Connecticut Seal

General Assembly

 

Raised Bill No. 5332

February Session, 2018

 

LCO No. 1344

 

*01344_______KID*

Referred to Committee on COMMITTEE ON CHILDREN

 

Introduced by:

 

(KID)

 

AN ACT CONCERNING THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. Subsection (b) of section 17a-3 of the 2018 supplement to the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2018):

(b) (1) The department, with the assistance of the State Advisory Council on Children and Families, and in consultation with representatives of the children and families served by the department, providers of services to children and families, advocates, and others interested in the well-being of children and families in this state, shall develop and regularly update a single, comprehensive strategic plan for meeting the needs of children and families served by the department. In developing and updating the strategic plan, the department shall identify and define agency goals and indicators of progress, including benchmarks, in achieving such goals. The strategic plan shall include, but not be limited to: (A) The department's mission statement; (B) the expected results for the department and each of its mandated areas of responsibility; (C) a schedule of action steps and a time frame for achieving such results and fulfilling the department's mission that includes strategies for working with other state agencies to leverage resources and coordinate service delivery; (D) strategies, informed by data on referrals, substantiations, removal, placements and retention, by which the department shall identify racial and ethnic disparities within child welfare practice and work to eliminate such disparities; (E) priorities for services and estimates of the funding and other resources necessary to carry them out; [(E)] (F) standards for programs and services that are based on research-based best practices, when available; and [(F)] (G) relevant measures of performance.

(2) The department shall begin the strategic planning process on July 1, 2009. The department shall hold regional meetings on the plan to ensure public input and shall post the plan and the plan's updates and progress reports on the department's web site. The department shall submit the strategic plan to the State Advisory Council on Children and Families for review and comment prior to its final submission to the General Assembly and the Governor. On or before July 1, 2010, the department shall submit the strategic plan, in accordance with section 11-4a, to the General Assembly and the Governor.

(3) The commissioner shall track and report on progress in achieving the strategic plan's goals not later than October 1, 2010, and quarterly thereafter, to said State Advisory Council. The commissioner shall submit a status report on progress in achieving the results in the strategic plan, in accordance with section 11-4a, not later than July 1, 2011, and annually thereafter to the General Assembly, the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to children and the Governor.

Sec. 2. Section 17a-6 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2018):

The commissioner, or the commissioner's designee, shall:

(a) Establish or contract for the use of a variety of facilities and services for identification, evaluation, discipline, rehabilitation, aftercare, treatment and care of children and youths in need of the department's services;

(b) Administer in a coordinated and integrated manner all institutions and facilities which are or may come under the jurisdiction of the department and shall appoint advisory groups for any such institution or facility;

(c) Encourage the development of programs and the establishment of facilities for children and youths by public or private agencies and groups;

(d) Enter into cooperative arrangements with public or private agencies outside the state;

(e) Insure that all children under the commissioner's supervision have adequate food, clothing, shelter and adequate medical, dental, psychiatric, psychological, social, religious and other services;

(f) Provide, in the commissioner's discretion, needed service to any municipality, agency, or person, whether or not such person is committed to the commissioner;

(g) Adopt and enforce regulations and establish rules for the internal operation and administration of the department in accordance with chapter 54;

(h) Undertake, contract for or otherwise stimulate research concerning children and youths;

(i) Subject to the provisions of chapter 67, appoint such professional, technical and other personnel as may be necessary for the efficient operation of the department;

(j) Coordinate the activities of the department with those of other state departments, municipalities and private agencies concerned with providing services for children and youths and their families;

(k) Act as administrator of the Interstate Compact for Juveniles under section 46b-151h;

(l) Provide or arrange for the provision of suitable education for every child under the commissioner's supervision, either in public schools, special educational programs, private schools, educational programs within the institutions or facilities under the commissioner's jurisdiction, or work and training programs otherwise provided by law. The suitability of educational programs provided by the commissioner shall be subject to review by the Department of Education;

(m) Submit to the state advisory council for its comment proposals for new policies or programs and the proposed budget for the department;

(n) Have any and all other powers and duties as are necessary to administer the department and implement the purposes of sections 17a-1 to 17a-26, inclusive, and 17a-28 to 17a-49, inclusive, as amended by this act;

(o) Conduct and render a final decision in administrative hearings; [and]

(p) Provide programs for juvenile offenders that are gender specific in that they comprehensively address the unique needs of a targeted gender group; [.]

(q) Establish a standardized data reporting system to support the collection of data regarding (1) the race and ethnicity of children and families referred to the department at key decision points, including, but not limited to, referral, substantiation, removal and placement, and (2) rates of retention of children and families by race and ethnicity; and

(r) Work to eliminate disparities in referral rates, substantiations, placements and retention among racial and ethnic groups and groups known to experience higher rates of adverse child welfare, health and services outcomes because of religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, socioeconomic status, immigration status, language, ancestry, intellectual or physical disability, mental health status, prior criminal convictions, homelessness, gender identity or expression or geographic area of residence.

