Leno Bill to Protect Children from Foster Care Passes Assembly
SACRAMENTO – The California Assembly today passed legislation authored by Senator Mark Leno that authorizes judges to protect children from being placed in foster care. While most children only have two parents, some have relationships with more than two adults who meet the legal definition of a parent under California law. Senate Bill 1476 ensures that courts have the ability to recognize that a child has more than two legal parents if doing so is required to protect the child’s best interests.
“We live in a world today where courts are dealing with diverse circumstances that have reshaped California families,” said Senator Leno, D-San Francisco. “This legislation gives courts the flexibility to protect the best interests of a child who is being supported financially and emotionally by those parents. It is critical that judges have the ability to recognize the roles of all parents, especially when a family is in distress and a child’s security is a concern.”
SB 1476 does not change who can be a parent under California law. It applies only when there are more than two people who already meet the specific legal requirements to be a parent. The bill also does not change the law to recognize people who are not parents, like stepparents, grandparents, babysitters, and other caretakers.
SB 1476 is sponsored by the Children’s Advocacy Institute and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).
“Families come in many forms, and all children deserve to have their families protected by the law,” said NCLR Family Protection Project Director Cathy Sakimura. Legal recognition gives children tremendous legal, emotional, financial, and psychological benefits and helps them thrive.”
“Everyone who places the interests of children first, and realizes that judges shouldn’t be forced to rule in ways that hurt children, should cheer this Assembly vote,” said Ed Howard, senior counsel for the Children’s Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego School of Law.
This bill restores the ability of California courts to protect children in these unique families. A recent California Court of Appeal case, In re M.C., ruled that courts can never recognize more than two parents, regardless of the situation and even if recognizing a third parent would protect the child from harm. In that case, the court concluded that it could not recognize a third parent even if it meant that the child must be placed in foster care instead of being cared for by the parent. The court agreed that there could be cases where recognizing more than two parents would protect a child’s best interests and called upon the Legislature to address this issue.
Several other states already recognize that a child may have more than two parents, including Delaware, Maine, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and the District of Columbia.
SB 1476 returns to the Senate for a concurrence vote before heading to the Governor’s desk.