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PRINTER'S NO. 770
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF PENNSYLVANIA
HOUSE BILL
No.
813
Session of
2023
INTRODUCED BY SAPPEY, MADDEN, KINSEY, T. DAVIS, SAMUELSON, KHAN,
HANBIDGE, KENYATTA, GUENST, KAZEEM, PARKER, SANCHEZ, ROZZI,
HILL-EVANS, HOHENSTEIN, CIRESI, OTTEN, SHUSTERMAN, DELLOSO,
FLEMING, CEPEDA-FREYTIZ AND ABNEY, APRIL 3, 2023
REFERRED TO COMMITTEE ON CHILDREN AND YOUTH, APRIL 3, 2023
AN ACT
Amending the act of April 9, 1929 (P.L.177, No.175), entitled
"An act providing for and reorganizing the conduct of the
executive and administrative work of the Commonwealth by the
Executive Department thereof and the administrative
departments, boards, commissions, and officers thereof,
including the boards of trustees of State Normal Schools, or
Teachers Colleges; abolishing, creating, reorganizing or
authorizing the reorganization of certain administrative
departments, boards, and commissions; defining the powers and
duties of the Governor and other executive and administrative
officers, and of the several administrative departments,
boards, commissions, and officers; fixing the salaries of the
Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and certain other executive
and administrative officers; providing for the appointment of
certain administrative officers, and of all deputies and
other assistants and employes in certain departments, boards,
and commissions; providing for judicial administration; and
prescribing the manner in which the number and compensation
of the deputies and all other assistants and employes of
certain departments, boards and commissions shall be
determined," authorizing the appointment of the Child
Advocate; and establishing the Office of Child Advocate and
the HEAL PA Coalition.
The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
hereby enacts as follows:
Section 1. The act of April 9, 1929 (P.L.177, No.175), known
as The Administrative Code of 1929, is amended by adding an
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article to read:
ARTICLE V-C
OFFICE OF CHILD ADVOCATE
Section 501-C. Definitions.
The following words and phrases when used in this article
shall have the meanings given to them in this section unless the
context clearly indicates otherwise:
"Child Advocate." The Child Advocate appointed under section
502-C(a).
"Child health, safety and well-being programs." The term
includes services and programs set forth in Federal or State law
designed to:
(1) Prevent neglect, abuse and exploitation of children
and encourage reporting of suspected child abuse under 23
Pa.C.S. Ch. 63 (relating to child protective services).
(2) Provide temporary, substitute care in foster family
homes or residential child care facilities for a child in
need of the care under Article VII of the act of June 13,
1967 (P.L.31, No.21), known as the Human Services Code, and
67 Pa.C.S. Chs. 75 (relating to family finding and kinship
care) and 77 (relating to adoption opportunities).
(3) Provide court-ordered care or supervision to alleged
or adjudicated dependent or delinquent children under 42
Pa.C.S. Ch. 63 (relating to juvenile matters).
(4) Provide mental health treatment and recovery
services, substance use disorder treatment and recovery
services and childhood trauma and trauma-informed care.
(5) Provide early intervention under the act of December
19, 1990 (P.L.1372, No.212), known as the Early Intervention
Services System Act.
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(6) Perform child fatality and near fatality review
under 23 Pa.C.S. Ch. 63.
"Coalition." The Coalition of Trauma Prevention and
Intervention (HEAL PA) established under section 503-C(d)(1).
"County agency." The county children and youth social
service agency exercising the powers and duties provided for in
section 405 of the act of June 24, 1937 (P.L.2017, No.396),
known as the County Institution District Law, and supervised by
the Department of Human Services under Article IX of the Human
Services Code.
"Department." The Department of Health of the Commonwealth.
"Educational programs." Educational programs and services
provided within a department-licensed facility.
"Executive agency." As defined in section 102 of the act of
October 15, 1980 (P.L.950, No.164), known as the Commonwealth
Attorneys Act.
"Executive Board." The Executive Board of the Commonwealth
established under section 204.
"Facility." A residential facility for children licensed by
the department.
"Local government." A county, county institution district,
city, borough, incorporated town, township or any similar,
general or limited purpose unit of local government or unit
created by joint action of two or more local government units
authorized to be created by law.
"Office." The Office of the Child Advocate established under
section 503-C(a).
"Ombudsperson." The individuals appointed under section 503-
C(c) as a Youth and Well-Being Ombudsperson.
"Vulnerable populations." Individuals who have poor access
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to health care, receive poor-quality health care and experience
poor health care outcomes, often resulting from societal
injustices related to race, ethnicity, poverty, gender, sexual
orientation, age, first language or physical or mental health
condition.