Sec. 3. (NEW) (Effective July 1, 2018) Not later than February 15, 2019, and annually thereafter, the Commissioner of Children and Families shall submit a report, in accordance with the provisions of section 11-4a of the general statutes, to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to children. Such report shall include data illustrating utilization of the Department of Children and Families' services by race and ethnicity, an assessment of trends in such utilization and recommendations for results-based accountability measures to ensure parity in access to such services.

Sec. 4. Subdivision (8) of subsection (g) of section 17a-28 of the 2018 supplement to the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2018):

(8) The Chief State's Attorney or the Chief State's Attorney's designee for purposes of investigating or prosecuting (A) an allegation related to child abuse or neglect, (B) an allegation that an individual made a false report of suspected child abuse or neglect, [or] (C) an allegation that a mandated reporter failed to report suspected child abuse or neglect in accordance with section 17a-101a, provided such prosecuting authority shall have access to records of a child charged with the commission of a delinquent act, who is not being charged with an offense related to child abuse, only while the case is being prosecuted and after obtaining a release, or (D) an allegation of fraud in the receipt of public or private benefits, provided no information identifying the subject of the record is disclosed unless such information is essential to such investigation or prosecution;

Sec. 5. Section 17a-101h of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2018):

Notwithstanding any provision of the general statutes, any person authorized to conduct an investigation of abuse or neglect shall coordinate investigatory activities in order to minimize the number of interviews of any child and share information with other persons authorized to conduct an investigation of child abuse or neglect, as appropriate. A person reporting child abuse or neglect shall provide any person authorized to conduct an investigation of child abuse or neglect with all information related to the investigation that is in the possession or control of the person reporting child abuse or neglect, except as expressly prohibited by state or federal law. The commissioner shall obtain the consent of parents or guardians or other persons responsible for the care of the child to any interview with a child, except that such consent shall not be required when the department has reason to believe such parent or guardian or other person responsible for the care of the child or member of the child's household is the perpetrator of the alleged abuse or neglect or that seeking such consent would place the child at imminent risk of physical harm. If consent is not required to conduct the interview, such interview shall be conducted in the presence of a disinterested adult unless immediate access to the child is necessary to protect the child from imminent risk of physical harm and a disinterested adult is not available after reasonable search. For purposes of this section, "child" includes any victim described in subdivision (2) of subsection (a) of section 17a-101a.

Sec. 6. Section 17a-102a of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2018):

(a) Each birthing hospital shall provide education and training for nurses and other staff who care for high-risk newborns on the roles and responsibilities of such nurses and other staff as mandated reporters of potential child abuse and neglect under section 17a-101.

(b) The Department of Children and Families shall coordinate with [the] each birthing [hospitals] hospital in the state to disseminate information regarding [the] (1) procedures for the principal providers of daily direct care of high-risk newborns in birthing hospitals to participate in the discharge planning process, and (2) ongoing department functions concerning [such] high-risk newborns.

(c) Not later than January 1, 2019, the Commissioner of Children and Families shall, in consultation with other departments, agencies or entities concerned with the health and well-being of children, develop guidelines for the safe care of newborns who exhibit physical, neurological or behavioral symptoms consistent with prenatal substance exposure, withdrawal symptoms from prenatal substance exposure or Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Such guidelines shall include, but are not limited to, instructions to providers regarding such providers' participation in the discharge planning process, including the creation of written plans of safe care, which shall be developed between such providers and mothers of such newborns as part of such process.

(d) A provider involved in the delivery or care of a newborn who, in the estimation of such provider, exhibits physical, neurological or behavioral symptoms consistent with prenatal substance exposure, withdrawal symptoms from prenatal substance exposure or Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder shall notify the Department of Children and Families of such condition in such newborn. Such notice shall be made in a form and manner prescribed by the Commissioner of Children and Families and in addition to any applicable reporting requirements pursuant to chapter 319a. On and after January 15, 2019, such notice shall include a copy of the plan of safe care created pursuant to the guidelines developed pursuant to subsection (c) of this section.

[(c)] (e) For purposes of this section: [, "birthing hospital"]

(1) "Birthing hospital" means a health care facility, as defined in section 19a-630, operated and maintained in whole or in part for the purpose of caring for women during delivery of a child and for women and their newborns following birth; [, and "high-risk newborn"]

(2) "High-risk newborn" means any newborn identified as such under any regulation or policy of the Department of Children and Families; [.] and

(3) "Provider" means any person licensed pursuant to chapter 370, 377 or 378.

Sec. 7. Subsection (a) of section 17a-114 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2018):

(a) As used in this section, (1) "approval" or "approved" means that a person has been approved to provide foster care by a child-placing agency licensed pursuant to section 17a-149, (2) "licensed" means a person holds a license to provide foster care issued by the Department of Children and Families, (3) "fictive kin caregiver" means a person who is twenty-one years of age or older and who is unrelated to a child or such child's family by birth, adoption or marriage but who has an emotionally significant relationship with such child amounting to a familial relationship, and (4) "regular unsupervised access" means periodic interaction with a child in the home for purposes of unsupervised child care, medical or other services to the child.

