PA 09-194—sHB 6419

Select Committee on Children

Human Services Committee

Judiciary Committee

Appropriations Committee

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

SUMMARY: This act makes several unrelated changes in statutes governing the Department of Children and Families (DCF). It:

1. requires the department to include specific information in permanency plan documents;

2. requires DCF to file annual reports with the (a) Select Committee on Children on its case review findings and (b) Human Services Committee on its progress in incorporating measurable outcomes into contracts with providers;

3. establishes a pilot program to increase public access to juvenile court proceedings concerning abused, neglected, or dependent children or those petitioning for termination of parental rights;

4. creates the Juvenile Access Pilot Program Advisory Board; and

5. requires DCF to notify all attorneys of record when it decides to transfer a child to an out-of-state facility.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2009, except for the provision concerning out-of-state transfers, which is effective October 1, 2010, and the provision establishing the Advisory Board, which is effective upon passage.

3 — PERMANENCY PLANNING

State and federal laws require DCF to establish and periodically revise permanency plans for children in its care or custody, which include abused and neglected children, delinquents, and children in its voluntary services program (i. e. , children whose mental health needs could not otherwise be met).

Permanency Plan Documents

The act requires all DCF documents entitled “Study in Support of Permanency Plan” or “Status Report for Permanency Planning Team” to contain:

1. a description of any problems or offenses that caused the child to be placed under DCF's custody, control, or supervision;

2. a description of the type, and an analysis of the effectiveness, of its care, treatment, and supervision of the child;

3. for each child in substitute care, the current visitation schedule for the child and his or her parents and siblings;

4. a description of every effort DCF has taken to reunify the child with a parent or find a permanent placement, including, where applicable, every effort to assist the parent in remedying factors that contributed to the child's removal from the home; and

5. a proposed timetable for reunifying the child and parent, a permanent placement if continued substitute care is recommended, or a justification of why extended substitute care is necessary.

If a child is in an out-of-state placement, the plan must indicate whether he or she has been visited at least every three months by a state or private agency worker.

1 & 2 — REQUIRED DCF ANNUAL REPORTS

Case Reviews

The act requires DCF to report annually to the Select Committee on Children on:

1. the results of Connecticut's comprehensive objective reviews (internal qualitative reviews), including any recommendations contained in the reviews and any steps DCF has taken to implement them;

2. aggregate data from each administrative case review, including any information on the strengths and deficiencies of its case review process; and

3. steps DCF is taking to address department-wide deficiencies.

Provider Contracts

The act requires DCF to determine measurable outcomes for each type of service it provides. The department must incorporate them in each contract with providers and include achievement of the outcomes and other quality indicators in its annual review of each provider.

The act directs the DCF commissioner to file annual reports with the Human Services Committee on its efforts to determine measurable outcomes and incorporate them in provider contracts. Reports must also include:

1. the number of service types with outcomes,

2. the types of outcomes, and

3. the application of outcome information to quality improvement.

5-7 — JUVENILE ACCESS PILOT PROGRAM

Pilot Program

By law, juvenile court hearings are heard separately from other Superior Court business and are closed to the public. The act requires the Judicial Branch to establish a pilot program to increase public access to proceedings where a child is alleged to be uncared for, neglected, abused, or dependent or is the subject of a petition for termination of parental rights. But it permits a juvenile court judge to order on a case-by-case basis, upon a motion of any party, that any proceeding be kept separate from other Superior Court business. The pilot program is to be located in a juvenile court designated by the chief court administrator. As in all juvenile matters, records of these proceedings are confidential.

Juvenile Access Pilot Program Advisory Board

The board must:

1. review the methods other states use to increase public access to similar juvenile court proceedings;

2. monitor the Judicial Branch's progress in implementing the pilot program;

3. submit written recommendations concerning the pilot program to the Judicial Branch and the Judiciary and Human Services committees by December 31, 2010; and

4. consult with the Judicial Branch on policies and procedures relating to the pilot program.

The board consists of:

1. the chief court administrator or her designee;

2. an attorney who represents children in abuse, neglect, or dependency proceedings, appointed by the House speaker;

3. an attorney who serves as a guardian ad litem in proceedings in the juvenile court, appointed by the Senate president pro tempore;

4. a member or former member of the media who has experience reporting on juvenile matters, appointed by the House majority leader;

5. an attorney who represents parents in abuse, neglect, or dependency proceedings, appointed by the Senate majority leader;

6. a Superior Court judge 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 in the Attorney General's Office, 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 House minority leader;

9. a DCF Child Welfare Services Division employee, appointed by the commissioner;

10. a DCF social worker who, at the time of appointment, has experience working directly with children and families on behalf of the department, appointed by the Senate minority leader;

11. the chief child protection attorney, or her designee;

12. the child advocate, or her designee;

13. the chief state's attorney, or his designee; and

14. the chief public defender, or her designee.

Members must be appointed within 30 days after the act's passage. The chief court administrator and the attorney appointed by the House speaker serve as the board's co-chairs. They must schedule the first meeting of the board within 60 days of the act's passage.

After consultation with the Juvenile Access Pilot Program Advisory Board, the Judicial Branch must adopt policies and procedures for operating the pilot program.

The board terminates on January 1, 2011.

Pilot Program Review

The Judicial Branch must conduct a comprehensive review of the pilot program. The chief court administrator must submit a report on the review and the pilot program to the Judiciary and Human Services committees by December 31, 2010. The report must include:

1. an assessment of the pilot program's effectiveness in balancing the interest in public access to proceedings included in the program against the best interests of the children who are the subject of the 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.