Section 502-C. Child Advocate.
(a) Appointment.--The Governor shall submit to the Senate a
nominee to be confirmed as the Child Advocate. The Child
Advocate shall be selected on the basis of integrity, capability
for strong leadership and demonstrated ability in public
administration, child advocacy and public policy issues
impacting children.
(b) Term.--The Child Advocate shall serve a term of six
years and until a successor is appointed. The Child Advocate may
be reappointed for additional terms.
(c) Compensation.--The Executive Board shall set the
compensation for the Child Advocate.
(d) Powers and duties.--The Child Advocate shall:
(1) Serve as an independent resource to and advocate for
children and youth by supporting and enhancing child health,
safety and well-being.
(2) Conduct unannounced and announced visits to a
facility. During the visits, the Child Advocate or the Child
Advocate's authorized designee may interview staff and
residents of the facility. The Child Advocate shall provide
written notification to the Department of Human Services of
the unannounced or announced visit within 24 hours after the
visit.
(3) Receive and review complaints from the public,
including receiving complaints from minors, relating to child
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health, safety and well-being program processes or procedures
and, in the Child Advocate's discretion, make
recommendations, referrals or both for immediate and long-
term interventions to the appropriate executive agency,
office or program concerning the complaints.
(4) Directly report to the General Assembly about issues
related to the health, safety, well-being and educational
interest of children and youth while also identifying any
trends arising out of the design or implementation of public
policies, systemic practices or public investments.
(5) Review and evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency
of existing child health, safety and well-being, and
educational programs' complaint processes and make
recommendations for the improvement of the processes.
(6) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, serve as
a member of all child fatality or near fatality review teams
under 23 Pa.C.S. § 6365 (relating to services for prevention,
investigation and treatment of child abuse). The Child
Advocate may authorize a designee to participate in a child
fatality or near fatality review team.
(7) Coordinate educational, informational and other
programs for public awareness and education concerning child
maltreatment and the role of the community in strengthening
families and keeping children safe.
(8) Promote best practices and effective programs
relating to child health, safety and well-being and work
collaboratively with executive agencies, county agencies and
community-based programs, as appropriate, regarding
improvement of child health, safety and well-being programs.
(9) Consult with executive agencies and make
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recommendations on regulations, licensure, financing or other
responsibilities of the agencies to improve the safety of and
promote better outcomes for children and families receiving
services in child health, safety and well-being programs in
this Commonwealth.
(10) Request, access and review information, records or
documents necessary for carrying out the powers and duties
enumerated in this article from the executive branch,
judicial branch or local government.
(11) Manage and provide organizational direction for all
trauma prevention and intervention operations of the
coalition.
(12) Work with the Governor's Office, Commonwealth
agencies and the General Assembly to review laws, policies
and procedures impacting childhood trauma and mental well-
being for Pennsylvanians.
(13) Work with State agencies to establish coordinated
and consistent trauma-informed training and practices in
State-operated and State-funded programs to make the
Commonwealth a trauma-informed state through the coalition
and the Trauma Informed Pennsylvania (TIPA) Plan.
(14) Collaborate with Commonwealth agencies to identify
best practices to increase healing-centered services for
vulnerable populations.
(15) Serve as a member of the Children's Trust Fund
Board.
(e) Relationship to Department of Human Services and county
agency powers and duties.--The powers and duties of the Child
Advocate under subsection (d) do not supplant, supersede or
otherwise affect the powers, duties and responsibilities of the
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Department of Human Services or a county agency.
(f) Staff.--The Child Advocate shall employ staff as
necessary to carry out the purposes of this article. Positions
shall be placed under the unclassified service provisions of 71
Pa.C.S. Pt. III (relating to civil service reform) and must meet
minimum requirements under this section.
(g) Duty of department.--Upon request of the Child Advocate,
the department shall make available facilities, administrative
support and other assistance to the office.
(h) Access.--Notwithstanding any other provision of law,
upon request of the Child Advocate, an executive agency or local
government shall furnish information, records or documents
related to a child health, safety and well-being program to the
Child Advocate or an authorized designee as follows:
(1) Any agency or local government shall furnish
existing information, records or documents in its possession,
custody or control within 10 days of the request. Nothing in
this subsection shall be construed to require an executive
agency or local government to create a record that does not
currently exist.
(2) Access under this subsection includes access to
child protective services reports specified under 23 Pa.C.S.
