SENATE HEALTH, HUMAN SERVICES AND SENIOR CITIZENS COMMITTEE STATEMENT TO SENATE, No. 1648 with committee amendments STATE OF NEW JERSEY DATED: JUNE, 10, 2004 The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee reports favorably and with committee amendments Senate Bill No. 1648. As amended by committee, the purpose of this bill is to better protect abused and neglected children, and children at risk of abuse or neglect, throughout New Jersey, and more generally to improve the quality of services provided by the State to children and families in the child welfare system. The bill restructures child protection services within the Department of Human Services, establishes the Office of Children's Services (OCS) in the department, and provides for a third deputy commissioner within the department to assume responsibility for the operation of OCS. The new deputy commissioner will oversee the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) and two new divisions created under the bill. Specifically: -- The bill establishes OCS in order to oversee such entities within the department as are designated by the Commissioner of Human Services, including, but not limited to, DYFS, the Division of Child Behavioral Health Services and the Division of Prevention and Community Partnerships. The Division of Child Behavioral Health Services and the Division of Prevention and Community Partnerships are created under the bill and will, along with DYFS, operate under the umbrella of OCS. -- The bill provides that different entities within the State child welfare system may provide similar categories of services but for different reasons; for example, DYFS and the new Division of Child Behavioral Health Services will both provide out-of-home placements, but the primary reason for the former will be protection of the child and for the latter will be treatment of the child. -- The bill transfers responsibility for the following activities from DYFS to the Department of Human Services: * the conduct of criminal history record background checks on 2 resource family parents (defined below), child care center employees and family day care providers; * the licensure of resource family homes (defined below) and child care centers and registration of family day care providers; and * the investigation of institutional abuse or neglect of children and imposition of appropriate sanctions on an institution for failure to take required remedial action. -- The bill establishes the New Jersey Child Welfare Training Academy in the department for the purpose of providing a training program to meet the needs of the child welfare system Statewide. The training program is to provide: * pre-service and in-service training for public employees of the child welfare system; * training opportunities for community-based entities and other child welfare system stakeholders as designated by the commissioner; and * pre-service and in-service training for resource families. -- The academy will be responsible for developing and managing the training activities provided under this program, for which purpose it will: * administer, coordinate and evaluate all training activities under the program; * seek to partner with social work and other professionals to ensure that the training provided under the program reflects best practices; * develop training curricula, resources and products; * schedule and provide notice of training events and provide training materials for those events; * employ and compensate training event instructors as necessary; * create mechanisms and processes to assess, identify and monitor training needs for public employees of the child welfare system, including competency-based training; * create mechanisms and processes to evaluate the effectiveness of the training provided under the program; * provide for the development of multimedia training tools to inform, educate and train public agency staff, resource families and others in the child welfare system; * determine the minimum number of pre-service and in-service training hours required of, and ensure the availability of sufficient training opportunities for, public agency staff Statewide; and * conduct any other activities necessary to develop, implement and manage the training program. -- The training provided to resource families under the bill is to include courses in the role of caregivers as part of the care and treatment of children requiring out-of-home placement, and a resource family parent will be required to complete the number of hours of pre- service and in-service training prescribed under the training program as a condition of licensure under the "Resource Family Parent 3 Licensing Act" (N.J.S.A.30:4C-27.3 et seq.), formerly the "Foster Parent Licensing Act." -- The bill directs the department, through OCS or as otherwise designated by the Commissioner of Human Services, to provide services to individuals who are between 18 and 21 years of age and meet the following conditions: * The individual was receiving services from OCS, or otherwise from the department as designated by the commissioner, on or after the individual's 16th birthday; * The individual, on or after the individual's 18th birthday, has not requested that these services be terminated; and * OCS or another entity designated by the commissioner determines that a continuation of services is in the individual's best interest and would assist the individual to become an independent and productive adult. -- The bill requires that a representative of DYFS, or such other entity in the Department of Human Services as may be designated by the commissioner to investigate child abuse or neglect, initiate an investigation of a report of child abuse or neglect made pursuant to N.J.S.A.9:6-8.10 within 24 hours of receipt of the report, unless DYFS or the other entity authorizes a delay based upon the request of a law enforcement official. -- The bill requires DYFS to maintain a centralized emergency telephone hotline for the receipt of calls involving a report, complaint or allegation of child abuse or neglect. -- The bill renames the central registry operated by DYFS as the child abuse registry and designates it as the repository of all information regarding child abuse or neglect that is accessible to the public pursuant to State and federal law. -- The bill expands the list of persons or entities to whom the Department of Human Services is authorized to release records of child abuse reports to include members of a family team or other case planning group formed by DYFS and established in accordance with regulations adopted by the commissioner for the purpose of addressing the child's safety, permanency or well-being, when the provision of such information is in the best interests of the child as determined by DYFS. -- The bill adopts the following terms: * "resource family parent" to mean any person with whom a child in the care, custody or guardianship of DYFS is placed for temporary or long-term care and includes any person with whom a child is placed by DYFS for the purpose of adoption; and * "resource family home" to mean a private residence, other than a children's group home or shelter home, in which board, lodging, care and temporary out-of-home placement services are provided by a resource family parent on a 24-hour basis to a child under the auspices of DYFS or any public or private agency authorized to place children in New Jersey. 4 -- The bill makes placement by informed consent an option, rather than mandating that informed consent for an out-of-home placement be sought prior to seeking a court order for placement. This change anticipates the future elimination of voluntary out-of-home placements as envisioned in the comprehensive child welfare reform plan issued by the Department of Human Services. -- The bill provides for the gradual elimination of long-term foster care with custody as a permanency option for children, in the belief that other permanency options (such as adoption or kinship legal guardianship) are preferable alternatives for children who cannot live with their birth families; and, to that end, the bill repeals N.J.S.A.30:4C-26.10 through 26.19 (the "Long-Term Foster Care Custody Act") effective September 1, 2005. -- The bill amends N.J.S.A.30:4C-27.16 to stipulate that staff members of State-operated children's psychiatric facilities providing inpatient treatment shall be required to undergo criminal history record and child abuse information background checks. -- Finally, the bill also repeals the following provisions of statutory law, which are obviated by the bill: * N.J.S.A.30:4C-5 (concerning authorization of the Bureau of Childrens Services to accept the care or custody of, or provide welfare services for, any child); and * N.J.S.A.30:4C-27.13 (concerning the provision of care by a certified foster parent until DYFS conducts an on-site inspection and reevaluation of the foster parent's home for the purpose of licensure). The committee amendments: --replace references to "Division of Prevention and Community Development" with "Division of Prevention and Community Partnerships;" and --amend N.J.S.A.30:4C-27.16 to stipulate that staff members of State-operated children's psychiatric facilities providing inpatient treatment shall be required to undergo criminal history record background and child abuse record information checks. As amended, this bill is identical to Assembly Bill No. 2985 (1R) (Previte), which is pending before the General Assembly.