SB 1201 Aligning Criminal History Exemptions
Placement with relatives is preferred by federal and state law because research indicates that these children experience fewer traumas and have better outcomes than children who are placed with non-relatives. Unfortunately, many foster children spend the first few months in foster care in shelters or with foster parents they don’t know while their kin navigate the bureaucratic process of having their criminal background reviewed and being granted an exemption for any past offense, no matter how minor.
California’s elaborate statutory scheme of criminal history restrictions, exemptions, and non-exemptible crimes was rendered unnecessary and redundant by the enactment of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. This federal law requires all states to do background checks on all of their foster parents and includes a small list of crimes that are non-exemptible, meaning individuals convicted of these offenses are barred from ever being a foster parent. Unfortunately, in implementing the Adam Walsh act, California added the federal requirements without repealing the now-superfluous state-law requirements. SB 1201 will conform state law to these federal requirements, replacing California’s current maze of cross-referenced lists of crimes with a streamlined and straightforward process to ensure that foster children are placed with a safe and loving relative as promptly as possible. See Fact Sheet.
SB 942 Relative Preference
It is imperative that when possible, foster children are placed with a relative as swiftly as possible to avoid compounding the trauma of removal and connect the child to a familiar caregiver. Unfortunately, placement with relatives can be delayed when the criminal background check reveals a past arrest or conviction that, under current law, requires an exemption or waiver in order for the child to be placed in the home. Currently, the exemption process requires that the relative gather the arrest and court records that be presented to the Department of Social Services. This can be burdensome to our kinship caregivers, especially when the crime that they are attempting to get exempted occurred many years in the past. SB 942 would require county workers to assist relatives to obtain all necessary records and further require the county to make a final decision on the assessment within 30 days. If the exemption process is not complete within 30 days, the court may set a hearing date and order placement with the relative if it is determined that is in the best interest of the youth. See Fact Sheet.