Introduced Version Senate Bill 193 History

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Senate Bill No. 193

(By Senators Hunter, Jenkins and Sprouse)


[Introduced February 15, 2005; referred to the Committee

on the Judiciary; and then to the Committee on Finance.]


A BILL to amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by adding thereto a new article, designated §49-6F-1, §49-6F-2, §49-6F-3, §49-6F-4, §49-6F-5, §49-6F-6 and §49-6F-7, all relating to the establishment of the Citizen Review Panel to review the procedures of Child Protective Services; providing for the composition and duties of membership; providing for confidentiality requirements; providing for expense reimbursement; providing for civil penalties; and providing for immunity from liability.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended by adding thereto a new article, designated §49-6F-1, §49-6F-2, §49-6F-3, §49-6F-4, §49-6F-5, §49-6F-6 and §49-6F-7, all to read as follows:
§ 49-6F-1. Establishment and purpose of citizen review panel.
The State citizen review panel is hereby established. Its purpose is to evaluate the extent to which state and local agencies are effectively discharging their child protection responsibilities.
§ 49-6F-2. Membership.
(a) The Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources shall appoint a citizen review panel to make recommendations to the Secretary, Governor and to the appropriate committees of the Legislature concerning specific issues relating to child abuse and neglect.
(b) The Secretary shall solicit nominations for the appointment of members to the citizen review panel from appropriate professional organizations and the membership committee of the existing panel.
(c) The Secretary shall appoint members who are broadly representative of the State, with consideration to the representation of ethnic or racial minorities and diverse geographic areas. The panel shall include individuals with expertise in the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect, and may include persons who represent: (1) Child protective services; (2) foster care; (3) child fatality review team; (4) child advocates; (5) law enforcement; (6) court appointed special advocates (CASA); (7) attorneys representing children; (8) parents; (9) consumers; (10) medicine; (11) prosecuting attorneys; (12) youth; (13) domestic violence advocates; and (14) social service providers.
(d) The panel shall be composed of no more than fifteen (15) members and shall elect a chairperson and vice chairperson at its first meeting from the members of the panel.
(e) Each member of the panel shall serve without compensation, but may be reimbursed for actual and necessary expenses in a manner consistent with guidelines of the travel management office of the Department of Administration.
(f) The panel shall meet not less than once every three months.
§ 49-6F-3. Duties.
(a) The panel shall examine the policies and procedures of state and local child protection agencies and where appropriate, specific cases, and evaluate the extent to which the agencies are effectively discharging their child protection responsibilities in accordance with:
(1) The West Virginia child and family services plan; and
(2) The federal child abuse prevention and treatment act.
(b) The panel may examine any other criteria it considers important to ensure the protection of children, including:
(1) The agency's coordination with the foster care and adoption programs established under Part E of Title IV of the Social Security Act; and
(2) Child fatalities and near fatalities.
(c) The panel shall prepare an annual report containing a summary of the activities of the panel and any recommendations pursuant to this section, and deliver the report to the Secretary, Governor, the Legislature and other appropriate entities.
§ 49-6F-4. State assistance.
The Department of Health and Human Resources shall:
(a) Provide the panel access to information on cases that the panel desires to review if the information is necessary for the panel to carry out its functions; and
(b) Provide the panel, upon its request, staff assistance for the performance of its duties.
§ 49-6F-5. Confidentiality.
(a) The proceedings and records of the citizen review panel shall be confidential and privileged and may not be subject to subpoena or discovery in a civil action, nor may they be admitted as evidence in any civil action arising out of the matters which are subject to evaluation and review by the panel. No person may be permitted or required to testify in any such civil action as to any evidence or other matters produced or presented during the proceedings of the panel, or as to any findings, recommendations, evaluations, opinions or other actions of the panel or any of its members.
(b) Information, documents or records otherwise available from original sources may not be construed as immune from discovery or use in any civil action merely because they were presented during proceedings of the panel.
(c) No person who has participated in activities conducted by the panel may be prevented from testifying in a civil action as to matters within his or her knowledge, but the witness may not be required to testify about his or her presentation before the panel or opinions formed by him or her as a result of participation in panel activities.
(d) The members and staff of a panel may not:
(1) Disclose to any person or government official any identifying information about any specific child protection case with respect to which the panel is provided information; or
(2) Make public any other information provided to the panel concerning any specific child protection case unless authorized by state statute.
(e) All information provided to the panel pursuant to its duty to review child protection cases shall either be destroyed following the review or shall be returned to the individual or agency providing the information.
§49-6F-6. Civil penalties.
Any person who violates the provisions of section five of this article may be subject to civil penalties in an action brought by the Secretary of Health and Human Resources, in an amount not less than one hundred nor more than one thousand dollars for each violation.
49-6F-7. Immunity from liability.
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, all persons, including but not limited to members and staff of the panel and persons called to present information to the panel, engaged in activities conducted by the panel related to its duty to review child protection cases as authorized by this article, shall be immune from individual civil liability while acting in good faith and without malice.

NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to codify the creation of a multi-disciplinary citizen panel to review the policies, procedures, and when appropriate, specific cases handled by child protective services.

This article is new, therefore, strike-throughs and underscoring have been omitted.
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