PA 10-161—sSB 218

Human Services Committee

Judiciary Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING SAFE HAVEN CASES AND THE TERMINATION OF RENTAL AGREEMENTS BY VICTIMS OF FAMILY VIOLENCE

SUMMARY: This act specifies a process, under the safe haven law, that permits a new mother to use the Department of Children and Families' (DCF) Safe Haven Program to surrender her infant without having to leave the hospital. It also provides for reporting information about the birth to the Department of Public Health (DPH); weakens the law's confidentiality provisions; and requires DCF to notify any parent of a surrendered infant, if it knows his or her identity, of any legal proceedings it initiates, such as termination of parental rights.

The act permits DCF to approve an applicant as a foster family or prospective adoptive family even if a natural, adopted, or adoptable child of the applicant has died less than a year before the application date.

The act also makes changes in PA 10-137, which makes it easier for family violence victims to terminate rental agreements.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2010, except the approval of foster or adoptive parents provision is effective upon passage and the family violence provisions are effective on October 1, 2010

SAFE HAVEN REVISIONS

Surrendering a Child Born in a Hospital

The safe haven law requires hospitals to designate a place in their emergency room (ER) where a parent or a parent's legal agent can surrender an infant up to 30 days old without facing arrest for abandonment. Hospitals must designate their ER staff to take custody of these babies and have a designated employee on duty at all times.

The act sets up a process for a mother who gives birth in a hospital to surrender the baby without having to go to the ER.

It permits the mother to give written notice to any DPH-licensed health care provider who provides health care services on the hospital's behalf that she wishes to surrender custody of the baby voluntarily. The notice must be on a DCF-prescribed form. The act specifies that an “employee” who receives such a notice must notify the designated ER employee, who must immediately take custody of the infant. The act prohibits the “employee” from disclosing the contents of the notice, including the mother's name, to DCF or any person or organization without the mother's permission. (The act specifies that only a licensed health care provider who provides services on the hospital's behalf can receive the notice but more narrowly provides that this provider must be a hospital employee. )

The act requires the hospital to retain the notice in a file separate from the mother's medical records.

Birth Information

The act adds to the information the designated ER employee may ask the parent or agent to provide when the baby is surrendered. If the birth has been registered in the state's vital records system before the surrender, the act allows the employee to ask the infant's name and birth date. (Presumably, the employee can also ask whether the birth has been registered. ) Under prior law, the employee could ask only for the parents' or agent's name and the infant's and parents' medical history. By law, the parent or agent need not provide this information.

The act requires the ER employee to give this information to DPH for the sole purpose of sealing the infant's original birth record. It specifies that the infant's name and birth date cannot be disclosed on the report DCF (as the agency taking custody of the baby) must, by law, make about the baby to the registrar of vital statistics of the town where the baby was surrendered.

Confidentiality

Prior law made any information about the infant, parents, or legal agent confidential, except for any medical history a parent provides, which had to be disclosed to DCF. The act instead prohibits the hospital's designated employee from disclosing any information, but only if the parent or agent requests this. And it does not limit disclosure by parties, such as DCF or DPH (see below), that may obtain information from the designated employee.

Legal Proceedings after Surrender

The law requires DCF to take any lawful action to achieve safety and permanency for an infant surrendered under the safe haven law. The act specifies that these actions include starting proceedings to terminate parental rights and establish guardianship. It also requires DCF to notify any parent of a surrendered infant of the proceedings, if it knows her or his identity.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROVISIONS

PA 10-137 makes it easier for tenants and their dependents to terminate their rental agreements when they are victims of family violence. This act makes substantive and technical changes in that law.

Fear of Imminent Harm Related to the Family Violence

One of the conditions under which a tenant may terminate a rental agreement without penalty under PA 10-137 is if the tenant believes he or she or a dependent must vacate the dwelling out of fear for their safety because of family violence. This act instead requires a fear of imminent harm.

Notice and Supporting Statements

PA 10-137 requires that the tenant give at least 30 days' written notice to the landlord if he or she intends to terminate the rental agreement due to family violence. This act requires at least 30 days notice before the date the tenant intends to terminate the rental agreement. PA 10-137 requires the notice to contain certain signed statements supporting the claim of domestic violence, including a statement that the tenant intends to terminate the rental agreement. This act requires that statement to be made under oath or affirmation.

This act requires this statement to also indicate that the tenant (1) has vacated the premises and removed all of his or her possessions and personal effects; (2) will do so before the termination date; or (3) if the possessions and effects have not been removed by the termination date, has abandoned them.

Under PA 10-137, the tenant's notice must also include a copy of a police or court record related to the family violence or a written statement attesting to the violence provided by an employee or agent of a victim services organization, an employee of the Judicial Department's Office of Victim Services or the Office of the Victim Advocate, or a medical or other licensed professional from whom the tenant or tenant's child has sought assistance with respect to the violence.

This act requires the police or court record to detail an act of family violence against the tenant or dependent that is dated no more than 90 days before the tenant's notice date. Statements from advocates must also detail the act of family violence, and they must be dated no more than 30 days before the tenant's notice date. The act removes statements from medical or other licensed professionals as allowable supporting documents.

Continued Liability for Rent Arrearages or Damage

PA 10-137 provides that a tenant's termination of a rental agreement under its provisions does not relieve the tenant of any liability to the landlord for rent arrearage or damage. This act extends this provision to any other tenant.

Need to Vacate

Under the act, if the tenant terminates the rental agreement, any occupant without the right or privilege to occupy the dwelling unit must vacate it before the rental agreement termination date. If the tenant or any other occupant fails to vacate the premises as of that date, the landlord can bring an eviction action.

OLR Tracking: RC: JKL: VR: DF