Bill Text: NY A10069 | 2019-2020 | General Assembly | Introduced


Bill Title: Establishes the office of the foster care ombudsman to provide support to foster parents, biological parents, relatives, and youth in care.

Spectrum: Strong Partisan Bill (Democrat 15-1)

Status: (Introduced) 2020-03-06 - referred to children and families [A10069 Detail]

Download: New_York-2019-A10069-Introduced.html



                STATE OF NEW YORK
        ________________________________________________________________________

                                          10069

                   IN ASSEMBLY

                                      March 6, 2020
                                       ___________

        Introduced  by  M. of A. WRIGHT, JAFFEE -- read once and referred to the
          Committee on Children and Families

        AN ACT to amend the executive  law,  in  relation  to  establishing  the
          office of the foster care ombudsman

          The  People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assem-
        bly, do enact as follows:

     1    Section 1.  Title 3 of article 19-G of the executive law is amended by
     2  adding a new subtitle C to read as follows:
     3                                 SUBTITLE C
     4                     OFFICE OF THE FOSTER CARE OMBUDSMAN
     5  Section 524.   Purpose.
     6          524-a. Definitions.
     7          524-b. Office of the foster care ombudsman.
     8          524-c. Duties of the office of the foster care ombudsman.
     9          524-d. Access to the office of the foster care ombudsman.
    10          524-e. Duties of the director.
    11          524-f. Conduct and scope of mediation and problem-solving.
    12          524-g. Confidentiality of reports.
    13          524-h. Foster care ombudsman independent review board.
    14          524-i. Access to records.
    15    § 524. Purpose. The purpose of this  subtitle  is  to  support  foster
    16  parents,  including  kinship  families,  as well as relatives or fictive
    17  kin, in providing family-based foster care to children at  risk  for  or
    18  removed  from  their  homes  pursuant to article ten of the family court
    19  act, by codifying the office of the foster care ombudsman.
    20    § 524-a. Definitions.  As used in this subtitle:
    21    1. "Commissioner" means the commissioner of the office of children and
    22  family services.
    23    2. "Director" means the director of the  office  of  the  foster  care
    24  ombudsman.
    25    3. "Office" means the office of children and family services.
    26    4.  "Foster  parents"  means  all adults providing out of home care to
    27  children at risk for or who have been removed from their  home  pursuant

         EXPLANATION--Matter in italics (underscored) is new; matter in brackets
                              [ ] is old law to be omitted.
                                                                   LBD15489-01-0

        A. 10069                            2

     1  to  article  ten  of  the  family court act. This includes relatives and
     2  non-relatives.
     3    5.  "Anti-bias training" means instruction on implicit bias, discrimi-
     4  nation, cultural competency  and  structural  inequity,  including  with
     5  respect to gender, race and sexual orientation, and on how these factors
     6  impact the work of the office of the foster care ombudsman.
     7    §  524-b.  Office of the foster care ombudsman. There is hereby estab-
     8  lished the office of the foster care ombudsman in the office of children
     9  and family services. The independent review board described  in  section
    10  five  hundred  twenty-four-h of this subtitle shall appoint the director
    11  of the office of the foster care ombudsman,  who  shall  report  to  the
    12  commissioner.  The  director  shall have expertise in the areas of child
    13  welfare, foster care, dispute resolution and system improvement, specif-
    14  ically in the state of New York, as evidenced by at least ten  years  of
    15  relevant  experience  in  the field.   A two-thirds majority vote of the
    16  independent review board shall be required  to  appoint  or  remove  the
    17  director.    Persons employed by the office of the foster care ombudsman
    18  to act as "ombudsmen"  shall  have  a  comprehensive  knowledge  of  the
    19  state's foster care system and expertise in the fields of child welfare,
    20  foster  care,  and  dispute resolution, specifically in the state of New
    21  York, as evidenced by demonstrated professional and personal experience,
    22  or by academic background, the level and sufficiency of which  shall  be
    23  determined by the director.
    24    §  524-c.  Duties  of  the office of the foster care ombudsman. 1. The
    25  office of the foster care ombudsman shall:
    26    (a)  receive,  document  and  respond  to  inquiries,  grievances  and
    27  complaints  raised by foster parents, biological parents, relatives, and
    28  youth in care;
    29    (b) investigate and seek  resolution  of  inquiries,  grievances,  and
    30  complaints;
    31    (c)  make  referrals,  where  appropriate,  to additional information,
    32  services and resources;
    33    (d) ensure that any resolution or response does not result in  retali-
    34  ation against the person contacting the foster care ombudsman;
    35    (e)  provide  information to foster parents, biological parents, rela-
    36  tives, and youth in care about applicable law, regulation and policy;
    37    (f) work with the local department of social services, voluntary agen-
    38  cies, foster parents, biological parents, relatives, and youth  in  care
    39  to  resolve  conflicts  concerning  application of applicable law, regu-
    40  lation and policy with regard to the provision of foster care;
    41    (g) monitor the implementation of applicable law, regulation and poli-
    42  cy concerning the provision  of  foster  care  through  the  process  of
    43  receiving, documenting, tracking and responding to inquiries, grievances
    44  and complaints;
    45    (h)  recommend  policies,  regulations,  and  legislation  designed to
    46  promote and improve family-based foster care;
    47    (i) prepare an annual report to the commissioner and the  legislature,
    48  which  shall  be publicly posted on the office's website, with aggregate
    49  data on the total number and types of concerns raised to the foster care
    50  ombudsman, the number  of  parties  serviced,  the  number  of  disputes
    51  resolved  and  responses  provided,  the  nature  of the resolution, the
    52  trends and issues that  arose  while  responding  to  the  concerns,  by
    53  region,  and recommendations for changes to applicable law, rules, regu-
    54  lations and policy concerning the provision of foster care; and
    55    (j) present quarterly reports containing information  regarding  major
    56  inquiries,  grievances,  and  complaints  received  by the office of the

