Policy & Legislative Advocacy

Policy

California CASA speaks up for children in foster care by bringing their needs to lawmakers’ and policymakers’ attention. Staff members also provide these decision-makers with their own insights, experiences, and expertise. And, when necessary, we advocate for the initiation and enactment of legislation that ensures a fair and effective child welfare system.

California CASA’s board and staff identify and analyze bills affecting foster youth. Local, state, and national legislators call upon California CASA, a respected authority on child welfare, to provide the CASA perspective.

In addition, we have represented the network on many high-level statewide policy forums, listed below.

California CASA staff members provide their insights, experiences, and expertise to policy makers and elected officials. We have represented the network on many high-level statewide policy forums, including:

California Child Welfare Council
The California Child Welfare Council (Council), a statewide multidisciplinary advisory body established by the 2006 Child Welfare Leadership and Accountability Act, bears responsibility for improving services to children and families in the child welfare system and those at risk of entering the system. It must also report on the extent to which child welfare programs and the courts respond to children in their joint care’s needs. The Council brings together leaders from multiple agencies across all three government branches at the state and local level, as well as providers, advocates, service recipients and other stakeholders.

California Child Welfare Council Permanency Committee
The Permanency Committee of the California Child Welfare Council works to identify and recommend best practices that can help achieve speedy permanency for all children in foster care regardless of jurisdiction or court status. The Committee also identifies and recommends strategies for removing barriers that prevent children in foster care from achieving permanency. (When you click on the site, please scroll down to find the Permanency Committee heading)

California Blue Ribbon Commission on Children in Foster Care
The California Blue Ribbon Commission on Children in Foster Care provided recommendations to the California Judicial Council on the ways in which the courts and their partners can improve safety, permanency, well-being, and fairness outcomes for children and families. Among its conclusions, the Commission recommended not only that CASA volunteers be available to every child in the dependency system, but also that state funding should be expanded to allow for appointments in all cases.

California Department of Health Care Services Quality Improvement Project: Improving the Use of Psychotropic Medication among Children and Youth in Foster Care
Agencies and advocates across the state are working together to review California’s protocols for the appropriate use and monitoring of psychotropic medications administered to children in foster care. We represent CASA on the Youth, Family & Education Workgroup, which develops and disseminates educational materials about psychotropic medications to youth and other key stakeholders supporting the foster care population.

Step Up Coalition
California CASA participates in the Step Up Coalition. The Step Up Coalition is a robust group of advocates working on foster care issues, organized by the Alliance for Children’s Rights. Its primary focus is on ensuring that kinship families caring for foster youth have the funding and support needed to care for these children.

Foster Care Ombudsperson’s Office: Foster Youth Bill of Rights Updates
California CASA participates in the ongoing efforts of the Foster Care Ombudsperson’s Office to update the Foster Youth Bill of Rights.

National CASA Association: Public Policy
California CASA staff members also serve on National CASA Association’s Policy Committees, including:

  • Public Policy Committee, aimed at improving federal level resources and systems related to CASA and child welfare.
  • Legal Representation Committee, which seeks to develop an understanding of best practices related to the coordination of best interests and legal representation of children and youth in child dependency cases nationwide.

 

Legislative Advocacy

Every year, the California legislature enacts numerous laws that affect the child welfare system. California CASA conducts research and analysis before preparing this comprehensive annual update to keep the CASA network informed.

SB 925: CASAs in Child and Family Teams

In 2018, California CASA sponsored Senate Bill 925(Beall). SB 925 entitles every youth with a CASA to have their CASA volunteer present as part of their Child and Family Team (CFT). SB 925 recognizes that youth in care need support while advocating for themselves and that Court Appointed Special Advocates are one of the vital formal supports for foster youth. This bill ensures that a youth’s CASA will be included in every CFT, unless the youth explicitly requests that they not attend.

The Continuum of Care Reform (CCR), authorized by Assembly Bill 403 (Chapter 773, Statutes of 2015) is a comprehensive reform of the foster care system that is the culmination of years of effort. One of the major achievements of CCR was the creation of the Child and Family Team (CFT). The purpose of the team is to identify the strengths and needs of the child or youth and their family, and to help achieve positive outcomes for safety, permanency, and well-being. WIC §16501. At least every placement change or every six months, a CFT meeting is to be convened for every child and youth.

Specifically, SB 925 updated Section 16501 of the Welfare and Institutions Code to include, “[t]he child or youth’s Court-Appointed Special Advocate, if one has been appointed, unless the child or youth objects,” as one of the statutorily required CFT members. WIC §16501.

California CASA developed a fact sheet with information about implementation that is available on our website. Download a copy of the SB 925 Factsheet.

Implementation Tips:
For CASAs: You are by law required to be a member of the Child and Family Team involving your CASA youth, unless your CASA youth explicitly asks that you not be invited. This means you are to be provided notice of meetings and are to be included in all Child and Family Team work. If you are not invited to every Child and Family Team meeting, let your CASA supervisor know so they can reach out to the caseworker or their supervisor.

For CASA Programs: Download a copy of the SB 925 Factsheet and share it with:
(a) the Judges in your jurisdiction;
(b) the child welfare agencies in your jurisdiction;
(c) the probation agencies in your jurisdiction;
(d) the CASA volunteers in your program;
(e) the child welfare attorneys in your jurisdiction; and
(f) the CASA youth, if age appropriate.

Be sure to update your CASA trainings to include best practices on how to participate in a CFT.

Legislative updates are prepared for the California CASA Network (laws effective January 2019):

2018 Dependency Law Update

You can also take a look at previous updates below:

Legislative Update 2017

Legislative Update 2016

Legislative Update 2015

Legislative Update 2014

Legislative Update 2013

Legislative Update 2012