Substitute Senate Bill No. 1 Substitute Senate Bill No. 1 PUBLIC ACT NO. 95-242 AN ACT CONCERNING THE OFFICE OF THE CHILD ADVOCATE. Section 1. (NEW) There is established an office of the child advocate. The governor, with the approval of the general assembly, shall appoint a person with knowledge of the child welfare system and the legal system to fill the office of the child advocate. Such person shall be qualified by training and experience to perform the duties of the office as set forth in section 7 of this act. The appointment shall be made from a list of at least three persons prepared and submitted by the advisory committee established pursuant to section 12 of this act. The person appointed child advocate shall serve for a term of four years and may be reappointed or shall continue to hold office until his successor is appointed and qualified. Sec. 2. (NEW) The office of the child advocate shall be in the office of protection and advocacy for persons with disabilities for administrative purposes only. Sec. 3. (NEW) The child advocate may appoint such staff as may be deemed necessary provided, for the fiscal years ending June 30, 1996, and June 30, 1997, such staff shall not exceed one and one-half full-time positions or the equivalent thereof. The duties of the staff may include the duties and powers of the child advocate if performed under the direction of the child advocate. Sec. 4. (NEW) The general assembly shall annually appropriate such sums as necessary for the payment of the salaries of the staff and for the payment of office expenses and other actual expenses incurred by the child advocate in the performance of his duties. Any legal or court fees obtained by the state in actions brought by the child advocate shall be dedicated to the office of the child advocate. Sec. 5. (NEW) Notwithstanding any other provision of the general statutes, the child advocate shall act independently of any state department in the performance of his duties. Sec. 6. (NEW) The child advocate shall annually submit to the governor and the general assembly a detailed report analyzing the work of the office of the child advocate. Sec. 7. (NEW) (a) The child advocate shall: (1) Evaluate the delivery of services by state agencies and those entities that provide services to children through funds provided by the state; (2) Review periodically the procedures established by any state department providing services to children to carry out the provisions of this act with a view toward the rights of the children; (3) Adopt regulations, in accordance with the provisions of chapter 54 of the general statutes, to carry out the provisions of sections 1 to 12, inclusive, of this act; (4) Review complaints of persons and investigate those where it appears that a child or family may be in need of assistance from the child advocate; (5) Periodically review the facilities and procedures of any and all institutions or residences, public or private, where a juvenile has been placed either by the family division of the superior court or the department of children and families; (6) Recommend changes in policies and procedures for dealing with juvenile problems and in the system of providing child care, foster care and treatment; (7) Take all possible action including, but not limited to, conducting programs of public education, legislative advocacy, and making proposals for systemic reform and formal legal action, to secure and ensure the legal, civil and special rights of children who reside in this state; (8) Provide training and technical assistance to guardians ad litem and special advocates appointed by the family division of the superior court to represent children in proceedings before that court; (9) Periodically review the number of special needs children in any foster care or permanent care facility and recommend changes in the policies and procedures for the placement of such children; and (10) Serve or designate a person to serve as a member of the child fatality review panel established in subsection (b) of this section. (b) There is established a child fatality review panel composed of seven members as follows: A pediatrician, appointed by the governor; a representative of law enforcement, appointed by the president pro tempore of the senate; the child advocate, or his designee; a public child welfare practitioner, appointed by the minority leader of the senate; a representative of a community service group, appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives; a medical examiner, appointed by the minority leader of the house of representatives; and the chief state's attorney, or his designee. The chairperson shall be elected from among the panel's members. The panel shall, to the greatest extent possible, reflect the ethnic, cultural and geographic diversity of the state. (c) The panel shall review the circumstances of the death of a child who has received services from a state department or agency addressing child welfare, social or human services or juvenile justice. Members of the panel shall not be compensated for their services, but may be reimbursed for necessary expenses incurred in the performance of their duties. Sec. 8. (NEW) (a) The child advocate shall have access to the