Sec. 8. Subsection (a) of section 17a-145 of the 2018 supplement to the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2018):

(a) No person or entity shall care for or board a child without a license obtained from the Commissioner of Children and Families, except: (1) When a child has been placed by a person or entity holding a license from the commissioner; (2) any residential educational institution exempted by the State Board of Education under the provisions of section 17a-152; (3) residential facilities under contract with or licensed by the Department of Developmental Services pursuant to section 17a-227; (4) facilities providing child care services, as defined in section 19a-77; or (5) any home that houses students participating in a program described in subparagraph (B) of subdivision (8) of section 10a-29. The person or entity seeking a child care facility license shall file with the commissioner an application for a license, in such form as the commissioner furnishes, stating the location where it is proposed to care for such child, the number of children to be cared for, in the case of a corporation, the purpose of the corporation and the names of its chief officers and of the actual person responsible for the child. The Commissioner of Children and Families is authorized to fix the maximum number of children to be boarded and cared for in any such home or institution or by any person or entity licensed by the commissioner. If the population served at any facility, institution or home operated by any person or entity licensed under this section changes after such license is issued, such person or entity shall file a new license application with the commissioner, and the commissioner shall notify the chief executive officer of the municipality in which the facility is located of such new license application, except that no confidential client information may be disclosed.

Sec. 9. Section 17a-153 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2018):

(a) Notwithstanding the existence or pursuit of any other remedy, the Commissioner of Children and Families may, in the manner provided by law and upon the advice of the Attorney General, conduct an investigation into any reported violation of section 17a-145, as amended by this act, 17a-149 or 17a-152 and maintain an action in the name of the state for injunction or other process against any person or governmental unit to restrain or prevent the caring for, boarding or placing of a child in violation of said sections.

(b) If the Commissioner of Children and Families has reason to believe that a violation has occurred for which a civil penalty is authorized pursuant to subsection (d) of this section, the commissioner may notify the alleged violator by certified mail, return receipt requested, or by personal service. Such notice shall include: (1) A reference to the section or sections of the general statutes alleged to have been violated; (2) a short and plain statement of the matter asserted or charged; (3) a statement of the prescribed civil penalty which may be imposed pursuant to subsection (d) of this section; and (4) a statement of the alleged violator's right to request a hearing and requirement that any such request be submitted, in writing, to the commissioner not later than thirty days after notice is mailed or given by personal service pursuant to this subsection.

(c) Not later than thirty days after receipt of a request for hearing made pursuant to subsection (b) of this section, the commissioner shall hold such hearing in accordance with the provisions of chapter 54. If (1) after holding such hearing, the commissioner finds that a violation of section 17a-145, as amended by this act, 17a-149 or 17a-152 has occurred, (2) the alleged violator does not request a hearing, or (3) the alleged violator requests a hearing but does not appear at such hearing, the commissioner may order the imposition of a civil penalty pursuant to subsection (d) of this section. The commissioner shall send a copy of any order issued pursuant to this subsection by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the person or entity named in such order.

(d) Any person or [corporation] entity which violates any provision of section 17a-145, as amended by this act, section 17a-149 or section 17a-152 shall be [fined] subject to a civil penalty of not more than one hundred dollars per day for each day that such person or entity is in violation of such section.

This act shall take effect as follows and shall amend the following sections:

Section 1

July 1, 2018

17a-3(b)

Sec. 2

July 1, 2018

17a-6

Sec. 3

July 1, 2018

New section

Sec. 4

July 1, 2018

17a-28(g)(8)

Sec. 5

July 1, 2018

17a-101h

Sec. 6

July 1, 2018

17a-102a

Sec. 7

July 1, 2018

17a-114(a)

Sec. 8

July 1, 2018

17a-145(a)

Sec. 9

July 1, 2018

17a-153

Statement of Purpose:

To (1) require the Department of Children and Families to include in its strategic plan strategies to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities within child welfare practice; (2) require the Commissioner of Children and Families to collect data on the race and ethnicity of children and families involved with the department, and work to eliminate certain disparities based on race, ethnicity and other factors; (3) require the department to disclose records to the Chief State's Attorney for the purpose of investigating or prosecuting an allegation of fraud in the receipt of certain benefits; (4) create an exception from the requirement that the commissioner obtain consent from the parent or guardian of a child to interview such child for the purpose of investigating a claim of neglect if such parent or guardian is the perpetrator of the alleged neglect; (5) require certain health care providers to notify the department of newborns exhibiting certain symptoms consistent with prenatal substance exposure and other conditions and require the department to establish guidelines for the safe care of such newborns; (6) clarify the definition of "fictive kin caregiver"; (7) clarify that certain residential facilities may care for or board a child without a license obtained from the commissioner; and (8) permit the commissioner to investigate and maintain actions in the name of the state for violations of certain statutes pertaining to the unlicensed caring for, boarding of and placing of a child.

[Proposed deletions are enclosed in brackets. Proposed additions are indicated by underline, except that when the entire text of a bill or resolution or a section of a bill or resolution is new, it is not underlined.]