Read The Imprint’s round-up of child welfare and juvenile justice-related legislation signed and vetoed by California’s Democratic governor.
At the end of this year’s legislative session, child welfare advocates in California sensed a dispiriting refrain from Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Many of their hard-fought battles to pass new laws ended with a similar boilerplate veto: “With our state facing lower-than-expected revenues over the first few months of this fiscal year, it is important to remain disciplined when it comes to spending,” Newsom stated in response to numerous bills, “particularly spending that is ongoing.”
In recent years, California has enjoyed unexpected budget surpluses that have resulted in tax rebates, expanded eligibility for Medi-Cal and robust safety net investments. This year — with the state’s economy buffeted by inflation and lower-than-expected tax revenue — Newsom cited a leaner outlook in responding to dozens of bills approved by the California Legislature.
That meant the Democratic governor vetoed several key child welfare bills, if they had even modest costs. For example, Newsom rejected a bill that would have extended Independent Living Programs for foster youth to age 22. He also nixed a pilot project designed to prevent homelessness among LGBTQ foster youth and a plan to test a race-blind process for social workers considering removing children from their homes.
In some of the governor’s vetoes — such as a bill to allow children to remain connected to their siblings after their parents’ custody rights have been severed — Newsom urged lawmakers to try again next year, during the budget process.
Still, the vetoes surprised many advocates, like the Children’s Law Center of California’s Senior Policy Attorney Julie McCormick. Her firm, which represents children in dependency courts in Los Angeles County and parts of northern California, had championed three bills that were turned down by the governor. They included legislation that would have allowed foster youth to remain in foster care past age 21 if a county fails to complete a housing plan, or fails to provide young people with essential personal documents before they leave government care.
McCormick said colleagues at the Children’s Law Center of California were “taking the veto messages to heart,” but would weigh options to reintroduce them next year in an increasingly more uncertain policymaking environment.
“The budget condition is different right now, and large asks are not going to be easy,” she said.
Still, Newsom signed more than a dozen child welfare bills into law by the Sept. 30 deadline, including the following pieces of legislation:
- Assembly Bill 740 requires children’s lawyers to be notified when their clients in foster care are suspended or expelled from school.
- Assembly Bill 1686 aims to curtail the collection of child support payments from parents trying to reunify with their children.
- Assembly Bill 1735 allows families in dependency court proceedings to read documents in the languages most commonly spoken in their homes.
- Assembly Bill 2085 limits the ability of mandated reporters to make a referral to child protective services for the broad category of “general neglect.”
- Assembly Bill 2159 prohibits courts from terminating family reunification services to a parent who is in custody before being convicted of a crime.
- Assembly Bill 2317 creates “crisis psychiatric residential treatment facilities” for low-income children.
- Assembly Bill 2466 bans foster care agencies from declining to place a child in a home with LGBTQ caregivers.
- Senate Bill 1085 clarifies instructions to social workers that homelessness or poverty alone are not suitable reasons to remove children from their homes.
Newsom also approved a handful of bills related to juvenile justice, while turning down a controversial piece of legislation that would have limited probation supervision for many youth.
Assembly Bill 503 would have limited probation supervision to six months in most cases, unless probation departments were able to demonstrate a need for longer terms of oversight. The bill has been hotly debated, but Newsom said it would interfere with the state’s ongoing effort to close its youth prisons and shift hundreds of serious youth offenders to county detention facilities.
“As counties prepare for the full implementation of realignment,” Newsom wrote in a veto message, “I am concerned that changes to the juvenile justice system, like those outlined in this legislation, create additional workload for the courts and probation during realignment. I am also concerned about costs driven by the increased number of hearings.”
Below are the bills the governor did sign to reform the system for youth accused of crimes:
- Assembly Bill 2417 will ensure that young people incarcerated in county facilities are notified about their rights and how to report violations.
- Assembly Bill 2361 establishes more rigorous standards about when youth can be prosecuted in adult court.
- Assembly Bill 2644 bans the use of “psychologically manipulative interrogation tactics” by law enforcement officers during interrogations of young people under age 18.
- Assembly Bill 2658 restricts the use of ankle monitors and other electronic monitoring devices for youth and prevents their use to record or eavesdrop on conversations.