Statutes Relating to the Office of the Child Advocate
Connecticut General Statutes
§ 46a-13k. Office of the Child Advocate established
(a) There is established, within the Office of Governmental Accountability established under section 1-300, an Office of the Child Advocate. The Governor, with the approval of the General Assembly, shall appoint a person with knowledge of the child welfare system and the legal system to fill the Office of the Child Advocate. Such person shall be qualified by training and experience to perform the duties of the office as set forth in section 46a-13l. Upon any vacancy in the position of Child Advocate, the advisory committee established pursuant to section 46a-13r shall meet to consider and interview successor candidates and shall submit to the Governor a list of not fewer than three and not more than five of the most outstanding candidates, not later than sixty days after the occurrence of said vacancy, except that upon any vacancy in said position occurring after January 1, 2012, but before June 15, 2012, the advisory committee shall submit such list to the Governor on or before July 31, 2012. Such list shall rank the candidates in the order of committee preference. Not later than eight weeks after receiving the list of candidates from the advisory committee, the Governor shall designate a candidate for Child Advocate from among the choices on such list. If at any time any of the candidates withdraw from consideration prior to confirmation by the General Assembly, the designation shall be made from the remaining candidates on the list submitted to the Governor. If, not later than eight weeks after receiving the list, the Governor fails to designate a candidate from the list, the candidate ranked first shall receive the designation and be referred to the General Assembly for confirmation. If the General Assembly is not in session, the designated candidate shall serve as acting Child Advocate and be entitled to the compensation, privileges and powers of the Child Advocate until the General Assembly meets to take action on said appointment. The person appointed Child Advocate shall serve for a term of four years and may be reappointed or shall continue to hold office until such person's successor is appointed and qualified. Upon any vacancy in the position of Child Advocate and until such time as a candidate has been confirmed by the General Assembly or, if the General Assembly is not in session, has been designated by the Governor, the Associate Child Advocate shall serve as the acting Child Advocate and be entitled to the compensation, privileges and powers of the Child Advocate.
(b) Notwithstanding any other provision of the general statutes, the Child Advocate shall act independently of any state department in the performance of the advocate's duties.
(c) The Child Advocate may, within available funds, appoint such staff as may be deemed necessary provided, for the fiscal years ending June 30, 1996, and June 30, 1997, such staff shall not exceed one and one-half full-time positions or the equivalent thereof. The duties of the staff may include the duties and powers of the Child Advocate if performed under the direction of the Child Advocate.
(d) The General Assembly shall annually appropriate such sums as necessary for the payment of the salaries of the staff and for the payment of office expenses and other actual expenses incurred by the Child Advocate in the performance of his or her duties. Any legal or court fees obtained by the state in actions brought by the Child Advocate shall be deposited in the General Fund.
(e) The Child Advocate shall annually submit, in accordance with the provisions of section 11-4a, to the Governor, the joint standing committees of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to the judiciary, children and human services and the advisory committee established pursuant to section 46a-13r a detailed report analyzing the work of the Office of the Child Advocate.
§ 46a-13l. Child Advocate's duties. Child fatality review panel. Reports to the Governor and the General Assembly. Investigations
(a) The Child Advocate shall:
(1) Evaluate the delivery of services to children by state agencies and those entities that provide services to children through funds provided by the state;
(2) Review periodically the procedures established by any state agency providing services to children to carry out the provisions of sections 46a-13k to 46a-13p, inclusive, with a view toward the rights of the children and recommend revisions to such procedures;
(3) Review complaints of persons concerning the actions of any state or municipal agency providing services to children and of any entity that provides services to children through funds provided by the state, make appropriate referrals and investigate those where the Child Advocate determines that a child or family may be in need of assistance from the Child Advocate or that a systemic issue in the state's provision of services to children is raised by the complaint;
(4) Pursuant to an investigation, provide assistance to a child or family who the Child Advocate determines is in need of such assistance including, but not limited to, advocating with an agency, provider or others on behalf of the best interests of the child;
(5) Periodically review the facilities and procedures of any and all institutions or residences, public or private, where a juvenile has been placed by any agency or department;
(6) Recommend changes in state policies concerning children including changes in the system of providing juvenile justice, child care, foster care and treatment;
(7) Take all possible action including, but not limited to, conducting programs of public education, undertaking legislative advocacy and making proposals for systemic reform and formal legal action, in order to secure and ensure the legal, civil and special rights of children who reside in this state;
(8) Provide training and technical assistance to attorneys representing children and guardians ad litem appointed by the Superior Court;
(9) Periodically review the number of special needs children in any foster care or permanent care facility and recommend changes in the policies and procedures for the placement of such children;
(10) Serve or designate a person to serve as a member of the child fatality review panel established in subsection (b) of this section;
(11) Take appropriate steps to advise the public of the services of the Office of the Child Advocate, the purpose of the office and procedures to contact the office;
(12) Prepare an in-depth report on conditions of confinement, including, but not limited to, compliance with section 46a-152, regarding children twenty-one years of age or younger who are held in secure detention or correctional confinement in any facility operated by a state agency. Such report shall be submitted, in accordance with the provisions of section 11-4a, to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to children not later than March 1, 2017, and every two years thereafter; and
(13) Present to the advisory committee, established pursuant to section 46a-13r, at least three times each year, a report on the goals of and projects undertaken by the Office of the Child Advocate, within available appropriations, that are consistent with the responsibilities of the Child Advocate.
