to conceptualize complex situations.

Finally, when the process of alienation is complete, the child will have chosen sides.

The child‘s relationship with the other parent may be permanently impaired. While many children afflicted by alienation will recover in their mid- to late-teens and reach out to the other parent, some never do, and their relationship with the other parent is permanently destroyed.

-an unforgivable intentional act of malice –

child abuse in a most destructive form….

To quote from the judge in a 2005 Ontario case, Cooper v. Cooper, 2004 CanLII 47783 (ON SC):

“I find that [the mother’s] sabotaging actions have been knowing, wilful and deliberate. As a result of [her] behaviour, the children have little or no relationship with the father who loves them, who has tried to be a good father, and who has been a good provider throughout their lives.”

While evidence of alienation is necessary before a court can make a determination that it has occurred or make orders to ameliorate it, the impact of that behaviour or the allegation that it has occurred can give rise to situations where children become actively involved in the court action.

Parents often find themselves feeling closer to their children following separation than they did during the relationship. Dr. Rand says that fathers in particular find a greater reward in parenting as a result of the loss, loneliness, and feelings of failure that can follow from the breakdown of the relationship.

Accordingly, the impact of parental alienation is particularly traumatic to the targeted parent.

D.S. Huntington, in an article published in 1986 in Divorce and Fatherhood, noted that some parents can be driven off by a child‘s apparent rejection and refusal to visit.

J.W. Jacobs, in a different article in the same book, says that targeted parents may also voluntarily withdraw from the child‘s life where, in their view, the child would suffer if the custody issues were pursued, or if the child would be exposed to additional conflict between the parents.
Contributing to the problem

Johnston has described ways that a targeted parent can inadvertently contribute to the child‘s alienation by displaying the sorts of behaviours that the alienating parent has taught the child to expect. These sorts of behaviours include: being cold and emotionally distant; being rigid and controlling; being insensitive to the child‘s needs; and, not being empathetic.

These sorts of behaviours may reinforce the alienating parent‘s position and make the environment provided by the alienating parent compare favourably to that of the targted parent.

In cases that are profoundly high conflict, false claims may be made, usually by the alienating parent, that the other parent has sexually or physically abused the child. Sometimes this is the fruit of the paranoia with which the alienating parent views the other parent, when a diaper rash turns into sexual assault and a bruise from falling off a jungle gym turns into proof of a beating.

Sometimes, however, false claims are a part of the campaign to alienate the other parent when the alienation is intentional.

For the targeted parent, claims of this nature are devastating because they are so very difficult to disprove and they attack the moral fitness of the parent in a fundamental and humiliating way.

While the claim is being defended, however, the parent may spend months without seeing their child. Even if the claim can be disproven, the parent may find that so much time has been lost that their relationship with the child is damaged. (Note that even unproven claims may result in arrest and possible criminal charges. Even where there are no criminal charges, a parent who has been arrested is invariably released following arrest on a promise not to contact the other parent or the child.)

Interestingly, K.L. Ross and G.J. Blush, in an article published in 1990 in Issues in Child Abuse Allegations, observed that falsely accused parents typically displayed passive behaviour in contrast to the accuser’s excitable and hysterical behaviour.

An American attorney Dr. Rand mentions says that the falsely accused parents she represents in parental alienation cases are typically emotionally and financially stable people, who were often the child‘s primary parent before separation.

So how do you deal with an alienated child??

When a child is becoming estranged or alienated, or when parental alienation is suspected, the situation must be dealt with as soon as possible.

In most cases, these sorts of problems occur in the context of ongoing litigation, and the problem can usually be dealt with in the context of that litigation.

Section 211 of the Family Law Act allows a court to order that a Needs of the Child Assessment, formerly called a Custody and Access Report, be prepared. If the other parent will not agree to the preparation of a Needs of the Child Assessment, you must apply for an order that the report be prepared.

Proper Needs of the Child Assessments are prepared by a psychologist or a psychiatrist, or another mental health professional, who interviews each of the parents separately, and then interviews the child twice, once in the presence of each parent. The assessor may also give the children and the parents certain common psychological tests, such as personality evaluations and parenting inventories.

