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90_HB3412 New Act Creates the Child Advocate Act. Provides that the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint a Child Advocate to direct the Office of the Child Advocate. Sets forth the powers and duties of the Office in relation to: child welfare; evaluation of service delivery, procedures, and laws; education; advocacy; intervention and representation in court actions; and other matters. Provides that the Child Advocate shall have access to specified types of records relating to children and families. Protects the Office from liability under specified circumstances. LRB9010821MWpc LRB9010821MWpc 1 AN ACT concerning the Office of the Child Advocate. 2 Be it enacted by the People of the State of Illinois, 3 represented in the General Assembly: 4 Section 1. Short title. This Act may be cited as the 5 Child Advocate Act. 6 Section 5. Appointment of the Child Advocate. There is 7 established an Office of the Child Advocate. The Governor, 8 with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint a 9 person with knowledge of the child welfare system and the 10 legal system to fill the Office of the Child Advocate. The 11 person shall be qualified by training and experience to 12 perform the duties of the Office as set forth in Section 30 13 of this Act. The appointment shall be made from a list of at 14 least 3 persons prepared and submitted by the Advisory 15 Committee established pursuant to Section 55 of this Act. 16 The person appointed Child Advocate shall serve for a term of 17 4 years and may be reappointed or shall continue to hold 18 office until his or her successor is appointed and qualified. 19 Section 10. Staff. The Child Advocate may appoint such 20 staff as may be deemed necessary. The duties of the staff may 21 include the duties and powers of the Child Advocate if 22 performed under the direction of the Child Advocate. 23 Section 15. Expenses. The salaries of the Office of the 24 Child Advocate and the office expenses and other actual 25 expenses incurred by the Child Advocate in the performance of 26 his or her duties shall be paid from moneys appropriated for 27 that purpose. Any legal or court fees obtained by the State 28 in actions brought by the Child Advocate shall, subject to 29 appropriation, be dedicated to the Office of the Child -2- LRB9010821MWpc 1 Advocate. 2 Section 20. Independence. Notwithstanding any other 3 provision of law, the Child Advocate shall act independently 4 of any State department or agency in the performance of his 5 or her duties. 6 Section 25. Report. The Child Advocate shall annually 7 submit to the Governor and the General Assembly a detailed 8 report analyzing the work of the Office of the Child 9 Advocate. 10 Section 30. Duties. 11 (a) The Child Advocate shall: 12 (1) evaluate the delivery of services by State 13 departments and agencies and entities that provide 14 services to children through funds provided by the State; 15 (2) review periodically the procedures established 16 by any State department or agency providing services to 17 children to carry out the provisions of this Act with a 18 view toward the rights of the children; 19 (3) adopt rules, in accordance with the Illinois 20 Administrative Procedure Act, to carry out this Act; 21 (4) review complaints of persons and investigate 22 those where it appears that a child or family may be in 23 need of assistance from the Child Advocate; 24 (5) periodically review the facilities and 25 procedures of any and all institutions or residences, 26 public or private, where a juvenile has been placed 27 either by a court or the Department of Children and 28 Family Services; 29 (6) recommend changes in policies and procedures 30 for dealing with juvenile problems and in the system of 31 providing child care, foster care, and treatment; -3- LRB9010821MWpc 1 (7) take all possible action including, but not 2 limited to, conducting programs of public education, 3 legislative advocacy, and making proposals for systemic 4 reform and formal legal action, to secure and ensure the 5 legal, civil, and special rights of children who reside 6 in this State; 7 (8) provide training and technical assistance to 8 guardians ad litem and special advocates appointed by a 9 court; and 10 (9) periodically review the number of special needs 11 children in any foster care or permanent care facility 12 and recommend changes in the policies and procedures for 13 the placement of those children. 14 Section 35. Access to information. 15 (a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the 16 Child Advocate shall have access to the following 17 information: 18 (1) the name of a child in protective services, 19 treatment, or other programs under the jurisdiction of a 20 department or agency addressing child welfare or juvenile 21 justice, and the child's location if in custody; 22 (2) all written reports of child abuse and neglect; 23 (3) all records required to be maintained under the 24 Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act; 25 (4) birth records maintained under the Vital 26 Records Act; 27 (5) records regarding health, vision, hearing, or 28 dental assessments, examinations, or screenings performed 29 upon a child; 30 (6) records regarding applicants for or recipients 31 of assistance under the Illinois Public Aid Code; 32 (7) records and communications to which the Mental 33 Health and Developmental Disabilities Confidentiality Act -4- LRB9010821MWpc 1 applies; 2 (8) juvenile court records; and 3 (9) all other records of State agencies, schools, 4 police, health and medical providers, and the courts as 5 may be necessary to carry out the responsibilities of the 6 Child Advocate. 