Monday, December 31, 2012

Appendix D Guidelines for Child Protective Services Caseworkers for Permanency and Review Hearings

 

Individuals Who Should Be Present at Both Permanency and Review Hearings
  • The judge who has monitored the case from the first hearing;
  • The child, unless inappropriate for a specific reason;
  • The parent whose rights have not been relinquished or terminated;
  • The attorney for the parent;
  • The assigned social services caseworker;
  • The prosecuting or agency attorney;
  • For Indian children, a representative from the child's tribe and tribal attorney, if any;
  • The guardian ad litem for the child, whether attorney, social worker, or other paid nonattorney, volunteer, or Court-Appointed Special Advocate;
  • The attorney for the child, if applicable;
  • The foster parent, legal-risk foster parent, or adoptive parent;
  • Relatives, other interested persons, and witnesses;
  • The court reporter or suitable recording technology;
  • The court security and other court staff.

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Questions for All Cases: What Are the Child's Special Needs?
  • What is the child's health and education status?
  • What is being offered to address the child's cultural needs, if applicable?
  • What is the child's current placement adjustment?
  • What services are being provided to the child, what progress has the child made, and what issues still need to be addressed?

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For the Permanency Hearing

If Reunification Is Recommended:

  • How have the conditions or circumstances leading to the removal of the child been corrected?
  • Why is this plan in the best interests of the child?
  • How often is visitation occurring and what is the impact on the child?
  • What is the date and detailed plan for the child's safe return home and follow-up supervision after family reunification?
  • What are the plans to continue any necessary services to the child?
  • What are the plans to continue any necessary services to the family?
  • If a change of school will occur, what will be done to prepare for the transition?

If Termination of Parental Rights and Adoption Are Recommended:

  • What are the facts and circumstances supporting the grounds for termination?
  • What reasonable efforts were made to reunify?
  • Why is this plan in the best interests of the child?
  • Has the petition been filed and, if not, what is the date it will be filed?
  • Are there relatives who will adopt the child if termination of parental rights is granted? If so, is the child living with the relative? If not, why not? If there are no relatives willing and able to adopt, why not?
  • If relative adoption is not the plan, is adoption by the foster parents the plan? If not, why not?
  • If an adoptive home must be recruited, what efforts are being made to identify potential adoptive homes both locally and in other jurisdictions? Are there adults with whom the child has a positive relationship and are they potential adopting families?

Will Adoption With Contact Be Recommended and Why or Why Not?

  • What counseling will occur to assist the child to deal with this change of plan?
  • If the child is an Indian child, have Indian Child Welfare Act requirements been met?

If Permanent Guardianship or Permanent Custody Is Recommended:

  • Why is this option preferable to termination of parental rights and adoption? Why is it in the best interests of the child?
  • What reasonable efforts were made to reunify?
  • What are the facts and circumstances demonstrating the appropriateness of the individual or couple to serve as permanent family to the child? Is there another person who spends significant time in the home, and if so, has that individual been interviewed for appropriateness?
  • Has there been full disclosure to the family of the child's circumstances and special needs?
  • What is the plan to ensure that this will be a permanent home for the child?
  • What contact will occur between the child and parents, siblings, and other family members?
  • What financial support will be provided by the biological parents?
  • What are the plans to continue any necessary services to the child? How will these services be funded after guardianship or custody has been granted?
  • If the child is not already placed in this home, why not and:
    • How often is visitation occurring and what is the impact on the child?
    • What is the date and detailed plan for the child's placement in this home and follow-up supervision after placement?
    • If a change of school will occur, what will be done to prepare for the transition?

If Another Plan Is Being Recommended:

  • What are the compelling reasons not to proceed with reunification, termination of parental rights, permanent guardianship, or permanent custody? What is the plan, and why is this plan in the child's best interests?
  • What reasonable efforts were made to reunify the child with the parent?
  • How will this plan provide stability and permanency for the child?
  • What contact will occur between child and parents, siblings, and other family members?
  • What are the plans to continue any necessary services to the child?
  • If the child is a teenager, what is the plan to prepare the child for independent living?
  • If the child is not already placed in this home, why not and:
    • How often is visitation occurring and what is the impact on the child?
    • What is the detailed plan for the child's placement in this home and follow-up supervision after placement?
    • If a change of school will occur, what will be done to ease the transition?

