What is SB 39?

In October of 2007 the California legislature passed Senate Bill 39 (SB 39), which mandates procedures for publicly disclosing instances of child abuse or neglect that result in the death or near death of a child within the foster care system. Through requesting the information mandated by S.B. 39, which includes prior abuse reports and details of how the child died, we hope to better understand how the foster care system works and should work. One of the benefits of S.B. 39, is that it was passed with the intent to increase public disclosure so that the foster care system would be more accountable. One way in which this is possible is that S.B. 39 provides an opportunity for groups like CAI to study the correlation between repeat reports of abuse and child deaths. As we continue to gather S.B. 39 information, we at CAI hope to be in a better position to encourage positive change in foster care. 

Overall, the work we are doing on fatality reporting is not always filled with happy endings. But we believe that no child should needlessly die. Often these children are left without a voice and without someone to advocate their cause. In an increasingly overburdened system there is always the possibility it will allow one too many instances of child abuse to occur before that child is moved to a new home. Increasing our understanding of the reporting procedures is just one way we at CAI are showing our commitment to correcting the system. We don’t want deaths to just be numbers we pass over and are momentarily saddened by.  In the spirit of S.B. 39, we hope that facts attached to every instance that an innocent child was so mistreated that he or she dies will provide a story that can eventually be used in system changing way. Our hope is that the brighter the spotlight is on the issues facing the foster care system, the more people will be compelled to demand change in it. 
About the Author:
Braden Bohlinger is a student at the University of San Diego School of Law. He is currently taking part in the Children’s Advocacy Policy clinic and is working on issues related to S.B. 39.

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