Most often it’s only the parents who are tested. The assessor will then prepare a report that sets out their observations and recommendations.

In making an order that a Needs of the Child Assessment be prepared, the court can simply say “a report will be prepared” or it can be more detailed and discuss which person will prepare the report, when it will be finished, and who will pay for it. Most importantly, the order can identify particular issues that the assessor is to address in the report.

Where a report is sought because of suspected parental alienation, the order should expressly state that the assessor is to see whether alienation is or is not happening.

Can you fix the problem?

Frankly, it may be impossible to fix a child‘s alienation from one of their parents even when alienation has been identified by a psychiatrist.

In a 1988 article by N.R. Palmer published in the American Journal of Family Therapy, Palmer quotes a Florida judge who dealt with an alienation case:

“The Court has no doubt that the cause of the blind, brainwashed, bigoted belligerence of the children toward the father grew from the soil nurtured, watered and tilled by the mother.

The Court is thoroughly convinced that the mother breached every duty she owed as the custodial parent to the noncustodial parent of instilling love, respect and feeling in the children for their father. Worse, she slowly dripped poison into the minds of these children, maybe even beyond the power of this Court to find the antidote.”

Dr. Gardner’s solution was to remove the child from the care of the alienating parent. This is, in most cases, a drastic solution which forces the child to live full-time with the parent they have been taught to dislike and distrust.

It may still be appropriate in the right circumstances.

This is what the Supreme Court did in the 2009 case of A.A. v. S.N.A., 2009 BCSC 303 when it found that the mother had “continued to undermine the relationship between [the child] and her father” and “acted in ways that are detrimental to [the child‘s] psychological healing.”

The court ordered that the child have no contact with her mother at all for one year. This kind of solution remains the exception rather than the rule.

In most cases, however, the best that can be done to cure the problem is to obtain an order requiring that the child, the alienated parent, or both the child and the parent see a family counsellor skilled in dealing with the psychological effects of separation. The court can specify who the counsellor will be, how frequent the sessions will be, and who will pay for them.

There is no guarantee that counselling will fix the problem since the source of the problem lies in the conduct of the alienating parent, but counselling is a less drastic step and will be easier to obtain than an order changing the children’s home.

In a small number of cases, it may prove impossible to ameliorate an alienated child‘s views about the targeted parent. These cases are tragic and a legal solution may not be available.

When the alienation becomes deeply entrenched, the issue about which parent bears the blame for the children’s views is irrelevant.

You can lay blame, but that won’t change the fact of how the children feel. In situations like this, the targeted parent may have no choice but to wait until the children become mature and independent enough to seek out the parent and talk about their childhood.

The Fall 2008 edition of AFCC News, an organ of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, discusses a ground-breaking program for alienated and estranged children called Breaking Barriers Camp. The program involved all family members in intensive therapy in an overnight camp setting at a facility called Common Ground Center in Starksboro, Vermont, with enormous amounts of support available to encourage reunification between parents and their children.

The program, by the article’s account, was a stunning success, with four of five families leaving with mutually agreed plans to continue working on the re-established parent-child relationship.

Links

Custody Cases

foster care, news
California Governor Has Given Children in Foster Care the Right to have internet Access- and More

California’s Governor Newsom signed over 1000 bills this week  including one bill regarding the rights of children in foster care .

Of the many rights afforded to foster children, they shall now include the right to have internet access. He also changed the minimum age that a child can choose to be involved in their permanency planning at the age of 10 now, rather than the age 12.

I have copied a full text here if the bill for readers to take a look themselves at the laws and changes to come for Foster Children’s rights in the State of California.


AB-175 Foster care: rights.(2019-2020)

Published: 10/02/2019 09:00 PM

BILL START

Assembly Bill No. 175
CHAPTER 416

An act to amend Section 1530.91 of the Health and Safety Code, and to amend Section 16164 of, and to repeal and add Section 16001.9 of, the Welfare and Institutions Code, relating to foster care.