Findings and Conclusions:

  • Record the persons present and whether absent parties were provided with appropriate notice; verification that reports offered into evidence have been provided to all parties in advance of the hearing.
  • A finding as to what reasonable efforts the agency has made to reunify the family and to finalize a permanent plan. A well-designed, appropriate case plan and meaningful case reviews should prevent unexpected findings of "no reasonable efforts" at this stage of a case. Should it be found that additional remedial steps are necessary, specific expectations should be set out in a detailed order, with a short time frame (e.g., 30 days) for holding the follow-up permanency hearing. A copy of the order should be forwarded to the head of the social services agency.
  • A statement addressing special factors or conditions of the child that are identified as special needs, what services are to be provided to address these needs, and who is responsible for providing the services.
  • The court's determination of the permanent plan for the child and why the plan is in the best interests of the child. The order should state the steps to be taken and time lines for accomplishing the permanent goal. If the plan is reunification, the date for reunification should be stated.
  • If the plan is termination of parental rights and the petition has not yet been filed, the order should state expected time frame for filing a petition for termination of parental rights that must be within 30 days. If the petition has been filed, the court should schedule pretrials, mediation, and trial dates.
  • If the plan is termination of parental rights, and a parent wishes to relinquish parental rights at the permanency hearing, the court should be prepared to accept the relinquishment and include the relinquishment in the order.
  • For any plan, next hearing date and purpose, unless all court and agency involvement is terminated (i.e., permanent guardianship, permanent custody, or reunification without protective supervision).

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For Review Hearings that Follow Permanency Hearings or Temination of Parental Rights Hearings

If Reunification Is the Permanent Plan:

  • What progress has been made on each of the issues that prevented implementation of this plan at the permanency hearing?
  • How often is visitation occurring and what is the impact on the child and family?
  • What is the date and detailed plan for the child's safe return home and follow-up supervision after family reunification?
  • What are the plans to continue any necessary services to the child?
  • What are the plans to continue any necessary services to the family?
  • If a change of school will occur, what will be done to prepare for the transition?
  • If the family has not made adequate progress to enable a safe return home, what alternate permanent plan is recommended and what are the steps and time frames for its implementation?

If Permanent Guardianship or Permanent Custody Is the Permanent Plan:

  • What progress has been made on each of the issues that prevented implementation of this plan at the permanency hearing?
  • What contact is occurring between the child and parents, siblings, other family members and tribal and clan members, if applicable, and is this contact working well for the child and all involved individuals?
  • Has there been full disclosure regarding the child's background history and current or potential disabilities?
  • What are the plans to continue any necessary services to the child? How will these services be funded after guardianship or custody has been granted?
  • What is the plan for financial support from the biological parents?
  • Is there any reason that permanent guardianship or permanent custody should not be granted today?
  • If sufficient progress has not been made to enable the granting of permanent guardianship or permanent custody at this hearing, what alternate permanent plan is recommended and what are the steps and time frames for its implementation?

If Relative or Foster Home Adoption Is the Permanent Plan:

  • What progress in approving the relative or foster home as the adoptive home has been made since the termination of parental rights hearing? If it is not yet approved, why not, what remains to be done, and when will it be approved?
  • Has there been full disclosure regarding the child's history, and current or potential disabilities?
  • If adoption with contact has been agreed upon, what contact is occurring between the child and parents, siblings, other family members, or tribal and clan members, if relevant, and is this contact working well for the child and all involved individuals?
  • How soon can the adoption be finalized? What specific steps must occur and what is the time frame for each of the steps?
  • Has the adoption assistance agreement been negotiated? If not, why not? Have all appropriate subsidies been identified and has all paperwork been completed with regard to these subsidies? Will services follow the family if they move out of State? Is the adopting family aware of the details of all appropriate subsidy issues?
  • Has the relative or foster parent been made aware of ways to access needed services after the adoption is finalized? Has the relative or foster parent been given contacts for support groups or other adopting families who can serve as mentors and supports?

If an Adoptive Home Has Been Recruited Since the Last Hearing but the Child Has Not Yet Been Placed in the Home:

  • A detailed description of the family and the neighborhood in which the family lives. Is there another person who spends significant time in the home, and if so, has this individual been interviewed for appropriateness?
  • If the child is an Indian child, does the home meet the placement preferences listed in the Indian Child Welfare Act, and if not, why not? What efforts has the agency made to identify a placement under Indian Child Welfare Act?
  • Has there been full disclosure to the adopting family of the child's circumstances, history, special needs, and potential disabilities?
  • Have all available subsidies been identified and discussed with the adopting family?
  • Is the adopting family aware of any adoption with contact agreement and are they accepting of the agreement?
  • What is the visitation and placement plan and its time frame? If visits have begun, how are the child and the adopting family adjusting?
  • If the home is out of State, have all regulations regarding the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children and the Interstate Compact on Adoption and Medical Assistance been followed? Are there any known or anticipated issues relative to these compacts that may cause delays and if so, what is being done to resolve or avoid the delays?
  • Has there been full disclosure regarding the child's history and current or potential disabilities?
  • What are the plans to continue any necessary services to the child? How will these services be funded after guardianship or custody has been granted?
  • What is the plan for financial support from the biological parents?
  • Is there any reason that permanent guardianship or permanent custody should not be granted today?
  • If sufficient progress has not been made to enable the granting of permanent guardianship or permanent custody at this hearing, what alternate permanent plan is recommended and what are the steps and time frames for its implementation?