§ 6339 (relating to confidentiality of reports). An executive
agency or local government shall furnish a child protective
services report to the Child Advocate within 10 days of the
Child Advocate's request.
(i) Immunity.--Notwithstanding any other provision of law,
an individual providing requested materials under subsection (h)
may not be found, by reason of having provided the materials
specified in subsection (h), to have violated any criminal law
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if the individual providing the materials did not know or have
reason to believe that the materials were false and was
motivated by malice toward a person directly affected by the
action.
(j) Confidentiality.--Confidential, privileged or protected
information, records or documents provided to the Child Advocate
under subsection (h):
(1) Shall remain confidential, privileged and protected.
(2) May not be discoverable or admissible as evidence in
an action or proceeding.
(3) May not be accessible for inspection and duplication
in accordance with the act of February 14, 2008 (P.L.6,
No.3), known as the Right-to-Know Law.
(k) Discovery.--Information, records or documents that would
otherwise be available from original sources may not be
construed as immune from discovery or use in an action or
proceeding merely because they were presented to the Child
Advocate.
(l) Limitation.--The Child Advocate may not seek election or
accept appointment to a political office during tenure as the
Child Advocate and for one year thereafter.
Section 503-C. Office of Child Advocate.
(a) Establishment.--The Office of Child Advocate is
established as an independent agency.
(b) Composition.--The office shall consist of the Child
Advocate, a Deputy Director for Services and Outreach, a Deputy
Director of Systems Integration and Transformation and the
ombudpersons appointed under subsection (c).
(c) Appointment of ombudspersons.--
(1) The office shall appoint seven ombudspersons to
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represent all regions of this Commonwealth. Two of the seven
ombudspersons shall be appointed to represent the
southeastern region of this Commonwealth.
(2) Ombudspersons shall report to the office.
(d) Coalition.--
(1) The Coalition of Trauma Prevention and Intervention
(HEAL PA) is established within the office.
(2) The purpose of the coalition shall be to advance the
Trauma Informed Pennsylvania (TIPA) Plan to prevent and
respond to mental health crisis by promoting trauma-informed
policies and practices across all Commonwealth systems.
(3) The coalition shall consist of a minimum of one
representative from each State agency within this
Commonwealth.
(4) The coalition shall meet on a regular basis at times
and places as the coalition may designate, but no less than
six times per year.
(5) The coalition shall fix the compensation of a Deputy
Director of Systems Integration and Transformation with
expertise in psychology, social work and trauma who shall
report directly to the Governor's Office and Cabinet Advisory
Council.
(6) The Deputy Director of Systems Integration and
Transformation shall appoint and fix compensation for other
staff or consultants as may be required for the proper
conduct of its work, but at minimum one Statewide behavioral
health representative, three regional behavioral health
representatives, one education representative and one first-
responder representative.
(7) The coalition shall:
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(i) Build a network to connect and support trauma-
informed, healing-centered and community-based grassroots
movements across this Commonwealth.
(ii) Prioritize trauma-informed and healing-centered
changes at the State level to affect culture, policy and
practice.
(iii) Assist the Commonwealth in healing from the
trauma of a major disaster such as a public health
emergency or disaster proclamation.
(iv) Assist this Commonwealth in healing the damage
of racism, sexism, ableism among other communal and
historical traumas.
(v) Perform any additional duties as determined by
the office.
(8) The coalition shall provide a biannual report,
summarizing its activities and accomplishments to the Child
Advocate and the Governor no later than June 30 every other
year beginning with the year 2024.
(e) Legal counsel.--Legal counsel for the Office of Child
Advocate shall be appointed in accordance with the act of
October 15, 1980 (P.L.950, No.164), known as the Commonwealth
Attorneys Act.
(f) Cooperation required.--All State agencies, departments,
boards, commissions and local governments must cooperate with
the office and the coalition in the performance of its duties to
the full extent permitted by law.
(g) Annual report.--Beginning June 30, 2024, and each June
30 thereafter, the Office of Child Advocate shall issue an
annual report to the Governor and General Assembly. The annual
report shall be posted on the office's publicly accessible
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Internet website and include, at a minimum, the following:
(1) A summary regarding the type of matters handled by
the Child Advocate, the ombudspersons and the coalition
during the year.
(2) Recommendations concerning legislative amendments to
improve the safety of and promote better outcomes for
children and families receiving services in child health,
safety and well-being programs in this Commonwealth.
Section 504-C. Construction.
Nothing in this article shall be construed to prohibit the
department, a county agency or the Child Advocate from working
in collaboration with each other.
Section 2. This act shall take effect immediately.
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