        A. 10069                            3

     1  foster  care  ombudsman,  and  the  status  of  the  responses  to  such
     2  inquiries,  grievances and complaints, to the commissioner and the inde-
     3  pendent foster care ombudsman review board.
     4    2.  Nothing in this section shall permit the office of the foster care
     5  ombudsman to participate in any pending child welfare  investigation  or
     6  family court proceeding.
     7    §  524-d.  Access  to  the  office of the foster care ombudsman.   The
     8  office of the foster care ombudsman shall  provide  information  to  any
     9  person  who  contacts  it,  including,  but  not  limited  to: 1. foster
    10  parents; 2. biological parents; 3. relatives; 4. youth in care; 5. coun-
    11  ty officials; and 6. private agencies, through telephone  and  internet-
    12  based communication.
    13    § 524-e. Duties of the director.  The director shall:
    14    1. provide administrative supervision and oversight to the ombudsmen;
    15    2.  establish  procedures to ensure that the office of the foster care
    16  ombudsman services are made  available  to  foster  parents,  biological
    17  parents, relatives, and youth in care;
    18    3. participate in the policy development process of the office;
    19    4. conduct annual anti-bias training for ombudsmen; and
    20    5.  oversee  the  preparation of the reports required under paragraphs
    21  (h) and (i) of subdivision one of section five hundred twenty-four-c  of
    22  this subtitle.
    23    §  524-f. Conduct and scope of mediation and problem-solving.  1.  The
    24  office of the foster care ombudsman shall provide  relevant  information
    25  about  applicable  law and policy, and provide a means to resolve issues
    26  among and between foster parents,  biological  parents,  relatives,  and
    27  youth in care, involving the local department of social services and the
    28  voluntary agency when necessary.
    29    2.   The office of the foster care ombudsman shall develop and apply a
    30  process for receiving,  documenting,  investigating,  and  resolving  or
    31  answering inquiries, grievances and complaints raised by foster parents,
    32  biological  parents,  relatives,  and youth in care orally or in written
    33  form.
    34    3.  The office of the foster care ombudsman shall review and  evaluate
    35  the  effectiveness  and  efficiency  of  resolution procedures, and make
    36  recommendations to the independent review  board  described  in  section
    37  five hundred twenty-four-h for the improvement of such procedures.
    38    4.  The  office of the foster care ombudsman shall develop and apply a
    39  process  for  protecting  those  bringing  inquiries,   grievances   and
    40  complaints from retaliation.
    41    §  524-g.  Confidentiality  of  reports.    Office  of the foster care
    42  ombudsman reports created in response to  individual  inquiries,  griev-
    43  ances and complaints raised by foster parents, biological parents, rela-
    44  tives,  and youth in care are confidential and shall be safeguarded from
    45  coming to the knowledge of, and from inspection or examination  by,  any
    46  person  other  than  the  commissioner, their designee or members of the
    47  independent review board established pursuant to  section  five  hundred
    48  twenty-four-h  of  this  subtitle.    Authorized  persons receiving such
    49  reports shall not divulge  information  contained  therein  without  the
    50  written  consent  of  the commissioner. The authorized disclosure of any
    51  such information shall not contain any individually identifiable  infor-
    52  mation.  Nothing in this section shall prevent the office from preparing
    53  and disseminating the reports required under paragraphs (h) and  (i)  of
    54  subdivision one of section five hundred twenty-four-c of this subtitle.
    55    §  524-h.  Foster care ombudsman independent review board. 1. There is
    56  hereby established an independent foster care  ombudsman  review  board,