(b) There is established a child fatality review panel composed of thirteen permanent members as follows: The Child Advocate, or a designee; the Commissioners of Children and Families, Public Health and Public Safety, or their designees; the Chief Medical Examiner, or a designee; the Chief State's Attorney, or a designee; a pediatrician, appointed by the Governor; a representative of law enforcement, appointed by the president pro tempore of the Senate; an attorney, appointed by the majority leader of the Senate; a social work professional, appointed by the minority leader of the Senate; a representative of a community service group appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives; a psychologist, appointed by the majority leader of the House of Representatives; and an injury prevention representative, appointed by the minority leader of the House of Representatives. A majority of the panel may select not more than three additional temporary members with particular expertise or interest to serve on the panel. Such temporary members shall have the same duties and powers as the permanent members of the panel. The chairperson shall be elected from among the panel's permanent members. The panel shall, to the greatest extent possible, reflect the ethnic, cultural and geographic diversity of the state.
(c) The panel shall review the circumstances of the death of a child placed in out-of-home care or whose death was due to unexpected or unexplained causes to facilitate development of prevention strategies to address identified trends and patterns of risk and to improve coordination of services for children and families in the state. Members of the panel shall not be compensated for their services, but may be reimbursed for necessary expenses incurred in the performance of their duties.
(d) On or before January 1, 2000, and annually thereafter, the panel shall issue an annual report which shall include its findings and recommendations to the Governor and the General Assembly on its review of child fatalities for the preceding year.
(e) Upon request of two-thirds of the members of the panel and within available appropriations, the Governor, the General Assembly or at the Child Advocate's discretion, the Child Advocate shall conduct an in-depth investigation and review and issue a report with recommendations on the death or critical incident of a child. The report shall be submitted to the Governor, the General Assembly and the commissioner of any state agency cited in the report and shall be made available to the general public.
(f) Any state agency cited in a report issued by the Office of the Child Advocate, pursuant to the Child Advocate's responsibilities under this section, shall submit a written response to the report and recommendations made in the report to the Governor and the General Assembly not later than ninety days after receipt of such report and recommendations. The General Assembly shall submit a copy of such response to the Office of the Child Advocate immediately upon receipt.
(g) The Chief Medical Examiner shall provide timely notice to the Child Advocate and to the chairperson of the child fatality review panel of the death of any child that is to be investigated pursuant to section 19a-406.
(h) Any agency having responsibility for the custody or care of children shall provide timely notice to the Child Advocate and the chairperson of the child fatality review panel of the death of a child or a critical incident involving a child in its custody or care.
§ 46a-13m. Access to information
(a) Notwithstanding any provision of the general statutes concerning the confidentiality of records and information, the Child Advocate may request and shall have access to, including the right to promptly inspect and copy, any records necessary to carry out the responsibilities of the Child Advocate as provided in section 46a-13l. Such records shall be provided to the Child Advocate not later than fourteen days from the date of such request. If the Child Advocate is denied access to any records necessary to carry out said responsibilities, the Child Advocate may issue a subpoena for the production of such records as provided in subsection (c) of this section.
(b) In the performance of his responsibilities under subsection (a) of section 46a-13l the Child Advocate may communicate privately with any child or person who has received, is receiving or should have received services from the state. Such communications shall be confidential and not be subject to disclosure except as provided in subsection (a) of section 46a-13n.
(c) The Child Advocate may issue subpoenas to compel the attendance and testimony of witnesses or the production of books, papers and other documents and to administer oaths to witnesses in any matter under his investigation. If any person to whom such subpoena is issued fails to appear or, having appeared, refuses to give testimony or fails to produce the evidence required, the Child Advocate may apply to the superior court for the judicial district of Hartford which shall have jurisdiction to order such person to appear and give testimony or to produce such evidence, as the case may be.
(d) The Child Advocate may apply for and accept grants, gifts and bequests of funds from other states, federal and interstate agencies and independent authorities and private firms, individuals and foundations, for the purpose of carrying out his responsibilities. There is established within the General Fund a child advocate account which shall be a separate nonlapsing account. Any funds received under this subsection shall, upon deposit in the General Fund, be credited to said account and may be used by the Child Advocate in the performance of his duties.
