- California Passes Law to Reduce Foster Care Youths’ Referral and Detention in the Juvenile Justice System
Assembly Bill 388 sets up a number of new policies, reporting, and monitoring procedures to reduce the inappropriate referral and detention of foster youth from group homes and other placements into the juvenile justice system for minor incidents and typical adolescent behavior. A.B. 388 requires group homes, transitional housing, community treatment facilities or runaway and homeless youth shelters to report any incident involving law enforcement. It also requires the Community Care Licensing Division of the Department of Social Services (CDSS) to inspect facilities with greater than average law enforcement contacts, to develop performance standards and outcome measures requiring facilities for foster youth to implement programs, services, and protocols to minimize law enforcement contacts, and to publish annual reports on group home law enforcement contacts, complaints, and licensing suspensions. The new legislation limits secure detention of foster youth through a number of mechanisms including prohibiting courts from detaining youth in secure confinement based on the youth’s status as a foster youth or on the child welfare system’s inability to provide a placement for the youth. Assembly Bill 388 was authored by Assembly Member Chesbro and co-sponsored by The Youth Law Center, California Youth Connection, Children’s Advocacy Institute, and Public Counsel. A.B. 388 was signed into law on September 29, 2014.
- California Protects Youth from Unreasonable Delays in Moving Out of Post-Dispositional Detention
Assembly Bill 2607 addresses the issue of youth who are currently held in secure detention for long periods of time following disposition while they await an appropriate placement. Many of these youth are foster youth who are detained in part because they do not have a home to which they can return. The legislation adds new criteria for determining whether the delay is unreasonable which include delays attributable to the probation officer’s failure to make reasonable efforts to identify an appropriate and available placement. If the court finds the delay to be unreasonable, it must order the probation officer to assess the availability of suitable temporary placements and can place the youth in a nonsecure placement or alternative to detention after consultation with all parties. Assembly Bill 2607 was authored by Assembly Member Nancy Skinner and was signed into law on September 26, 2014.
- Connecticut Creates Raise the Grade Pilot Program for Youth in the Juvenile Justice or Child Welfare System: Acknowledging a problematic educational achievement gap between youth in the juvenile justice and/or child welfare systems and those in the general population, the Connecticut General Assembly created the Raise the Grade pilot program. The two-year pilot program—created by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) in consultation with the Department of Education—is being implemented in Hartford, Bridgeport, and New Haven and aims to increase the academic achievement of children in DCF custody or who are served by the Court Support Services Division. The legislation includes provisions to help identify youth who are performing below grade level, develop plans to improve youth’s academic performance, facilitate the transfer of academic records, and annually track the academic progress of each youth in state custody. H.B. 6705/Act No. 13-234, signed into law June 19, 2013; effective July 1, 2013.
- Louisiana Aims to Better Serve Crossover Youth: Recognizing the need for targeted case management and better coordination between systems, the Louisiana legislature passed a law to better serve youth in the juvenile justice system who are in need of mental health or child welfare services. The legislation requires the creation of an “Integrated Case Management Planning System” that focuses on the behavioral health, rehabilitative, and educational needs of youth involved in or exiting the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. The Department of Public Safety and Corrections and the Department of Children and Family Services must work together to identify the prevalence of youth served by multiple systems, identify opportunities to more efficiently and effectively deliver programs and services to youth across all systems of care, and develop mechanisms for funding of such programs and services. By July 1, 2014 the departments must jointly issue a report of the timeline and processes for implementing the program by July 1, 2015. S.B. 107/Act No. 214 , signed into law June 10, 2013; effective August 1, 2013.
- Virginia Facilitates Reentry for Older Dual-Jurisdiction Youth: Older youth in Virginia who were wards of the child welfare system prior to being committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) are now eligible for independent living services upon release from DJJ. Ninety days prior to release, youth aged 18 to 21 are eligible to receive information on available independent living services and the court must work with the Department of Social Services to develop a plan to help the youth transition successfully to independent living. The law explicitly requires DJJ and DSS to work collaboratively to ensure communication regarding services and facilitate transition planning. S.B. 863/Act No. 362, signed into law March 14, 2013; effective July 1, 2013.
- Alaska Changes Access to Department of Health and Human Services Records
The Alaska State Legislature added state and municipal child placement agencies to the list of approved recipients of otherwise confidential juvenile delinquency records from the Department of Health and Human Services. The legislation also modified the standards for disclosure of information to the public regarding minors who have been adjudicated delinquent. The law was crafted with the aim of improving collaboration between juvenile justice and child protection agencies. The clarifications included in the law are also intended to reduce the risk of accidental or mistaken disclosure of records. H.B. 343/Act No. 2012-38, signed into law May 24, 2012; effective July 1, 2012 (May 25, 2012 for Section 5).
- Massachusetts Prohibits Arrest of “Children Requiring Assistance”: Massachusetts youth may no longer be arrested for running away, truancy, or stubborn behavior, and such youth may not be confined in shackles or placed in court lockup or any other facility meant for youth in the delinquency system. Instead, law enforcement may place such youth in custodial protection and must immediately notify their parents or guardians. Prior to disposition, a hearing must be held to discuss appropriate services, treatment, or placement. The law also renames Massachusetts’ “Children in Need of Services (CHINS)” system to “Families and Children Requiring Assistance” and establishes a statewide network of child and family service programs and resource centers to coordinate community-based services for screening, assessment, and referrals for behavioral health and medical services, mentoring, family and parent support, and after-school opportunities. S.B. 2410/Act No. 240-2012, signed into law August 7, 2012; effective November 5, 2012.
- New Hampshire — Children in Need of Services Petitions May Now Include Delinquency Offenses: New Hampshire expanded eligibility for its Children in Need of Services (CHINS) program. Youth under the age of 18 who have committed offenses that are considered delinquent acts may now be eligible for a CHINS petition, allowing them and their families to receive support services and treatment from the state without youth entering the delinquency system. S.B. 349/Act No. 110, signed into law and effective May 29, 2012.
- California — Foster Youth Aging Out of Juvenile Court’s Jurisdiction Gain Notice of Services: Acknowledging that foster youth face greater obstacles as they transition back into society after release from the juvenile court’s jurisdiction, the California Assembly passed a law meant to provide them with increased resources to help them succeed. The legislation recognizes that one of the major barriers foster youth face is their lack of knowledge that assistance programs exist for foster youth; and when they are aware of them, they often have difficulty documenting that they are eligible for such programs. As a result, the law requires probation or parole officers to provide foster youth with a written notice stating that they are foster youth and that they may be eligible for services and benefits available to former foster children through public and private programs, including, but not limited to, any independent living program for youth who have been in the foster care system. S.B. 945/Ch. 631, signed into law September 30, 2010; effective January 1, 2011.
- Florida — Appeals Court Rules Foster Youth Cannot Be Jailed for Their Own Good: The Third District Court of Appeal in Florida ruled that juvenile court judges cannot jail foster youth simply for their best interest, ending a years-old practice used by authorities in an attempt to protect runaway youth. The decision is in line with the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act’s prohibition on locking up youth who commit status offenses, such as running away. The case involved a 12-year-old girl in foster care who repeatedly ran away from her foster homes and school. The state alleged that incarceration of the girl was necessary in order to secure medical and dental examinations, psycho-educational testing, and a psychiatric evaluation. The court stated that a youth may not be detained simply to permit “administrative access” to the youth, and that detention is only authorized under “strict statutory criteria.” J.J. v. Florida, No. 3 D10-226, March 31, 2010.