Advokids supports CA Attorney General Kamala Harris‘ new Bureau of Children’s Justice, aimed at repairing our broken foster care system and protecting our most vulnerable population, foster children. As first order of business, the Attorney General issued a letter urging all California counties to evaluate their current oversight and enforcement practices. The letter references recent efforts of the Attorney General’s office to pursue litigation involving foster care licensing and adoption. The letter also supports the need for reform with a 2011 audit performed by the California State Auditor that concluded that California must provide better protection for abused and neglected children, and a 2013 report concerning the education achievement gap for foster children.
The Attorney General’s letter reminds counties of their legal obligations to:
– meet licensing requirements and ensure quality of care, unannounced inspections (Welfare and Institution Code §§ 16519(b))
– report child abuse, stressing the role of mandated reporters (Penal Code §§ 11165.7, 11166(a))
– investigate suspected child abuse cases, once reported to agencies (Penal Code §§ 11165.9, 11169(a))
– protect foster youth against discrimination (Welfare and Institution Code §§ 16001.9(a)(23), 16013(a))
– ensure equal access to education for youth in dependency and juvenile justice systems (Education Code §§ 44850(a)(1), 49069.5(b), 48853.5(b),(e)(8))
This month, Attorney General Harris announced that California’s Department of Justice was selected by the DOJ as one of the few states that will take part in the national Defending Childhood Initiative. Under the initiative, at-risk California children will be screened for trauma at child welfare and juvenile justice appointments, pediatrician visits, and in school.
Advokids’ legal advocacy efforts are focused on preventing and mitigating early childhood trauma in foster care. Advokids’ free state-wide telephone hotline, the only one in the state, allows us to gather county specific data about our youngest children in care and the challenges they face. Our staff is attending the Bureau’s stakeholder meetings in hopes that our hotline call data provide the Bureau insight as to what enforcement issues are present in the system.
We are happy to be aligned with Attorney General Harris’ in our mission to protect the right of every child in foster care to safety, security and permanent home.