To ensure that it is aware of and can appropriately react to changes in the number of abandoned babies, Social Services should work with the Department of Public Health and county agencies to gain access to the most accurate and complete statistics on abandoned babies.
In December 2012, CDSS worked with CDPH and county CWS agencies to gather data on abandoned infants for the 2010 calendar year in order to establish a data sharing process. The 2010 calendar year was chosen because, at that time, it was the most recent year for which complete data was available from CDPH. This review with CDPH resulted in identifying three such cases. CDSS also conducted a survey of county CWS agencies which resulted in counties reporting the same three cases. This same process will be utilized to gather data for subsequent years as data becomes available from CDPH. Under the MOU which has been executed.
In the California Department of Social Services' (CDSS) six month and one year responses to the BSA's recommendation, CDSS noted that although this item has been partially implemented, the work of determining how to obtain information regarding abandoned babies from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) continues. A Memorandum of Understanding between CDSS and CDPH allows the departments to continue child death data analysis efforts. Currently, the data provided by CDPH is beneficial in identifying cases where children have died as a result of abuse and/or neglect. CDSS continues to work with CDPH to determine if the same data sharing process can be utilized to effectively identify, among the infants that have died as a result of abuse and/or neglect, the cases where the cause of death was abandonment.
To support future efforts related to the safe surrender law, including continuing outreach and improving the quality of the State’s statistics, Social Services should consider using a portion of existing funds, such as those available in its trust fund, and should consider renewing its partnership with First 5 California, which Social Services can legally use for such efforts.
To ensure that individuals who surrender babies receive proper protection under the safe surrender law, Social Services should clarify the definition of safe surrender, and then disseminate and monitor its use among county and state agencies. The clarified definition should address situations in which babies are born and surrendered in a hospital as well as those in which the individual surrendering the baby indicates that adoption is his or her ultimate goal. If Social Services believes statutory change is needed to do so, it should seek the requisite authority from the Legislature.
To ensure that individuals who surrender babies receive proper protection under the safe surrender law, Social Services should take the following steps clarify the circumstances under which safe surrender sites and counties must protect the identifying information on the individual who surrenders an infant. At a minimum, Social Services should revoke its erroneous guidance on the waiver of the privilege of confidentiality by individuals who safely surrender babies.
To ensure that individuals who surrender babies receive proper protection under the safe surrender law, Social Services should take the following steps require counties to correct records in the CWS/CMS that Social Services’ staff believe are erroneous because counties have misclassified babies as either surrendered or abandoned. Because Social Services does not believe it presently has the authority to do so, Social Services should seek legislation to obtain this authority.
To provide surrendered babies and their health care providers as much information on their medical histories as possible, Social Services should consider ways to improve the availability of medical information.
To continue promoting awareness of the safe?surrender law in the most cost?effective manner, Social Services should work with the counties to leverage models and tools currently in use in California, such as existing middle and high school curricula and translated materials.
Agency responses received after June 2013 are posted verbatim.