§ 46a-13n. Confidentiality of information
(a) The name, address and other personally identifiable information of a person who makes a complaint to the Child Advocate as provided in section 46a-13l,, all information obtained or generated by the office in the course of an investigation and all confidential records obtained by the Child Advocate or a designee shall be confidential and shall not be subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act or otherwise, except that such information and records, other than confidential information concerning a pending law enforcement investigation or a pending prosecution, may be disclosed if the Child Advocate determines that disclosure is (1) in the general public interest or (2) necessary to enable the Child Advocate to perform his responsibilities under subsection (a) of section 46a-13l. If the Child Advocate determines that disclosure of confidential information is not in the public interest but is necessary to enable the Child Advocate to perform responsibilities under subsection (a) of section 46a-13l,, or to identify, prevent or treat the abuse or neglect of a child, the Child Advocate may disclose such information to the appropriate agency responsible for the welfare of such child or the legal representative for such child.
(b) No state or municipal agency or any agency or entity providing publicly funded services shall discharge, or in any manner discriminate or retaliate against, any employee who in good faith makes a complaint to the Child Advocate or cooperates with the Office of the Child Advocate in an investigation.
§ 46a-13o. Representation of child. Judgments or settlements for compensation
(a) In addition to the powers set forth in section 46a-13m, and notwithstanding section 3-125, the Child Advocate, or his designee, may represent, appear, intervene in or bring an action on behalf of any child in any proceeding before any court, agency, board or commission in this state in which matters related to sections 46a-13k to 46a-13p, inclusive, are in issue. Prior to the institution of any action brought pursuant to this subsection, the Child Advocate shall make a good faith effort to resolve issues or problems through mediation.
(b) Any judgment for compensation or order for settlement of the claim for compensation entered by the court pursuant to the provisions of subsection (a) of this section shall be considered as the estate of the child for whose benefit the judgment or order is entered, to be held by the Office of the Child Advocate as guardian of such compensation, and shall be deposited into a trust account established by the office for the purposes of distributing such funds to such child in accordance with the plan adopted by the Family Division of the Superior Court.
§ 46a-13p. Indemnification of employees and volunteers
The state of Connecticut shall protect and hold harmless any attorney, director, investigator, social worker or other person employed by the Office of the Child Advocate and any volunteer appointed by the Child Advocate from financial loss and expense, including legal fees and costs, if any, arising out of any claim, demand or suit for damages resulting from acts or omissions committed in the discharge of his duties with the program within the scope of his employment or appointment which may constitute negligence but which acts are not wanton, malicious or grossly negligent as determined by a court of competent jurisdiction.
§ 46a-13r. Advisory committee established
(a) There is established an advisory committee to the Office of the Child Advocate established under section 46a-13k. Said committee shall prepare and submit to the Governor a list of candidates for appointment of the Child Advocate. The advisory committee shall consist of seven members as follows:
(1) One appointed by the president pro tempore of the Senate;
(2) one appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives;
(3) one appointed by the majority leader of the Senate;
(4) one appointed by the majority leader of the House of Representatives;
(5) one appointed by the minority leader of the Senate;
(6) one appointed by the minority leader of the House of Representatives; and
(7) one appointed by the Governor. The committee shall select a chairperson who shall preside at meetings of the committee. No member of the advisory committee shall be a person who is a volunteer for, a board member of, or is employed by, any entity or agency subject to the review of, or evaluation or monitoring by the Child Advocate pursuant to section 46a-13l,, or is a communicator lobbyist who pursuant to such lobbyist's registration under chapter 10, lobbies on behalf of any entity or agency subject to the review of, or evaluation or monitoring by the Child Advocate pursuant to said section 46a-13l. Each member of the advisory committee shall serve a term of five years and may be reappointed at the conclusion of such term. All initial appointments to the advisory committee shall be made not later than September 1, 2011. Each member of the advisory committee shall serve a five-year term from July first of the year of their appointment. Any vacancy in the membership of the committee shall be filled by the appointing authority for the unexpired portion of the term.
(b) The advisory committee shall meet at least three times each year with the Child Advocate, and the Child Advocate's staff, for the purposes described in subdivision (13) of subsection (a) of section 46a-13l.
(c) The advisory committee shall provide for an annual evaluation of the effectiveness of the Office of the Child Advocate.
§ 46a-13s. Causes and rates of child fatalities. Annual report
(a) The Office of the Child Advocate, in consultation with the child fatality review panel, established pursuant to 46a-13l, shall conduct a study regarding the causes and rates of child fatalities in the state.
(b) Not later than July 1, 2016, and annually thereafter, the Child Advocate shall submit a report, in accordance with section 11-4a, to the joint standing committees of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to children and education regarding the causes and rates of child fatalities in the state.
(c) Not later than sixty days after receiving the annual report submitted by the Child Advocate pursuant to subsection (b) of this section, the joint standing committees of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to children and education shall hold a joint public forum regarding the causes and rates of child fatalities in the state.
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