following information: (1) The name of a child in protective services, treatment or other programs under the jurisdiction of a department addressing child welfare or juvenile justice, and such child's location if in custody; (2) All written reports of child abuse and neglect; (3) All current records required to be maintained under the provisions of sections 7-48, 7-50, 7-51, 10-209, 17a-28, 17b-90, 17b-225, 19a-25, 19a-499, 46b-11 and subsection (e) of section 46b-56 of the general statutes; and (4) All records of state agencies, schools, police, health and medical providers, and the courts as may be necessary to carry out the responsibilities of the child advocate. (b) To the extent any such information referenced in this section provides the names and addresses of individuals who are the subject of any confidential proceeding, such names and addresses or related information which has the effect of identifying such individuals shall not be released to the public without the consent of such individuals. Sec. 9. (NEW) The child advocate shall have the following rights and powers: (1) To communicate privately by mail or orally with any child or family in treatment or under protective services; (2) To have access, including the right to inspect, copy and subpoena records held by the clerk of the family division of the superior court, law enforcement, agencies and institutions, public or private, and other agencies or persons with whom a particular child has been either voluntarily or otherwise placed for care, or has received treatment within the state; (3) To take whatever steps are appropriate to see that persons are made aware of the services of the child advocate's office, its purpose and how it can be contacted; and (4) To apply for and accept grants, gifts and bequests of funds from other states, federal and interstate agencies and independent authorities and private firms, individuals and foundations, for the purpose of carrying out his lawful responsibilities. The funds shall be deposited within the general fund for ancillary funding of the child advocate office. Sec. 10. (NEW) (a) In addition to the powers set forth in section 9 of this act, the child advocate, or his designee, may represent, appear, intervene in or bring an action on behalf of any child, with the consent of the parent or legal guardian of such child in any proceeding before any court, agency, board or commission in this state in which matters related to sections 1 to 12, inclusive, of this act are in issue. Prior to the institution of any action brought pursuant to this subsection, the child advocate shall make a good faith effort to resolve issues or problems through mediation. (b) Any judgment for compensation or order for settlement of the claim for compensation entered by the court pursuant to the provisions of subsection (a) of this section shall be considered as the estate of the child for whose benefit the judgment or order is entered, to be held by the office of child advocate as guardian of such compensation, and shall be deposited into a trust account established by the office for the purposes of distributing such funds to such child in accordance with the plan adopted by the family division of the superior court. Sec. 11. (NEW) The state of Connecticut shall protect and hold harmless any attorney, director, investigator, social worker or other person employed by the office of the child advocate and any volunteer appointed by the child advocate from financial loss and expense, including legal fees and costs, if any, arising out of any claim, demand or suit for damages resulting from acts or omissions committed in the discharge of his duties with the program within the scope of his employment or appointment which may constitute negligence but which acts are not wanton, malicious or grossly negligent as determined by a court of competent jurisdiction. Sec. 12. (NEW) (a) There is established an advisory committee to the office of the child advocate which shall meet three times a year with the child advocate and his staff to review and assess the following: (1) Patterns of treatment and service for children; (2) policy implications of the findings of subdivision (1) of this subsection; and (3) necessary systemic improvements. The advisory committee shall also provide for an annual evaluation of the effectiveness of said office. (b) Said advisory committee shall consist of one pediatrician, appointed by the majority leader of the house of representatives; one public child welfare social worker, appointed by the minority leader of the house of representatives; one psychologist, appointed by the Connecticut Psychological Association; one attorney, appointed by the Connecticut Bar Association; one judge of the family division of the superior court, appointed by the chief justice of the supreme court; one representative of private children's agencies, appointed by the president pro tempore of the senate; and one representative of education, appointed by the minority leader of the senate. Each member of the advisory committee shall serve a five-year term. (c) Said advisory committee shall provide authorization to the child advocate for initiating a legal action against a state department in superior court.