Privacy Act hinders foster care placements

A solitary child sits ona park bench. (Photo: Alex Tor, via Shutterstock)

There are more than 55,000 children in foster care in California and about 34 percent of them will be placed with relatives according to AdoptUSKids — that is, if social workers can find their family.

When a child is removed from the home and placed in out-of-home care, relatives are the preferred resource because this type of placement maintains the child’s connections with their family. In fact, state law requires that preferential consideration be given to a request by a relative of the child for placement of the child with the relative.

This has proven to improve outcomes for these children with less trauma during their time in care.

Currently, the privacy law does not accurately reflect the relationship between a government agency and the businesses that provide them with data.

Unfortunately, the Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 may have compromised family finding and engagement efforts unintentionally with its consumer opt-out provision as child welfare workers need continued access to the appropriate information databases when undertaking the required efforts to find and engage family members to support children in foster care.

In order to accomplish this, child welfare workers must be able to locate these potential caregivers through outside private databases, because agencies do not and cannot collect and manage this data themselves. For thousands of children in California, timely access to information can be life changing.

This is why both Children Now and Alliance for Children’s Rights supports Assembly Bill 1416 by Assemblymember Ken Cooley which would fix the new privacy law before it goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020 ensuring vital information for reunification and placement can continue uninterrupted.

Currently, the privacy law does not accurately reflect the relationship between a government agency and the businesses that provide them with data in situations, such as locating extended family members of children in foster care. Government agencies are considered third parties, so businesses must block them from receiving information if a consumer has chosen to opt-out from having their data shared.

This blocking of government agencies could mean harming the efforts to unite these children with family members when out-of-home care is needed to protect the child from abuse or neglect.

AB 1416 creates a balance between making the needed changes to the CCPA in order to protect and help foster children, while still ensuring the protection of consumer privacy.

Specifically, this legislation will create a limited exception to the CCPA for a business to provide a consumer’s personal information to a government agency solely for the purposes of carrying out a government program. Businesses falling under this exception would not be able to share this data further, only for these specific limited situations.

Without this fix to the CCPA, attempts made by the child welfare system to provide the best placements for children entering the child welfare system will be lost and lives will be changed drastically. We understand that the CCPA was never intended to harm critical services for our most vulnerable populations, but thankfully,

AB 1416 makes this crucial fix while still protecting our privacy as consumers. AB 1416 will make a dramatic difference in the lives of so many of California’s vulnerable children.

Editor’s Note: Susanna Kniffen is senior director of Child Welfare at Children Now, Kristen Power is senior policy associate for the Alliance for Children’s Rights and Jennifer Rexroad is president of the California Alliance of Caregivers.


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