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BILL AS INTRODUCED 2007-2008

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H.506

Introduced by Representatives McAllister of Highgate and Flory of Pittsford

Referred to Committee on

Date:

Subject:  Human services; child welfare; removal from the home

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to require the department for children and families to establish a review panel consisting of the commissioner and two additional department officials for the purpose of personally reviewing any investigator’s recommendation to remove a child from the home and personally to conduct its own investigation into the allegations of neglect or abuse in accordance with current guidelines prior to any nonemergency removal from the home.

AN ACT RELATING TO CHILD NEGLECT AND ABUSE INVESTIGATION OVERSIGHT PANEL

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1.  33 V.S.A. § 4903 is amended to read:

§ 4903.  RESPONSIBILITY OF DEPARTMENT

(a)  The department may expend, within amounts available for the purposes, what is necessary to protect and promote the welfare of children and adults in this state, including the strengthening of their homes whenever possible, by:

(1)  Investigating complaints of neglect, abuse, or abandonment of children.

(2)  Providing aid and services to the extent necessary for the purpose of permitting children to remain in their own homes.

(3)  Supervising and controlling children committed to it by a court.

(4)  Providing substitute parental care and custody for a child upon application of his or her parent, guardian, or any person acting in behalf of the child, when after investigation it is found that the care and custody will be in the best interest of the child.  The acceptance of a child by the department shall not abrogate parental rights or responsibilities, but the department may accept from the parents temporary delegation of certain rights and responsibilities necessary to provide care and custody for a period of up to six months under conditions agreed upon by the parents and the department.  Upon a stipulation approved by the juvenile court, the period may be extended for additional periods of up to six months each, provided that each extension is first determined by the parties to be necessary, and that it is in the best interest of the child.

(5)  Providing financial aid to persons who were committed to the department at the time they attained the age of majority and who are completing an educational, vocational, or technical training program designed to equip them for gainful employment.

(6)  Providing aid to certain adopted children who prior to their adoption were in the care and custody of the department.

(b)  The department shall establish a review panel consisting of the commissioner and two additional department officials for the purpose of personally reviewing any investigator’s recommendation to remove a child from the home and to personally conduct its own investigation into the allegations of neglect or abuse in accordance with guidelines provided in section 4915 of this title.

Sec. 2.  33 V.S.A. § 4915 is amended to read:

§ 4915.  INVESTIGATION; REMEDIAL ACTION

(a)  The commissioner of social and rehabilitation services shall cause an investigation to commence within 72 hours after receipt of a report made pursuant to section 4914 of this title.

(b)  The investigation, to the extent that it is reasonable, shall include all of the following:

(1)  A visit to the child’s place of residence or place of custody and to the location of the alleged abuse or neglect.

(2)  An interview with, or observance of the child reportedly having been abused or neglected.  If the investigator elects to interview the child, that interview may take place without the approval of the child’s parents, guardian, or custodian, provided that it takes place in the presence of a disinterested adult who may be, but shall not be limited to being, a teacher, a member of the clergy, or a nurse.

(3)  Determination of the nature, extent, and cause of any abuse or neglect.

(4)  Determination of the identity of the person alleged to be responsible for such abuse or neglect.

(5)  The identity, by name, of any other children living in the same home environment.  The investigator shall consider the physical and emotional condition of those children and may interview them, unless the child is the person who is alleged to be responsible for such abuse or neglect, in accordance with the provisions of subdivision (2) of this subsection.

(6)  A determination of the immediate and longterm long‑term risk to each child if that child remains in the existing home environment.

(7)  Consideration of the environment and the relationship of any children therein to the person alleged to be responsible for the suspected abuse or neglect.

(8)  All other data deemed pertinent.

(c)  If the investigation produces evidence that the child has been abused or neglected, the commissioner may, to the extent that it is reasonable, cause assistance to be provided to the child and the child’s family in accordance with a written plan of treatment.

(d)  The commissioner, designee, or any person required to report under section 4913 or any other person performing an investigation pursuant to section 4914 may take or cause to be taken, photographs of trauma visible on a child who is the subject of a report.  The commissioner or designee may seek consultation with a physician.  If it is indicated as appropriate by the physician, the commissioner or designee may cause the child who is subject of a report to undergo a radiological examination, without the consent of the child’s parent or guardian.

(e)  Services may be provided to the child’s immediate family whether or not the child remains in the home.

(f)  If an investigator recommends that a child be removed from the home, the review panel established pursuant to section 4903 of this title shall conduct its own investigation into allegations of neglect or abuse.  In nonemergency situations, a child may not be removed from the home unless the panel unanimously recommends the removal.  Nonemergency situations include those in which the child is not in immediate danger from his or her surroundings, and immediate removal is not necessary for the child’s protection.



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us