Establishes a court-appointed special advocates program to aid family court efforts to promote the health, safety and well-being of children; provides aid to non-profit programs which provide assistance to family courts.
Ayes (59): Addabbo, Avella, Ball, Bonacic, Boyle, Breslin, Carlucci, DeFrancisco, Diaz, Dilan, Farley, Felder, Flanagan, Gallivan, Gianaris, Gipson, Griffo, Grisanti, Hannon, Hassell-Thomps, Hoylman, Kennedy, Klein, Krueger, Lanza, Larkin, Latimer, LaValle, Libous, Little, Marcellino, Marchione, Martins, Maziarz, Montgomery, Nozzolio, O'Brien, O'Mara, Parker, Peralta, Perkins, Ranzenhofer, Ritchie, Rivera, Robach, Sampson, Sanders, Savino, Serrano, Seward, Skelos, Smith, Squadron, Stavisky, Stewart-Cousins, Tkaczyk, Valesky, Young, Zeldin
Excused (2): Espaillat, Golden
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the judiciary law, in relation to the court-appointed special advocates program
PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL:
To establish the Court Appointed Special Advocates program (CASA) in statute and codify existing Office of Court Administration (OCA) rules pertaining to CASA.
SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS:
Section 1: Legislative intent.
Section 2: Creates a new article 21-C in the judiciary law known as the Court Appointed Special Advocates Program.
Section 3: Effective date.
The Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program was established by the Office of Court Administration in 1991 under the Task Force on Permanency Planning to promote and support trained community volunteer advocacy programs. The role of CASA is to assist Family Courts in making crucial decisions affecting children who have been abused and neglected. The Association incorporated in 1995 as an independent not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) organization. There are 21 local CASA programs providing services to the family courts in 31 counties.
All CASA programs strive to achieve the same goal: to ensure that every abused and neglected child be placed in a safe, permanent home while taking into consideration each of their emotional, educational and physical needs. CASA volunteers are screened, trained and supervised in their activities. They come from a variety of professional, educational and ethnic backgrounds. By being assigned only one or two cases at a time, the CASA volunteer can dedicate a sufficient amount of time and energy to fully explore the history of each assigned child and engage in dialogue directly with the child, parents, foster parents, family members, attorneys, case workers, neighbors, school officials, and others involved in the child's life. After this process is completed, the volunteer typically submits a report of recommendations to the Family Court Judge. This report is instrumental in helping the judge determine whether the child should stay with his or her parents, be placed in foster care or be freed for adoption.
This bill is enabling legislation that codifies the CASA program and accompanying OCA regulations. By doing so, it makes clear the Legislature's support for the program, provides a consistent interpretation of CASA's role within the Family Court and strengthens CASA's standing in its important work on behalf of abused and neglected children in the State's foster care system.
This act shall take effect immediately.
STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 7536 IN SENATE May 15, 2014 ___________Introduced by Sen. BONACIC -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Judiciary AN ACT to amend the judiciary law, in relation to the court-appointed special advocates program THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. The purpose of this act is to recognize the important role long played by court-appointed special advocates ("CASA") programs in aiding family court efforts to promote the health, safety and well-being of children; and to ensure that, going forward, CASA programs are suit- ably structured, administered and funded so that they may continue to provide appropriate services to children and families through its dedi- cated volunteers. S 2. The judiciary law is amended by adding a new article 21-C to read as follows: ARTICLE 21-C COURT-APPOINTED SPECIAL ADVOCATES PROGRAM SECTION 849-L. GENERAL PURPOSE. 849-M. ADMINISTRATION. 849-N. STATE ASSISTANCE. 849-O. IMMUNITY. 849-P. CONFIDENTIALITY. S 849-L. GENERAL PURPOSE. THE LEGISLATURE HEREBY RECOGNIZES THE IMPOR- TANCE OF COURT-APPOINTED SPECIAL ADVOCATES (CASA) PROGRAMS TO THE EFFEC- TIVE OPERATION OF THE FAMILY COURT. ACCORDINGLY, IT DIRECTS THAT, AS PROVIDED IN THIS ARTICLE, THESE PROGRAMS SHALL BE SUBJECT TO ADMINISTRA- TIVE SUPERVISION AND ELIGIBLE FOR STATE ASSISTANCE. FOR PURPOSES OF THIS ARTICLE, A CASA PROGRAM SHALL MEAN A NOT-FOR-PROFIT CORPORATION IN COMPLIANCE WITH SUCH STANDARDS AS ARE SPECIFIED IN RULES OF THE CHIEF JUDGE OF THE STATE PROMULGATED PURSUANT TO SECTION EIGHT HUNDRED FORTY- NINE-M OF THIS ARTICLE. S 849-M. ADMINISTRATION. THE CHIEF JUDGE OF THE STATE SHALL PROMULGATE RULES AND REGULATIONS STANDARDIZING USE OF CASA PROGRAMS IN THIS STATE AND GOVERNING THE ADMINISTRATION AND OPERATION OF SUCH PROGRAMS. NO CASAEXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD15268-01-4 S. 7536 2
PROGRAM, OR ANY STAFF PERSON OR VOLUNTEER WORKING FOR OR ON BEHALF OF SUCH PROGRAM, SHALL BE ELIGIBLE FOR APPOINTMENT BY A FAMILY COURT TO ASSIST SUCH COURT IN ANY MANNER UNLESS SUCH PROGRAM IS IN COMPLIANCE WITH SUCH RULES AND REGULATIONS. NOR SHALL ANY CASA PROGRAM, OR ANY STAFF PERSON OR VOLUNTEER WORKING FOR OR ON BEHALF OF SUCH PROGRAM, UPON APPOINTMENT BY A FAMILY COURT TO ASSIST SUCH COURT IN ANY MANNER, EXER- CISE ANY POWERS OR DISCHARGE ANY DUTIES IN RELATION THERETO UNLESS SUCH COURT HAS AUTHORIZED SUCH EXERCISE OR DISCHARGE. S 849-N. STATE ASSISTANCE. 1. THERE SHALL BE A STATE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM, TO BE KNOWN AS THE CASA ASSISTANCE PROGRAM, PURSUANT TO WHICH INDIVIDUAL CASA PROGRAMS MAY APPLY FOR AND RECEIVE FUNDING FROM SUCH APPROPRIATIONS AS THE LEGISLATURE MAY MAKE AVAILABLE THEREFOR TO THE UNIFIED COURT SYSTEM. 2. THE CASA ASSISTANCE PROGRAM SHALL BE ADMINISTERED BY THE CHIEF ADMINISTRATOR OF THE COURTS, WHO SHALL PRESCRIBE APPLICATION AND PAYMENT PROCEDURES, STANDARDS TO GOVERN THE AWARD OF FUNDING, AND PROTOCOLS FOR ONGOING REVIEW OF CASA PROGRAMS THAT RECEIVE FUNDS HEREUNDER, INCLUDING PROVISION FOR PERIODIC PROGRAM REVIEW AND RECORDS RETENTION. 3. FUNDS AVAILABLE PURSUANT TO THIS ARTICLE MAY BE USED FOR ANY PURPOSE HAVING AS ITS END ENHANCEMENT OF A CASA PROGRAM'S ABILITY TO PROVIDE SUITABLE AND SUFFICIENT ASSISTANCE TO THE FAMILY COURT. 4. THE STATE COMPTROLLER, THE CHIEF ADMINISTRATOR AND THEIR AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVES SHALL HAVE THE POWER TO INSPECT, EXAMINE AND AUDIT THE FISCAL AFFAIRS OF ANY CASA PROGRAM RECEIVING FUNDING HEREUNDER. S 849-O. IMMUNITY. EACH BOARD MEMBER, OFFICER, EMPLOYEE AND VOLUNTEER WORKING FOR OR ON BEHALF OF A CASA PROGRAM, WHILE PARTICIPATING IN GOOD FAITH WITHIN THE SCOPE OF HIS OR HER EMPLOYMENT THEREBY OR APPOINTMENT THEREUNDER, SHALL HAVE IMMUNITY FROM ANY LIABILITY, CIVIL OR CRIMINAL, THAT MIGHT OTHERWISE RESULT BY REASON OF HIS OR HER ACTION OR INACTION. FOR PURPOSES OF THIS SECTION, THE GOOD FAITH OF ANY SUCH BOARD MEMBER, OFFICER, EMPLOYEE AND VOLUNTEER SHALL BE PRESUMED, PROVIDED THAT HE OR SHE WAS EXERCISING HIS OR HER POWERS OR DISCHARGING HIS OR HER DUTIES WITHIN THE SCOPE OF HIS OR HER EMPLOYMENT OR APPOINTMENT, AND THAT SUCH LIABILITY DID NOT RESULT FROM THE WILLFUL MISCONDUCT OR GROSS NEGLIGENCE OF SUCH BOARD MEMBER, OFFICER, EMPLOYEE AND VOLUNTEER. S 849-P. CONFIDENTIALITY. EACH CASA PROGRAM SHALL SAFEGUARD THE CONFI- DENTIALITY OF ALL INFORMATION AND MATERIAL IN ACCORDANCE WITH APPLICABLE STATE AND FEDERAL LAWS, RULES AND REGULATIONS; AND, TO THIS END, SHALL ENSURE THAT ALL OF ITS BOARD MEMBERS, OFFICERS, EMPLOYEES AND VOLUNTEERS ARE TRAINED IN, AND COMPLY WITH, SUCH LAWS, RULES AND REGULATIONS. S 3. This act shall take effect immediately.