[ Approved by Governor  October 02, 2019. Filed with Secretary of State  October 02, 2019. ]

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST

AB 175, Gipson. Foster care: rights.
Existing law provides for the out-of-home placement, including foster care placement, of children who are unable to remain in the custody and care of their parents, and imposes various requirements on the county child welfare agency in regard to arranging and overseeing the foster care placement. Existing law provides that it is the policy of the state that all minors and nonminors in foster care have specified rights, including, among others, the right to receive medical, dental, vision, and mental health services, the right to be placed in out-of-home care according to their gender identity, regardless of the gender or sex listed in their court or child welfare records, the right to review their own case plan and plan for permanent placement if the child is 12 years of age or older and in a permanent placement, and the right to attend Independent Living Program classes and activities if the child meets applicable age requirements.
This bill would instead require all children and nonminor dependents in foster care to have these rights and would revise various rights, including providing the right to review their own case plan and plan for permanent placement to children 10 years of age or older regardless of whether they are in a permanent placement and the right to not be prevented from attending Independent Living Program classes by the caregiver as a punishment. The bill would include additional rights, including, among others, the right to be referred to by the child’s preferred name and gender pronoun, the right to maintain the privacy of the child’s sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, except as provided, and the right to have reasonable access to computer technology and the internet. To the extent that the bill would impose additional duties on counties, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
Existing law establishes the Office of the State Foster Care Ombudsperson within the State Department of Social Services and sets forth the duties of the office, including disseminating information on the services provided by the office and rights of children and youth in foster care, developing standardized information explaining those rights, and compiling and making available to the Legislature all data collected by the office, including specified data regarding complaints made to the office and investigations conducted by the office.
This bill would additionally require the office to provide training and technical assistance to foster youth, social workers, and child welfare organizations, among others, on the rights of children and youth in foster care, reasonable and prudent parent standards, and services provided by the office. The bill would require the office to review amendments to laws applicable to foster youth at the end of every two-year legislative session and determine whether updates to the foster care rights should be recommended in the compilation of data prepared by the office and made available to the Legislature.
Existing law, the California Community Care Facilities Act, provides for the licensing and regulation of community care facilities, including foster family homes and group homes, by the State Department of Social Services. Existing law requires certain community care facilities that provide care to foster children to either provide each schooolage child and the child’s authorized representative with an orientation that includes an explanation of the rights of the child or post a listing of the above-described rights.
This bill would require the department to ensure that those facilities accord children and nonminor dependents in foster care with their personal rights, including the above-described rights. The bill would require the department to adopt regulations to implement these provisions, and would authorize the department to implement these provisions by written directives until regulations are adopted.
The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.
This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.
DIGEST KEY
Vote: majority   Appropriation: no   Fiscal Committee: yes   Local Program: yes
BILL TEXT
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

