Introduced by Committee on Judiciary
Subject: Human services; judicial proceedings
Statement of purpose: This bill proposes to include required findings in family court CHINS and juvenile delinquency proceedings for reasonable-efforts decision-making regarding the removal of a child from the home and subsequent permanency planning efforts. The judicial determinations are required by Title IV-E of the Social Security Act as implemented by the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, a federal program that offers participating states substantial funding for their foster care, adoption assistance, and child welfare programs.
AN ACT RELATING TO JUDICIAL DETERMINATIONS IN JUVENILE PROCEEDINGS
It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:
Sec. 1. 33 V.S.A. § 5513 is amended to read:
§ 5513. CRITERIA FOR DETAINING CHILDREN; ORDER OF
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(d) In any order detaining a child, the court shall make a written finding that a child’s continued residence in the home is contrary to his or her welfare. This determination may be made on an ex parte basis, provided that it is reasonably supported by information presented to the court at the time of application.
Sec. 2. 33 V.S.A. § 5515 is amended to read:
§ 5515. RELEASE FROM TEMPORARY CARE; DETENTION HEARING
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(f) At the conclusion of the detention hearing, the court shall make written findings on whether reasonable efforts were made to prevent unnecessary removal of the child from the home. “Reasonable efforts” means the exercise of due diligence by the department for children and families to use appropriate and available services to prevent unnecessary removal of the child from the home. Reasonable efforts findings shall not be required if the court makes written findings that aggravated circumstances are present. Aggravated circumstances may include:
(1) abandonment, torture, chronic abuse, or sexual abuse of a child;
(2) conviction of murder or manslaughter of another child of the parent, or a felony crime that results in serious bodily injury to the child or another child of the parent; or
(3) the involuntary termination of parental rights to another child of the parent.
(g) If, at the conclusion of the detention hearing, the court is not prepared to make findings on whether reasonable efforts were made to prevent the removal of the child from the home, that determination shall be made at the next scheduled hearing in the case but, in any event, no later than 60 days after the issuance of the initial order removing a child from the home.
(h) Any order detaining a child shall be based on a factual finding that it is contrary to the child’s welfare to remain in the home.
Sec. 3. 33 V.S.A. § 5531 is amended to read:
§ 5531. PERMANENCY HEARING
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(f) In cases involving a child who has been removed from the home, upon the filing of a petition for a finding of reasonable efforts and a report or affidavit by the department for children and families with notice to all parties, the court shall hold a hearing within 30 days of the filing of the petition to determine, by a preponderance of the evidence, whether the department for children and families has made reasonable efforts to finalize the permanency plan for the child that is in effect at the time of the hearing. Reasonable efforts to finalize a permanency plan may consist of: (1) reasonable efforts to reunify the child and family following the child’s removal from the home, where the permanency plan for the child is reunification; or (2) reasonable efforts to arrange and finalize an alternate permanent living arrangement for the child, in cases where the permanency plan for the child does not include reunification. The hearing may be consolidated with or separate from a permanency hearing.
The Vermont General Assembly
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