Calls for Kids Act Is Close to Becoming Law - Women's Foundation California

Parents deported while children placed in foster care (colorlines)By Rose Larsen, Intern

Did you know that in 2011 at least 5,100 children were in the foster care system nationwide because at least one of their parents was held in an immigration detention center or had been deported?

Even though California law (Penal Code 851.5) states that an arrested person has the right to make two telephone calls to arrange for the care of their children, many times these rights are ignored or not properly explained.

That’s where Women’s Policy Institute members Catherine Porter and her four teammates come in. These members of the Reproductive Justice team introduce AB 2015 (Mitchell), a bill that would require law enforcement officers to ask whether an arrestee is a parent, and if so, inform them of their right to make two phone calls.

Furthermore, because some arrestees may not speak English, the bill—also known as the Calls for Kids Act—would require that these rights be explained in non-English language signs that would be posted in places where arrestees are photographed, fingerprinted and jailed.  

“Many law enforcement personnel believe, wrongly, that arrested individuals suddenly no longer have parental rights,” said Catherine, emphasizing the importance of this bill, which provides that the law be applied equally, regardless of immigration status.

Many undocumented workers, arrested for what would normally be slight offenses, are turned over to immigration, and then moved to detention centers many miles away from where they were living, all without having an opportunity to speak with their children or provide for their care.

This bill is particularly relevant in California, which has a large population of immigrants and children in foster care. Surveys conducted by the Applied Research Center found that in Los Angeles and San Diego counties alone there are about 1,500 children in foster care with detained or deported parents. This is almost 1/3 of the national number noted above.

Once children have been placed in child protective services, it becomes extremely difficult for parents to get in touch with them, much less recover custody.

“Children who are placed in the foster system often experience lifelong trauma and dysfunction,” Catherine said. “We developed AB 2015 to prevent, as much as possible, children entering the child welfare systems unnecessarily when they could be cared for by friends and family.”

Not only will AB 2015 help keep families together, it will also lower costs for the state as fewer children will be placed in child care at the expense of the state.

The good news is that this bill unanimously passed the Assembly, has passed the Senate Public Safety Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee with amendments, and will go to the Senate floor next week. If all goes well, it will go though and will be signed into law this fall by the Governor. We’re keeping our fingers crossed. Thank you, Reproductive Justice team, for your passion, dedication and hard work!

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