HOUSE BILL 496
54th legislature - STATE OF NEW MEXICO - first session, 2019
Kelly K. Fajardo
RELATING TO FAMILIES; ENACTING A NEW SECTION OF THE CHILDREN'S CODE TO REQUIRE THE CHILDREN, YOUTH AND FAMILIES DEPARTMENT TO ESTABLISH A STANDARD SET OF RULES RELATING TO FOSTER PARENT RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES STATEWIDE; CREATING THE FOSTER FAMILY OMBUDSMAN OFFICE AND ESTABLISHING THE POWERS AND DUTIES OF THAT OFFICE.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO:
SECTION 1. A new section of the Children's Code is enacted to read:
"[NEW MATERIAL] FOSTER PARENTS--RULEMAKING ON RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES--FOSTER FAMILY OMBUDSMAN OFFICE CREATED.--
A. The secretary of children, youth and families shall adopt and promulgate rules establishing the rights and responsibilities of foster parents statewide, including procedures and requirements for matters relating to placement, conversion adoptions and the receipt of maintenance payments and other assistance that the department provides. These rules shall provide for uniform applicability statewide and shall preempt any policies and procedures established in local department offices.
B. The "foster family ombudsman office" is created in the department. The foster family ombudsman office:
(a) operate a toll-free hotline and electronic communication portal to receive complaints pursuant to this section;
(b) disseminate information on: 1) the hotline and communication portal established pursuant to Subparagraph (a) of this paragraph, which information shall include notification that conversations with the office may not be confidential; 2) the rights of children and youth in foster care; and 3) the services provided by the foster family ombudsman office;
(c) investigate and attempt to resolve complaints made by or on behalf of foster parents or children placed in foster care and related to foster care, placement or services;
(d) decide, in its discretion, whether to investigate a complaint or refer complaints to another agency for investigation;
(e) upon rendering a decision to investigate a complaint from a complainant, notify the complainant of the intention to investigate and, if the office declines to investigate a complaint or continue an investigation, notify the complainant of the reason for the action of the office;
(f) update the complainant on the progress of the investigation and notify the complainant of the final outcome;
(g) document the number, source, origin, location and nature of complaints on an annual basis; and
(h) compile and make available on an annual basis to the secretary of children, youth and families, the legislature and, by posting on the office's website, the public, a report of all data, in aggregate form, collected over the course of the year, including the number of contacts to the toll-free telephone number and electronic communications portal, the number of complaints made, including the type and source of those complaints, the number of investigations performed by the office, the trends and issues that arose in the course of investigating complaints, the number of referrals made and the number of pending complaints; and
(a) access any record of a state or local agency that is necessary to carry out the office's responsibilities;
(b) meet or communicate with any foster child in the child's placement or elsewhere; and
(c) establish, in consultation with a committee of interested individuals, regional or local foster care ombudsman offices for the purposes of expediting investigations and resolving complaints, subject to legislative appropriation."
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