If the Child Has Been in the Adoptive Home Since the Last Hearing:

  • What progress has been made since the last hearing toward finalization? When will finalization occur? What specific steps must occur and what are the time frames for each step?
  • Have any new problems or issues occurred since the last hearing? What is the plan to address the problems or issues?
  • If full disclosure regarding the child's history and current or potential disabilities had not yet occurred at the last hearing, has it now occurred?
  • If adoption with contact has been agreed upon, what contact is occurring between the child and parents, siblings or other family members, and is this contact working well for the child and all involved individuals?
  • Has the adoption assistance agreement been negotiated? If not, why not? Have all appropriate subsidies been identified and has all paperwork been completed with regard to these subsidies? Will services follow the family if they move out of state? Is the adopting family aware of the details of all appropriate subsidy issues?
  • Has the adopting family been made aware of ways to access needed services after the adoption is finalized? Has the adopting family been given contacts for support groups or other adopting families who can serve as mentors and supports?

If the Agency Is Recruiting an Adoptive Home:

  • What efforts have been made since the termination of parental rights hearing or last review hearing to identify potential adoptive homes both locally and in other jurisdictions?
  • If the child is an Indian child, what efforts are being made to identify potential adoptive homes in the child's tribal community?
  • What is the status of investigating adults with whom the child has or has had a positive relationship with regard to their potential to become adopting families?
  • On what adoption exchanges and Internet sites is the child listed?
  • How many potential families have expressed interest in the child and what is the status of investigating each family?
  • What efforts are being made by the agency to comply with Indian Child Welfare Act placement preferences, if applicable?

If Another Plan Is the Permanent Plan:

  • What progress has been made since the permanency hearing and is the existing permanent plan still in the child's best interests?
  • Do the compelling reasons not to proceed with reunification, termination of parental rights, permanent guardianship, or permanent custody that existed at the permanency hearing still apply?
  • If they do not, what is the new permanent plan and how is it in the child's best interests? What are the steps and time frames that have occurred, or still need to occur to fully implement this new plan?
  • What is the frequency and duration of contact that is occurring between the child and parents, siblings, other family members, tribal or clan members, or other significant adults? Is this contact working well for the child and all involved individuals?
  • What is the plan to prepare the child for independent living?
  • If a change of placement is planned:
    • Why is this change necessary and in the best interests of the child?
    • What is the plan for pre-placement visits? Have they begun and how is the child responding? What is the detailed plan for the child's placement in this home and follow-up supervision after placement?
    • If a change of school or service providers will occur, what will be done to ease the transition?

Findings and Conclusions:

  • Who is present at the hearing and whether absent parties were provided with appropriate notice. If the child is an Indian child, the court should verify whether the child's tribe received notice and was offered an opportunity to participate. It should be verified that reports provided to the court were made available to all parties prior to the hearing.
  • A finding as to whether the agency has made reasonable efforts to finalize a permanent home with detail to support the finding. If the child is in an adoptive home, the finding should indicate whether the agency is doing everything possible, as quickly as possible, to approve the home, complete all aspects of the adoption assistance agreement including subsidies and services, and move toward finalization. If an adoptive home must be recruited, the finding should indicate whether the agency is doing everything possible, as quickly as possible, to list the child on all appropriate exchanges, Internet sites, and with all appropriate private agencies, and to promptly screen and complete home studies on prospective adopting parents.
  • If the child is an Indian child, a finding as to whether the agency has complied with the placement preferences within the Indian Child Welfare Act, and if not, the efforts made to comply.
  • If there are any changes or adjustments to the permanent plan, a description with time lines for implementation and the reasons that these adjustments or changes are in the best interests of the child.
  • If visitation issues, including agreements for adoption with contact apply, are the terms and schedules of visitation being complied with and are they effective.
  • A statement addressing special factors or conditions of the child that are identified as special needs, what services are being provided to address the needs and how the child is progressing.
  • Any specific orders that are to be implemented.
  • Unless the permanent plan is finalized at the hearing, the date and time for the next review or the finalization hearing.

 

Source: National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. (2000). Adoptions and permanency guidelines: Improving court practice in child abuse and neglect cases. Reno, NV: Author.