SECTION 1. Section 1530.91 of the Health and Safety Code is amended to read:
1530.91. (a) Except as provided in subdivision (b), a care provider that provides foster care for children pursuant to this chapter shall provide each schoolage child and the child’s authorized representative, as defined in regulations adopted by the department, who is placed in foster care, with an age and developmentally appropriate orientation that includes an explanation of the rights of the child, as specified in Section 16001.9 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, and addresses the child’s questions and concerns.
(b) Any facility licensed to provide foster care for six or more children pursuant to this chapter shall post a listing of a foster child’s rights specified in Section 16001.9 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, as developed by the Office of the State Foster Care Ombudsperson pursuant to Section 16164 of the Welfare and Institutions Code. The Office of the State Foster Care Ombudsperson shall provide the posters it has designed pursuant to Section 16164 of the Welfare and Institutions Code to each facility subject to this subdivision. The posters shall include the telephone number of the Office of the State Foster Care Ombudsperson.
(c) The department shall ensure that a facility licensed, and a home certified or approved by a foster family agency to provide foster care, pursuant to this chapter shall accord children and nonminor dependents in foster care their personal rights, including, but not limited to, the rights specified in Section 16001.9 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, as applicable. The department shall adopt regulations to implement and enforce this subdivision. Notwithstanding the rulemaking provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act (Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 11340) of Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government Code), the department may implement and enforce this subdivision by written directives until regulations are adopted.
SEC. 2. Section 16001.9 of the Welfare and Institutions Code is repealed.
SEC. 3. Section 16001.9 is added to the Welfare and Institutions Code, to read:
16001.9. (a) All children placed in foster care, either voluntarily or after being adjudged a ward or dependent of the juvenile court pursuant to Section 300, 601, or 602, shall have the rights specified in this section. These rights also apply to nonminor dependents in foster care, except when they conflict with nonminor dependents’ retention of all their legal decisionmaking authority as an adult. The rights are as follows:
(1) To live in a safe, healthy, and comfortable home where they are treated with respect. If the child is an Indian child, to live in a home that upholds the prevailing social and cultural standards of the child’s Indian community, including, but not limited to, family, social, and political ties.
(2) To be free from physical, sexual, emotional, or other abuse, corporal punishment, and exploitation.
(3) To receive adequate and healthy food, adequate clothing, grooming and hygiene products, and an age-appropriate allowance. Clothing and grooming and hygiene products shall respect the child’s culture, ethnicity, and gender identity and expression.
(4) To be placed in the least restrictive setting possible, regardless of age, physical health, mental health, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression, juvenile court record, or status as a pregnant or parenting youth, unless a court orders otherwise.
(5) To be placed with a relative or nonrelative extended family member if an appropriate and willing individual is available.
(6) To not be locked in any portion of their foster care placement, unless placed in a community treatment facility.
(7) To have a placement that utilizes trauma-informed and evidence-based deescalation and intervention techniques, to have law enforcement intervention requested only when there is an imminent threat to the life or safety of a child or another person or as a last resort after other diversion and deescalation techniques have been utilized, and to not have law enforcement intervention used as a threat or in retaliation against the child.
(8) To not be detained in a juvenile detention facility based on their status as a dependent of the juvenile court or the child welfare services department’s inability to provide a foster care placement. If they are detained, to have all the rights afforded under the United States Constitution, the California Constitution, and all applicable state and federal laws.
(9) To have storage space for private use.
(10) To be free from unreasonable searches of personal belongings.
(11) To be provided the names and contact information for social workers, probation officers, attorneys, service providers, foster youth advocates and supporters, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs), and education rights holder if other than the parent or parents, and when applicable, representatives designated by the child’s Indian tribe to participate in the juvenile court proceeding, and to communicate with these individuals privately.
(12) To visit and contact siblings, family members, and relatives privately, unless prohibited by court order, and to ask the court for visitation with the child’s siblings.
(13) To make, send, and receive confidential telephone calls and other electronic communications, and to send and receive unopened mail, unless prohibited by court order.
(14) To have social contacts with people outside of the foster care system, including, but not limited to, teachers, coaches, religious or spiritual community members, mentors, and friends. If the child is an Indian child, to have the right to have contact with tribal members and members of their Indian community consistent with the prevailing social and cultural conditions and way of life of the Indian child’s tribe.
(15) To attend religious services, activities, and ceremonies of the child’s choice, including, but not limited to, engaging in traditional Native American religious practices.