        A. 10069                            4

     1  hereby referred to as the "board". The board shall be composed of twelve
     2  board  members, and shall consist of persons who are not employed by the
     3  office.  The board shall be composed of a diverse group of persons  with
     4  either  child  welfare  policy expertise or child welfare system experi-
     5  ence. The board members shall be appointed by April first, two  thousand
     6  twenty-one, as follows:
     7    (a)  The  chief  judge  of the New York court of appeals shall appoint
     8  three board members which shall be:
     9    (i) an individual with  experience  representing  children  in  family
    10  court;
    11    (ii)  an  individual  with  experience  representing parents in family
    12  court; and
    13    (iii) an individual with experience as a family court judge.
    14    (b) The governor shall appoint three board members which shall be:
    15    (i) an individual with previous professional  experience  as  a  child
    16  welfare case worker;
    17    (ii)  an individual with experience in primary or secondary education;
    18  and
    19    (iii) an individual with previous professional experience with a human
    20  or social services agency or a private child welfare agency.
    21    (c) The senate shall appoint three board members which shall be:
    22    (i) an individual who was formerly a child in the foster care system;
    23    (ii) a current or former foster parent, relative caregiver,  or  adop-
    24  tive parent; and
    25    (iii)  an  individual  with  professional or volunteer experience as a
    26  court appointed special advocate.
    27    (d) The assembly shall appoint three board members which shall be:
    28    (i) a current or former foster parent, relative caregiver, or adoptive
    29  parent;
    30    (ii) a health care professional or psychologist with previous  experi-
    31  ence with child abuse and neglect cases; and
    32    (iii)  a licensed clinical social worker with previous experience with
    33  child abuse and neglect cases.
    34    2. Board members shall serve for terms of three years.  Board  members
    35  shall  be  reimbursed for actual and reasonable expenses incurred in the
    36  conduct of their duties. The board shall meet at  least  quarterly  with
    37  the  director, the ombudsmen, and other appropriate officials to discuss
    38  and review reports submitted by the office of the foster care ombudsman.
    39  The board shall have the authority to:
    40    (a) appoint the director of the office of the foster care ombudsman;
    41    (b) meet with the director and ombudsmen quarterly;
    42    (c) review reports submitted by the office of the foster care  ombuds-
    43  man;
    44    (d)   advise  the  office  of  the  ombudsman  on  matters  concerning
    45  complaints and grievances, dispute resolution, and  recommendations  for
    46  changes  to applicable law, rules, regulations and policy concerning the
    47  foster care system;
    48    (e) evaluate the effectiveness and performance of the  office  of  the
    49  ombudsman  and  provide  any  necessary feedback in order to promote the
    50  improvement of the foster care system; and
    51    (f) take steps to advise the public of the  services  offered  by  the
    52  foster care ombudsman and promote the use of and access to the office of
    53  the foster care ombudsman.
    54    §  524-i.  Access  to  records.    In the conduct of his or her duties
    55  pursuant to this subtitle, the ombudsman shall have access to all books,
    56  records, logs, reports, memoranda and any and  all  other  materials  or

        A. 10069                            5

     1  documents  in  the  possession of a local department of social services,
     2  the office, and facilities or programs of the  office,  including  files
     3  maintained  in  the New York State Child Welfare Information System. The
     4  ombudsman may copy or make reference to any such report, document, memo-
     5  randum,  log entry or other material or document and, where appropriate,
     6  may include a copy in his or her report.    Consistent  with  applicable
     7  laws  and  regulations,  the  confidentiality  of  records and documents
     8  obtained by the ombudsmen shall be maintained by the ombudsmen.
     9    § 2.  This act shall take effect immediately.
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