Provides court appointed special advocates access to certain records associated with child abuse and neglect cases.
Ayes (6): Montgomery, Schneiderman, Huntley, Duane, McDonald, Marcellino
BILL NUMBER: S2448
TITLE OF BILL :
An act to amend the social services law, in relation to release of certain records associated with abuse and neglect cases to court appointed special advocates
To provide Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) with access to certain records associated with child abuse, neglect or foster care cases.
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS :
Section 1 amends Social Services Law §422 (4) paragraph A by adding a new subsection (aa) to include CASA on the list of entities with access to specific child protective records necessary for CASA to fulfill the functions for which it was appointed by the court upon notice and an opportunity to be heard by all parties.
Section 2 amends Social Services Law §372(4) by adding a new paragraph (C) to include on the list of entities with access to specific child protective records necessary for CASA to fulfill the functions for which it was appointed by the court upon notice and an opportunity to be heard by all parties.
Section 3 set the effective date.
JUSTIFICATION : CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) is a volunteer based program of advocates for children in Family Court proceedings who have been abused, neglected or are at risk. These specially trained and closely supervised volunteers, appointed directly by Family Court judges, get to know each child and report to the Family Court in great detail about the child's circumstances. They ensure that children receive adequate medical and educational attention, access to any other necessary services, and help ensure that court orders are being followed. Nationally, the CASA network involves over 58,000 volunteers, having served over 2 million children since its inception in 1977. The New York State CASA network began in 1979 and currently has 22 CASA programs serving 33 counties in New York State. In 2007, over 800 volunteers donated more than 90,000 hours serving almost 4,000 of New York's most vulnerable children.
Part §43.0 of the Rules of the Chief Judge of New York State says "recognizing the vital role that a Court Appointed Special Advocates program ("CASA program") can perform in aiding Family Court efforts to further the health, safety and well-being of children.....this rule is promulgated to standardize use of CASA programs in the courts of this state..." Under §43.1 "A CASA program may be appointed by Family Court in its discretion to provide assistance to the Court in cases regarding children in or at risk of out-of-home placement."
When Family Court assigns a program such as CASA to aid the court the assistance must be within the "legal authority of the court and the agency" (Matter of Nathan S., 198 AD 2d 557). Based on Family Court Act §255 authorizing Family Court "to direct officers and agencies to render assistance and cooperation which are in the best interests of the child..." the New York State Appellate Division, Third Department, re-affirmed this authority on May 26, 2005. (Matter of Michelle HH., 18 AD 3d 1075, 797 NYS 2d 567; Matter of Sarah FF., 18AD3d 1072, 797 NYS 2d 571).
In order to fulfill that assignment and provide comprehensive information, CABA volunteers need access to information it is statutorily now barred from receiving. Currently, CASA is not identified in the list of appropriate agencies to which confidential records may be released under Social Services Law §422(A)(4) regarding Child Protective Services records; nor under Social Services Law §372(4)(a) regarding foster care records. (Matter of Michelle HH., 18 AD3d 1075, 797 NYS 2d 567; Matter of Sarah FF., 18AD3d 1072, 797 NYS 2d 571; May 26, 2005); nor under Mental Hygiene Law §33.13.
Without access to confidential Child Protective Services or foster care information CASA volunteers are severely limited in their ability to provide assistance to Family Courts. Across New York State, there have been a variety of legal interpretations of the above referenced decisions. As a result, the majority of the counties in which CASA programs operate have experienced a change in their relationship with their Departments of Social Services. Those changes range from a complete inability to access any records at all, whether written or verbal; to limited ability to access caseworkers, children or foster parents. This has created an ongoing and growing challenge to the efficacy of the CASA mission.
This legislation would amend Social Services Law §422(A) and add a new subsection(c) to Social Services Law §372(4) to include Court Appointed Special Advocates on the long lists of agencies having appropriate access to confidential information. This exemplifies government officials developing and implementing sound policies and programs which best serve the vulnerable children in foster care.
CASA is committed to working collaboratively to assist the family courts in reaching sound decisions with the goal of helping to protect the safety and well-being of children. This bill will enhance service to New York State's most vulnerable children while protecting the integrity and confidentiality of the process designed to help them. At a time of growing social ills that are exacerbating the incidents of abuse and neglect, it is essential that children are offered all the assistance they deserve and the hope of a brighter tomorrow.
The passage of this legislation is a key factor in CASA's ability to progress toward providing an advocate for every child who needs one. During this lime of fiscal restraint and challenge, CASA volunteers provide a no-cost support system to some of the State's most at-risk children. They work with only one or two children at a time, so these highly trained and caring individuals can provide detailed and essential information requested by the court in support of finding a safe and permanent home as soon as possible for children who have experienced abuse or neglect. The child advocacy services that CASA provides are invaluable to the children, cost effective to our State's communities, and helpful to courts dealing with a multitude of cases.
LEGISLATIVE HISTORY : 2007-2008 - S.7181B Advanced to third reading
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS : None.
EFFECTIVE DATE : Immediately.
STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 2448 2009-2010 Regular Sessions IN SENATE February 20, 2009 ___________Introduced by Sen. KRUGER -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Children and Families AN ACT to amend the social services law, in relation to release of certain records associated with abuse and neglect cases to court appointed special advocates THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. Paragraph (A) of subdivision 4 of section 422 of the social services law is amended by adding a new subparagraph (aa) to read as follows: (AA) COURT APPOINTED SPECIAL ADVOCATES, APPOINTED BY THE FAMILY COURT TO GATHER INFORMATION AND REPORT TO SUCH COURT CONCERNING A CHILD OR CHILDREN WHO ARE THE SUBJECT OF A PETITION FOR ABUSE AND NEGLECT PURSU- ANT TO ARTICLE TEN OF THE FAMILY COURT ACT, UPON A WRITTEN REQUEST BY SUCH COURT APPOINTED SPECIAL ADVOCATES AND ON NOTICE TO, AND AN OPPORTU- NITY TO BE HEARD, BY ALL PARTIES, PROVIDED HOWEVER: (I) THAT SUCH WRITTEN REQUEST SHALL STATE THE SPECIFIC RECORDS THAT THE COURT APPOINTED SPECIAL ADVOCATE IS SEEKING ACCESS TO, AND HOW ACCESS TO SUCH RECORDS IS NECESSARY FOR THE COURT APPOINTED SPECIAL ADVOCATE TO FULFILL THE FUNCTIONS FOR WHICH IT WAS APPOINTED BY THE COURT; AND (II) THAT RECORDS PROVIDED TO COURT APPOINTED SPECIAL ADVOCATES SHALL NOT INCLUDE THE NAME OR ANY INFORMATION THAT COULD REASONABLY IDENTIFY THE PERSON WHO MADE THE CALL TO THE STATEWIDE CENTRAL REGISTER OF CHILD ABUSE OR MALTREATMENT AS DESCRIBED IN THIS SECTION; AND (III) THAT RECORDS PROVIDED TO COURT APPOINTED SPECIAL ADVOCATES PURSUANT TO THIS SUBPARAGRAPH SHALL BE DEEMED CONFIDENTIAL, SHALL NOT BE REDISCLOSED, AND SHALL BE SAFEGUARDED FROM COMING TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF, AND FROM INSPECTION OR EXAMINATION BY, ANY PERSON OTHER THAN ONE AUTHOR- IZED BY THE APPLICABLE SOCIAL SERVICES DISTRICT OR BY A JUDGE OF THE FAMILY COURT WHEN SUCH RECORDS ARE REQUIRED FOR THE TRIAL OF A PROCEED-EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD09574-01-9 S. 2448 2
ING IN SUCH COURT, AFTER A NOTICE TO ALL INTERESTED PERSONS AND A HEAR- ING, TO RECEIVE SUCH KNOWLEDGE OR TO MAKE SUCH INSPECTION OR EXAMINA- TION. S 2. Subdivision 4 of section 372 of the social services law is amended by adding a new paragraph (c) to read as follows: (C) NOTWITHSTANDING ANY INCONSISTENT PROVISION OF LAW TO THE CONTRARY, RECORDS RELATING TO CHILDREN KEPT PURSUANT TO THIS SECTION SHALL BE MADE AVAILABLE TO COURT APPOINTED SPECIAL ADVOCATES UPON A WRITTEN REQUEST FOR SPECIFIC RECORDS, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE FAMILY SERVICE REVIEW PLAN, PERMANENCY REPORT, MEDICAL EVALUATIONS, AND HISTORY OF CURRENT AND PREVIOUS FOSTER CARE PLACEMENTS, BY SUCH COURT APPOINTED SPECIAL ADVOCATES, ON NOTICE TO, AND AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE HEARD BY, ALL PARTIES, PROVIDED HOWEVER: (I) THAT SUCH WRITTEN REQUEST SHALL STATE THE SPECIFIC RECORDS FOR WHICH THE COURT APPOINTED SPECIAL ADVOCATE IS SEEKING ACCESS TO, AND HOW ACCESS TO SUCH RECORDS IS NECESSARY FOR THE COURT APPOINTED SPECIAL ADVOCATE TO FULFILL THE FUNCTION FOR WHICH IT WAS APPOINTED BY THE COURT; AND (II) THAT RECORDS PROVIDED TO COURT APPOINTED SPECIAL ADVOCATES PURSU- ANT TO THIS PARAGRAPH SHALL BE DEEMED CONFIDENTIAL, SHALL NOT BE REDIS- CLOSED, AND SHALL BE SAFEGUARDED FROM COMING TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF, AND FROM INSPECTION OR EXAMINATION BY, ANY PERSON OTHER THAN ONE AUTHORIZED BY THE APPLICABLE SOCIAL SERVICES DISTRICT OR BY A JUDGE OF THE FAMILY COURT WHEN SUCH RECORDS ARE REQUIRED FOR THE TRIAL OF A PROCEEDING IN SUCH COURT, AFTER A NOTICE TO ALL INTERESTED PERSONS AND A HEARING, TO RECEIVE SUCH KNOWLEDGE OR TO MAKE SUCH INSPECTION OR EXAMINATION. S 3. This act shall take effect immediately.