(16) To participate in extracurricular, cultural, racial, ethnic, personal enrichment, and social activities, including, but not limited to, access to computer technology and the internet, consistent with the child’s age, maturity, developmental level, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression.
(17) To have fair and equal access to all available services, placement, care, treatment, and benefits, and to not be subjected to discrimination or harassment on the basis of actual or perceived race, ethnic group identification, ancestry, national origin, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, mental or physical disability, or HIV status.
(18) To have caregivers, child welfare and probation personnel, and legal counsel who have received instruction on cultural competency and sensitivity relating to sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and best practices for providing adequate care to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender children in out-of-home care.
(19) To be placed in out-of-home care according to their gender identity, regardless of the gender or sex listed in their court, child welfare, medical, or vital records, to be referred to by the child’s preferred name and gender pronoun, and to maintain privacy regarding sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, unless the child permits the information to be disclosed, or disclosure is required to protect their health and safety, or disclosure is compelled by law or a court order.
(20) To have child welfare and probation personnel and legal counsel who have received instruction on the federal Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (25 U.S.C. Sec. 1901 et seq.) and on cultural competency and sensitivity relating to, and best practices for, providing adequate care to Indian children in out-of-home care.
(21) To have recognition of the child’s political affiliation with an Indian tribe or Alaskan village, including a determination of the child’s membership or citizenship in an Indian tribe or Alaskan village; to receive assistance in becoming a member of an Indian tribe or Alaskan village in which the child is eligible for membership or citizenship; to receive all benefits and privileges that flow from membership or citizenship in an Indian tribe or Alaskan village; and to be free from discrimination based on the child’s political affiliation with an Indian tribe or Alaskan village.
(22) (A) To access and receive medical, dental, vision, mental health, and substance use disorder services, and reproductive and sexual health care, with reasonable promptness that meets the needs of the child, to have diagnoses and services explained in an understandable manner, and to participate in decisions regarding health care treatment and services. This right includes covered gender affirming health care and gender affirming mental health care, and is subject to existing laws governing consent to health care for minors and nonminors and does not limit, add, or otherwise affect applicable laws governing consent to health care.
(B) To view and receive a copy of their medical records to the extent they have the right to consent to the treatment provided in the medical record and at no cost to the child until they are 26 years of age.
(23) Except in an emergency, to be free of the administration of medication or chemical substances, and to be free of all psychotropic medications unless prescribed by a physician, and in the case of children, authorized by a judge, without consequences or retaliation. The child has the right to consult with and be represented by counsel in opposing a request for the administration of psychotropic medication and to provide input to the court about the request to authorize medication. The child also has the right to report to the court the positive and adverse effects of the medication and to request that the court reconsider, revoke, or modify the authorization at any time.
(24) (A) To have access to age-appropriate, medically accurate information about reproductive health care, the prevention of unplanned pregnancy, and the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections.
(B) At any age, to consent to or decline services regarding contraception, pregnancy care, and perinatal care, including, but not limited to, abortion services and health care services for sexual assault without the knowledge or consent of any adult.
(C) At 12 years of age or older, to consent to or decline health care services to prevent, test for, or treat sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, and mental health services, without the consent or knowledge of any adult.
(25) At 12 years of age or older, to choose, whenever feasible and in accordance with applicable law, their own health care provider for medical, dental, vision, mental health, substance use disorder services, and sexual and reproductive health care, if payment for the service is authorized under applicable federal Medicaid law or other approved insurance, and to communicate with that health care provider regarding any treatment concerns or needs and to request a second opinion before being required to undergo invasive medical, dental, or psychiatric treatment.
(26) To confidentiality of medical and mental health records, including, but not limited to, HIV status, substance use disorder history and treatment, and sexual and reproductive health care, consistent with existing law.
(27) To attend school, to remain in the child’s school of origin, to immediate enrollment upon a change of school, to partial credits for any coursework completed, and to priority enrollment in preschool, afterschool programs, a California State University, and each community college district, and to receive all other necessary educational supports and benefits, as described in the Education Code.
(28) To have access to existing information regarding the educational options available, including, but not limited to, the coursework necessary for career, technical, and postsecondary educational programs, and information regarding financial aid for postsecondary education, and specialized programs for current and former foster children available at the University of California, the California State University, and the California Community Colleges.
