Bill Summary for H 823 (2021-2022)

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Summary date: 

May 4 2021

Bill Information:

View NCGA Bill Details2021
House Bill 823 (Public) Filed Tuesday, May 4, 2021
Intro. by Saine, Riddell.

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Bill summary

Enacts new Article 3A, Child Advocacy Centers in GS Chapter 108A, providing the following. Defines Children's Advocacy Center as a child-focused, trauma-informed, facility-based program in good standing with Children's Advocacy Centers of North Carolina Inc. or its successor, that assists in the coordination of the investigation of child abuse by promoting a coordinated, multidisciplinary response to cases of child maltreatment in which representatives from law enforcement, child protective services, or prosecution, mental health, forensic interviewing, medical, or victim advocacy groups or disciplines collaborate to make team decisions about the investigation, prosecution, safety, treatment, and support services to provide, directly or by formalized agreements, services that include forensic interviews, medical examinations, mental health and other related support services, court advocacy, consultation, and training for children suspected to be victims of child maltreatment and their nonoffending family members. Defines child as any individual under age 18, or any individual who has a developmental disability, as defined in GS 122C-3(12a), that severely impacts conceptual, social, and practical areas of living to the extent the individual cannot live in an independent environment. Also defines the following terms as they are used in the new Article: child maltreatment, department, forensic interview, and multidisciplinary team.

Requires a Child Advocacy Center to meet all of the following in order to receive State funds or federal funds administered or distributed by a State agency or any other funds appropriated or allocated by the NCGA: (1) found to be in good standing with State standards set forth by Children's Advocacy Centers of North Carolina Inc. or its successor; (2) is an independent nonprofit agency, which may be affiliated with an umbrella organization or a part of a governmental entity, with sound administrative policies and procedures designed to ensure quality of services and sustainability including specified standards; (3) provides a child-friendly, trauma-informed space for children suspected to be victims of child maltreatment and their nonoffending family members; (4) conducts on-site interviews of children by a forensic interviewer in appropriate cases of suspected child maltreatment; (5) maintains a multidisciplinary team that meets regularly and are routinely involved in investigations and multidisciplinary team interventions; (6) has a written interagency agreement signed by authorized representatives of all MDT participants that commits the signed parties to the multidisciplinary model for the investigation of child maltreatment, with the agreement reviewed and signed annually; (7) provides a space for multidisciplinary team meetings; (8) establishes and maintains written protocols governing the specified topics; (9) has a designated staff that is supervised and approved by the Children's Advocacy Center's Board of Directors or other governing entity; (10) provides case tracking of child abuse cases served through the Children's Advocacy Center, according to written protocols sets out additional items the Center must track; (11) provides medical exams or referrals for medical exams by health care providers with specific training in child sexual and physical abuse who meet required minimum State and national standards for training, documentation, and review, according to the Children's Advocacy Center's written protocols; (12) provides mental health services or referrals for such mental health services by licensed professionals who deliver trauma-focused, evidence-supported treatment who meet the minimum standards established by the Children's Advocacy Centers of North Carolina Inc. or its successor; (13) provides training for various disciplines in the community that deal with child maltreatment; (14) provides victim support and advocacy that meets State and national standards; (15) maintains cultural competency and diversity by completing a community assessment every three years, which does at least the listed items; (16) provides annual trainings or educational opportunities for multidisciplinary team member professional development; (17) ensures that Children's Advocacy Center employees and volunteers are properly screened and trained in accordance with State and national standards; and (18) provides all services to a child client regardless of the child's or child's family's ability to pay for those services. Makes the Children's Advocacy Centers of North Carolina, Inc., or its successor, responsible for tracking and documenting compliance and any funds it administers to an eligible Children's Advocacy Center.

Requires any pertinent or relevant information possessed by a member of a multidisciplinary team concerning a child whose case is being investigated or discussed by the team to be shared with the team members as part of the discussion and coordination of efforts for investigative or treatment purposes. Requires individuals and agencies to share information or records with the team when requested; sets out items that do not have to be disclosed. Requires information acquired by a multidisciplinary team to be kept confidential and not be disclosed except to the extent necessary to perform case consultations, to carry out a treatment plan or recommendations, or in compliance with the requirements of this Article. Provides that information, documents, or records available from the original sources are not immune from discovery or use in any civil or criminal action solely on the basis of the information, documents, or records being used in a case consultation. Gives team members immunity from any civil or criminal liability for disclosure of information, except in cases of gross negligence, wanton conduct, or intentional wrongdoing. 

Makes confidential and prohibits the release of reports, correspondence, memoranda, case histories, medical reports, and other materials compiled or created by a Children's Advocacy Center, except allows release in eight specified circumstances. Allows a court to order the release of the records for an in camera inspection if the court finds that the records are necessary to determine a matter before the court or grand jury and the information cannot be obtained from one of the listed entities. Allows the court to then release only information that is material and relevant to the matter before the court and necessary for the proper administration of justice. Sets out what information employees or designated agents of a Children's Advocacy Center may confirm or disclose. Prohibits duplicating an interview of a child recorded at a Children's Advocacy Center with an exception for prosecuting attorneys.

Provides civil immunity for a board member, staff member, or volunteer of a Children's Advocacy Center or Children's Advocacy Centers of North Carolina, Inc., or its successor when the person acts in good faith.

Effective July 1, 2022.