7 (b) To the extent any information referenced in this 8 Section provides the names and addresses of individuals who 9 are the subject of any confidential proceeding, those names 10 and addresses or related information which has the effect of 11 identifying those individuals shall not be released to the 12 public without the consent of those individuals. 13 Section 40. Powers. The Child Advocate shall have the 14 following powers: 15 (1) to communicate privately, by mail or orally, 16 with any child or family in treatment or under protective 17 services; 18 (2) to have access, including the right to inspect, 19 copy, and subpoena records held by the clerk of the 20 circuit court, law enforcement agencies, public and 21 private agencies and institutions, and other agencies or 22 persons with whom a particular child has been either 23 voluntarily or otherwise placed for care, or has received 24 treatment within the State; 25 (3) to take whatever steps are appropriate to see 26 that persons are made aware of the services of the Office 27 of the Child Advocate, its purpose, and how it can be 28 contacted; and 29 (4) to apply for and accept grants, gifts and 30 bequests of funds from other states, federal and 31 interstate agencies and independent authorities and 32 private firms, individuals, and foundations for the 33 purpose of carrying out his or her lawful -5- LRB9010821MWpc 1 responsibilities. 2 Section 45. Additional powers. 3 (a) In addition to the powers set forth in Section 40 of 4 this Act, the Child Advocate or his or her designee may 5 represent, appear, intervene in, or bring an action on behalf 6 of any child, with the consent of the parent or legal 7 guardian of the child in any proceeding before any court, 8 agency, or other entity in this State in which matters 9 related to this Act are in issue. Before instituting an 10 action under this subsection, the Child Advocate shall make a 11 good faith effort to resolve issues or problems through 12 mediation. 13 (b) Any judgment for compensation or order for 14 settlement of the claim for compensation entered by the court 15 under subsection (a) of this Section shall be considered as 16 the estate of the child for whose benefit the judgment or 17 order is entered, to be held by the Office of Child Advocate 18 as guardian of the compensation, and shall be deposited into 19 a trust account established by the Office for the purpose of 20 distributing the funds to the child in accordance with the 21 plan adopted by the circuit court. 22 Section 50. Liability. The State of Illinois shall 23 protect and hold harmless any attorney, director, 24 investigator, social worker, or other person employed by the 25 Office of the Child Advocate and any volunteer appointed by 26 the Child Advocate from financial loss and expense, including 27 legal fees and costs, if any, arising out of any claim, 28 demand, or suit for damages resulting from acts or omissions 29 committed in the discharge of his or her duties with the 30 Office within the scope of his or her employment or 31 appointment which may constitute negligence but which acts 32 are not wanton, malicious, or grossly negligent as determined -6- LRB9010821MWpc 1 by a court. 2 Section 55. Advisory committee. There is established an 3 advisory committee to the Office of the Child Advocate which 4 shall meet 3 times a year with the Child Advocate and his or 5 her staff to review and assess the following: (1) patterns 6 of treatment and service for children; (2) policy 7 implications; and (3) necessary systemic improvements. The 8 advisory committee shall also provide for an annual 9 evaluation of the effectiveness of the office. 10 (b) The advisory committee shall consist of one 11 pediatrician appointed by the Speaker of the House of 12 Representatives; one public child welfare social worker 13 appointed by the Minority Leader of the House of 14 Representatives; one psychologist appointed by the Illinois 15 Psychological Association; one attorney appointed by the 16 Illinois State Bar Association; one circuit judge or 17 associate circuit judge appointed by the Chief Justice of the 18 Supreme Court; one representative of private children's 19 agencies appointed by the President of the Senate; and one 20 representative of education appointed by the Minority Leader 21 of the Senate. Each member of the advisory committee 22 shall serve a 5-year term. 23 (c) The advisory committee shall provide authorization 24 to the Child Advocate for initiating a legal action against a 25 State department or agency.
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