(29) To attend Independent Living Program classes and activities, if the child meets the age requirements, and to not be prevented by caregivers from attending as a consequence or punishment.
(30) To maintain a bank account and manage personal income, consistent with the child’s age and developmental level, unless prohibited by the case plan.
(31) To work and develop job skills at an age-appropriate level, consistent with state law.
(32) For children 14 to 17 years of age, inclusive, to receive a consumer credit report provided to the child by the social worker or probation officer on an annual basis from each of the three major credit reporting agencies, and to receive assistance with interpreting and resolving any inaccuracies.
(33) To be represented by an attorney in juvenile court; to have an attorney appointed to advise the court of the child’s wishes, to advocate for the child’s protection, safety, and well-being, and to investigate and report to the court on legal interests beyond the scope of the juvenile proceeding; to speak to the attorney confidentially; and to request a hearing if the child feels their appointed counsel is not acting in their best interest or adequately representing their legal interests.
(34) To receive a notice of court hearings, to attend court hearings, to speak to the judge, to view and receive a copy of the court file, subject to existing federal and state confidentiality laws, and to object to or request the presence of interested persons during court hearings. If the child is an Indian child, to have a representative designated by the child’s Indian tribe be in attendance during hearings.
(35) To the confidentiality of all juvenile court records consistent with existing law.
(36) To view and receive a copy of their child welfare records, juvenile court records, and educational records at no cost to the child until the child is 26 years of age, subject to existing federal and state confidentiality laws.
(37) To be involved in the development of their own case plan, including placement decisions, and plan for permanency. This involvement includes, but is not limited to, the development of case plan elements related to placement and gender affirming health care, with consideration of the child’s gender identity. If the child is an Indian child, the case plan shall include protecting the essential tribal relations and best interests of the Indian child by assisting the child in establishing, developing, and maintaining political, cultural, and social relationships with the child’s Indian tribe and Indian community.
(38) To review the child’s own case plan and plan for permanent placement if the child is 10 years of age or older, and to receive information about their out-of-home placement and case plan, including being told of changes to the plan.
(39) To request and participate in a child and family team meeting, as follows:
(A) Within 60 days of entering foster care, and every 6 months thereafter.
(B) If placed in a short-term residential therapeutic program, or receiving intensive home-based services or intensive case coordination, or receiving therapeutic foster care services, to have a child and family team meeting at least every 90 days.
(C) To request additional child and family team meetings to address concerns, including, but not limited to, placement disruption, change in service needs, addressing barriers to sibling or family visits, and addressing difficulties in coordinating services.
(D) To have both informal and formal support people participate, consistent with state law.
(40) To be informed of these rights in an age and developmentally appropriate manner by the social worker or probation officer and to be provided a copy of the rights in this section at the time of placement, any placement change, and at least once every six months or at the time of a regularly scheduled contact with the social worker or probation officer.
(41) To be provided with contact information for the Community Care Licensing Division of the State Department of Social Services, the tribal authority approving a tribally approved home, and the State Foster Care Ombudsperson, at the time of each placement, and to contact any or all of these offices immediately upon request regarding violations of rights, to speak to representatives of these offices confidentially, and to be free from threats or punishment for making complaints.
(b) The rights described in this section are broad expressions of the rights of children in foster care and are not exhaustive of all rights set forth in the United States Constitution and the California Constitution, federal and California statutes, and case law.
(c) This section does not require, and shall not be interpreted to require, a foster care provider to take any action that would impair the health and safety of children in out-of-home placement.
(d) The State Department of Social Services and each county welfare department are encouraged to work with the Student Aid Commission, the University of California, the California State University, and the California Community Colleges to receive information pursuant to paragraph (28) of subdivision (a).
SEC. 4. Section 16164 of the Welfare and Institutions Code is amended to read:
16164. (a) The Office of the State Foster Care Ombudsperson shall do all of the following:
(1) (A) Disseminate information and provide training and technical assistance to foster youth, social workers, probation officers, tribes’ child welfare agencies, child welfare organizations, children’s advocacy groups, consumer and service provider organizations, and other interested parties on the rights of children and youth in foster care, reasonable and prudent parent standards, and the services provided by the office. The rights of children and youth in foster care are listed in Section 16001.9. The information shall include methods of contacting the office and notification that conversations with the office may be disclosed to other persons, as necessary to adequately investigate and resolve a complaint.
