BILL NUMBER: S1078
TITLE OF BILL :
An act to amend the social services law, in relation to foster home
decertification, application for recertification, authorization for
non-renewal, notice of removal of a child, and other required notices
To protect foster children from being placed in a home which has
previously been found to be unsuitable for providing care.
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS :
Section 1 and 2 amend sections 376 and 377 of the Social Services Law,
by requiring that when an agency or local social services commissioner
is screening a prospective foster parent to be certified or licensed,
the agency or local commissioner must inquire with OCFS whether the
applicant has ever been a foster parent before, and, if so, whether
the certificate or license was revoked, not renewed, or a child was
removed from the home. If any of these instances have occurred, the
agency or commissioner must evaluate the circumstances and the
reason(s) for such action, to determine whether a certificate should
be issued and the home reopened.
Section 3 amends section 379 of the Social Services law, by adding
non-renewal of certificates and licenses and removal of a child, as
instances for notification to OCFS.
EXISTING LAW : Currently, under section 379 of the Social Service
Law, the only requirement to notify OCFS is when a certification or
license is revoked. The law does not require that OCFS be informed as
to the reason(s) why the certification or license was revoked. There
is no statutory requirement for agencies or local social services
commissioners to make an inquiry to OCFS regarding an applicant's
prior history as a foster parent, before issuing a new certificate or
JUSTIFICATION : When a child enters fostercare, the state assumes
the responsibility of providing a safe and secure environment for the
child. However, this is not always the case. According to agency
reports and hearing testimony, there continues to be instances where
children are further abused or even killed by their foster parents.
State statute and regulations currently set screening requirements for
prospective foster parents, including a check against the Statewide
Central Registry of Child Abuse and Maltreatment (The Child Abuse
Hotline), which houses data on reports of abuse and maltreatment
against individuals, including foster parents. However, such a check
will only provide information for reported and investigated cases.
In some cases, when a foster parent is suspected of not providing a
safe and secure environment, the caseworker will remove the child or
children from the home, but will not revoke the certificate or
license, or report the foster parent to the Child Abuse Hotline.
Rather, the home remains open with no children placed there by the
agency. Then, when the home is up for annual renewal, the agency
simply does not renew their certification.
In such cases, the foster parent may simply apply to another agency to
take foster children. Without a formal mechanism in place to check on
the prior history of the applicant and to follow up with any previous
agencies, the new agency could certify the applicant without ever
knowing about prior problems, and as a result, place more children in
OCFS does currently have a mechanism for checking information on
prospective foster parents. OCFS' computerized foster parent registry
is intended to house information on all current and former foster
parents. Internal policies direct caseworkers to check the registry
before a new foster parent can be certified and added to the system.
However, there is no formal guidance as to how to evaluate any
problems. Further, the system contains limited information on the
reason(s) a home was closed or a child removed.
This bill would address these gaps by requiring that OCFS maintain a
history of removals, revocations, and non-renewals of certificates and
licenses, including the reason for such actions. It further directs
OCFS to establish regulations to help agencies and local social
service commissioners evaluate the circumstances around such actions,
and decide whether to reopen the home. Similar regulations and
procedures already exist for evaluating indicated reports from the
Child Abuse Hotline and instances where applicants have a criminal
LEGISLATIVE HISTORY :
2008: S.1500 - Referred to Social Services, Children & Families
2007: S.1500 - Referred to Social Services, Children & Families
2006: S.2331/A.4373 - Passed Assembly
2004: S.4803/A.4530 - Passed Assembly
2003: S.4803/A.4530 - Died in Committee
2001-02: A.6761-A - Passed Assembly
1999-00: A.5591 - Passed Assembly
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS :
EFFECTIVE DATE :
This act shall take effect on 180th day after it shall become law,
provided however, that effective immediately, the addition, amendment
and/or repeal of any rules or regulations necessary for the
implementation of the forgoing sections of this act on its effective
date are authorized and directed to be made and completed on or before
such effective date.