24Jul 2017

California Criminals to Foster Children

California’s 2017 docket includes a bill that would help criminals to foster children, especially in the case of family. Because the state is taking a greater initiative to reduce the number of children placed in group homes, lawmakers are taking a closer look into ways to help keep children with family members who are willing to take on parenting responsibilities, and SB-213 focuses on making laws clearer.

One of the biggest obstacles that prevents many from taking guardianship over an underage relative is a non-violent, decades-ago criminal convictions that currently mean they aren’t allowed to foster or adopt. While there are policies in place that allow many felons or criminals to apply for exceptions, the rules are vague and open-ended. While the federal government has one list of restrictions, California has another that’s slightly more rigid and much more confusing.

Under current law, agencies are allowed to determine on good judgment if a parent is fit to adopt, taking into consideration adoption laws and the circumstances behind the offense. But SB-213 addresses this confusion in a move to keep children with their families. The bill makes the following provisions for children in need of foster care:

They can be placed with family regardless of a non-serious past offense on an emergency basis.
Red tape will be reduced for special cases, putting children in need on a fast-track toward foster care.
The bill will increase the number of minor offenses excluded from the no-criminal-history rule.

Social workers will still be required to complete an exemption review for any offenders seeking to adopt or foster a child, but the process will be much less arduous and will shift its focus from prohibition to compassionate, common-sense decisions. As it stands, California applicants must submit paperwork from trials, arrests, and other events concerning any criminal charges, which can be hard to access in cases of decades-old convictions, especially in other states. Without proper paperwork, non-violent and non-serious offenders will be given automatic exceptions on a review basis.

The bill, however, doesn’t just loosen requirements across the board. It also includes several parts that increase the safety of children placed into homes by requiring any foster parent, relative or not, be either a licensed foster parent or approved resource family. It also clarified confusing wording, and it mandated that no violent felon be placed with a foster child under any circumstance. The bill goes on to say that under a specific set of circumstances, applicants may be granted an exception after completing a set of reviews.

The bill also sets a precedent to begin a stakeholder group to determine evidenced recommendations to agencies involved in the foster and adoption processes. In addition, the state government will be mandated to reimburse local schools and agencies for state-mandated costs noted in the bill. The bill is still in state Assembly, but San Fransisco native Governor Brown could have the power to sign it into motion before the Autumn of 2017.

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