(B) At the end of every two-year legislative session, review amendments to the laws applicable to foster youth and determine whether updates to the rights listed in Section 16001.9 should be recommended in the compilation prepared pursuant to paragraph (8). The office shall update the standardized information prepared pursuant to paragraph (1) of subdivision (e), and any training materials prepared pursuant to subparagraph (A), in accordance with the legislative review.
(2) Investigate and attempt to resolve complaints made by or on behalf of children placed in foster care, related to their care, placement, or services.
(3) Decide, in its discretion, whether to investigate a complaint, or refer complaints to another agency for investigation.
(4) Upon rendering a decision to investigate a complaint from a complainant, notify the complainant of the intention to investigate. If the office declines to investigate a complaint or continue an investigation, the office shall notify the complainant of the reason for the action of the office.
(5) Update the complainant on the progress of the investigation and notify the complainant of the final outcome.
(6) Document the number, source, origin, location, and nature of complaints.
(7) Receive data from the State Department of Education regarding complaints about foster youth education rights made through the uniform complaint process.
(8) (A) Compile and make available to the Legislature all data collected over the course of the year, including, but not limited to, the number of contacts to the office, the number of complaints made, including the type and source of those complaints, the number of investigations performed by the office, the trends and issues that arose in the course of investigating complaints, the number of referrals made, the number of pending complaints, and a summary of the data received from the State Department of Education pursuant to paragraph (7). The office shall include recommendations consistent with this data for improving the child welfare system.
(B) Present this compiled data, on an annual basis, at appropriate child welfare conferences, forums, and other events, as determined by the department, that may include presentations to, but are not limited to, representatives of the Legislature, the County Welfare Directors Association of California, Chief Probation Officers of California, Indian tribes, child welfare agencies, child welfare organizations, children’s advocacy groups, consumer and service provider organizations, and other interested parties.
(C) It is the intent of the Legislature that representatives of the organizations described in subparagraph (B) consider this data in the development of any recommendations offered toward improving the child welfare system.
(D) The compiled data shall be posted so that it is available to the public on the existing internet website of the office.
(E) Nothing shall preclude the office from issuing data, findings, or reports other than the annual compilation of data described in this paragraph.
(9) Have access to copies of any record of a state or local agency, and contractors with state and local agencies, that is necessary to carry out their responsibilities, and may meet or communicate with any foster child in their placement or elsewhere.
(b) The office may establish, in consultation with a committee of interested individuals, regional or local foster care ombudsperson offices for the purposes of expediting investigations and resolving complaints, subject to appropriations in the annual Budget Act.
(c) Information obtained by the office from a complaint, regardless of whether it is investigated by the office, referred to another entity for investigation, or determined not to be the proper subject of an investigation, shall remain confidential under relevant state and federal confidentiality laws. Disclosure of information shall occur only as necessary to carry out the mission of the office and as permitted by law.
(d) The office shall provide administrative and technical assistance to county, regional, or local foster care ombudsperson’s offices, including, but not limited to, assistance in developing policies and procedures consistent with the policies and procedures used by the office.
(e) (1) The office, in consultation with the County Welfare Directors Association of California, Chief Probation Officers of California, Indian tribes located in the state, foster youth advocate and support groups, groups representing children, families, foster parents, children’s facilities, and other interested parties, shall develop standardized information explaining the rights specified in Section 16001.9. The information shall be developed in an age-appropriate manner, and shall reflect any relevant licensing requirements with respect to foster care providers’ responsibilities to adequately supervise children in care.
(2) The office, counties, foster care providers, and others shall use the information developed in paragraph (1) in carrying out their responsibilities to inform foster children and youth of their rights pursuant to Section 1530.91 of the Health and Safety Code, Sections 27 and 16501.1, and this section.
(3) The office shall measure the distribution of the standardized materials for purposes of evaluating and improving the degree to which foster youth are adequately informed of their rights. This data shall be included in the compilation prepared pursuant to paragraph (8) of subdivision (a).
SEC. 5. To the extent that this act has an overall effect of increasing the costs already borne by a local agency for programs or levels of service mandated by the 2011 Realignment Legislation within the meaning of Section 36 of Article XIII of the California Constitution, it shall apply to local agencies only to the extent that the state provides annual funding for the cost increase. Any new program or higher level of service provided by a local agency pursuant to this act above the level for which funding has been provided shall not require a subvention of funds by the state or otherwise be subject to Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution.