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Substitute House Bill No. 6419

Public Act No. 09-194

AN ACT CONCERNING THE POLICIES, PRACTICES AND PROCEDURES OF THE DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES AND A PILOT PROGRAM TO INCREASE PUBLIC ACCESS TO JUVENILE PROCEEDINGS.

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

Section 1. (NEW) (Effective October 1, 2009) The Commissioner of Children and Families shall submit, in accordance with the provisions of section 11-4a of the general statutes and within available appropriations, an annual report to the select committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to children regarding (1) the results of Connecticut comprehensive objective reviews conducted by the Department of Children and Families, including any recommendations contained in such reviews and any steps taken by the department to implement such recommendations; (2) the aggregate data from each administrative case review, including any information regarding the strengths and deficiencies of the department's case review process; and (3) any steps the department is taking to address department-wide deficiencies.

Sec. 2. (NEW) (Effective October 1, 2009) The Commissioner of Children and Families shall (1) determine measurable outcomes for each type of service provided by a private provider pursuant to such provider's contract with the Department of Children and Families; (2) incorporate such outcomes into the department's contract with each such provider; and (3) include achievement of such outcomes and other quality indicators in annual evaluations of each such provider. The department shall, annually, submit a report, in accordance with section 11-4a of the general statutes, to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to human services on the department's progress in implementing such steps, including (A) the number of service types with outcomes, (B) the types of outcomes, (C) the incorporation of such outcomes into contracts, and (D) the application of outcome information into quality improvement.

Sec. 3. (NEW) (Effective October 1, 2009) The Department of Children and Families shall include the following information in each document of the department entitled study in support of permanency plan and status report for permanency planning team, except when otherwise directed by the Juvenile Court: (1) A description of any problems or offenses that necessitated the placement of the child with the department; (2) a description of the type and an analysis of the effectiveness of the care, treatment and supervision that the department has provided for the child; (3) for each child in substitute care, the current visitation schedule between the child and his parents and siblings; (4) a description of every effort taken by the department to reunite the child with a parent or to find a permanent placement for the child, including, where applicable, every effort to assist each parent in remedying factors that contributed to the removal of the child from the home; (5) a proposed timetable for reunification of the child and a parent, a permanent placement if continued substitute care is recommended or a justification of why extended substitute care is necessary; and (6) whether the child has been visited no less frequently than every three months by a state or private agency if the child has been placed in foster care outside this state.

Sec. 4. Section 46b-129 of the general statutes is amended by adding subsection (r) as follows (Effective October 1, 2010):

(NEW) (r) In any proceeding under this section, the Department of Children and Families shall provide notice to every attorney of record for each party involved in the proceeding when the department seeks to transfer a child or youth in its care, custody or control to an out-of-state placement.

Sec. 5. Section 46b-122 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2009):

(a) All matters which are juvenile matters, as provided in section 46b-121, shall be kept separate and apart from all other business of the Superior Court as far as is practicable, except matters transferred under the provisions of section 46b-127, which matters shall be transferred to the regular criminal docket of the Superior Court. [Any] Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, any judge hearing a juvenile matter may, during such hearing, exclude from the room in which such hearing is held any person whose presence is, in the court's opinion, not necessary, except that in delinquency proceedings, any victim shall not be excluded unless, after hearing from the parties and the victim and for good cause shown, which shall be clearly and specifically stated on the record, the judge orders otherwise. For the purposes of this section, "victim" means a person who is the victim of a delinquent act, a parent or guardian of such person, the legal representative of such person or an advocate appointed for such person pursuant to section 54-221.

(b) The Judicial Department shall establish, in a superior court for juvenile matters location designated by the Chief Court Administrator, a pilot program to increase public access to proceedings in which a child is alleged to be uncared for, neglected, abused or dependent or is the subject of a petition for termination of parental rights. In any proceeding under this subsection, the judge may order on a case-by-case basis that such proceeding be kept separate and apart and heard in accordance with subsection (a) of this section, upon motion of any party for good cause shown. After consultation with the Juvenile Access Pilot Program Advisory Board established pursuant to section 6 of this act, the Judicial Department shall adopt policies and procedures for the operation of the pilot program.

(c) Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect the confidentiality of records of cases of juvenile matters as set forth in section 46b-124.

Sec. 6. (Effective from passage) (a) There is established a Juvenile Access Pilot Program Advisory Board. The board shall consist of the following members:

(1) The Chief Court Administrator, or the Chief Court Administrator's designee;

(2) An attorney who represents children in proceedings in which a child is alleged to be uncared for, neglected, abused or dependent, appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives;

(3) An attorney who serves as a guardian ad litem in proceedings in the juvenile court, appointed by the president pro tempore of the Senate;

(4) A member or former member of the media who has experience reporting on juvenile matters, appointed by the majority leader of the House of Representatives;

(5) An attorney who represents parents in proceedings in which a child is alleged to be uncared for, neglected, abused or dependent, appointed by the majority leader of the Senate;

(6) A judge of the Superior Court assigned to hear juvenile matters, appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court;

(7) An assistant attorney general assigned to the Child Protection Unit within the Office of the Attorney General, appointed by the Attorney General;

(8) An attorney who represents children and parents under a contract with the Chief Child Protection Attorney, appointed by the minority leader of the House of Representatives;

(9) An employee of the Department of Children and Families from the division of the department that provides child welfare services, appointed by the Commissioner of Children and Families;

(10) A social worker employed by the Department of Children and Families who, at the time of appointment, has experience working directly with children and families on behalf of the department, appointed by the minority leader of the Senate;

(11) The Chief Child Protection Attorney, or the Chief Child Protection Attorney's designee;

(12) The Child Advocate, or the Child Advocate's designee;

(13) The Chief State's Attorney, or the Chief State's Attorney's designee; and

(14) The Chief Public Defender, or the Chief Public Defender's designee.

(b) All appointments to the board shall be made not later than thirty days after the effective date of this section. Any vacancy shall be filled by the appointing authority.

(c) The Chief Court Administrator and the attorney appointed pursuant to subdivision (2) of subsection (a) of this section shall serve as chairpersons of the advisory board. The chairpersons shall schedule the first meeting of the board, which shall be held not later than sixty days after the effective date of this section.

(d) The Juvenile Access Pilot Program Advisory Board shall (1) review methods used in other states to increase public access to juvenile court proceedings of a similar nature to proceedings subject to the pilot program; (2) monitor the progress made by the Judicial Department in implementing the pilot program pursuant to section 46b-122 of the general statutes, as amended by this act; (3) not later than December 31, 2010, submit written recommendations concerning the pilot program to the Judicial Department and the joint standing committees of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to the judiciary and human services, in accordance with section 11-4a of the general statutes, with respect to such implementation and the pilot program; and (4) provide consultation to the Judicial Department pursuant to subsection (b) of section 46b-122 of the general statutes, as amended by this act, regarding policies and procedures adopted pursuant to said section.

(e) The board shall terminate on January 1, 2011.

Sec. 7. (Effective October 1, 2009) The Judicial Department shall conduct a comprehensive review of the pilot program established pursuant to section 46b-122 of the general statutes, as amended by this act. Not later than December 31, 2010, the Chief Court Administrator shall submit a report on such comprehensive review and the pilot program, in accordance with section 11-4a of the general statutes, to the joint standing committees of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to the judiciary and human services. At a minimum, the report shall include: (1) An assessment of the pilot program's effectiveness in balancing the interest in public access to proceedings included in the pilot program against the best interests of the children who are the subject of such proceedings; and (2) a recommendation on whether, and to what extent, the pilot program should be continued at the established juvenile matters location or expanded to other juvenile matters locations in the state.

Approved June 29, 2009