SCS/SB 979 - This act requires the juvenile court, and all parties in a case involving a foster child in the care of the state, to defer to the reasonable decisions of the child's designated caregiver involving the child's participation in extracurricular, enrichment, cultural, and social activities. Caregivers shall use the "reasonable and prudent parent standard," which is defined as the standard characterized by careful and sensible parental decisions that maintain the health, safety, and best interests of a child while at the same time encouraging the emotional and developmental growth of the child. A caregiver's decisions regarding the child may only be overturned by the court if, upon notice and a hearing, the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the reasonable and prudent parent standard has been violated. Caregivers have the right to receive notice of the hearing, attend it, and present evidence.
Caregivers shall receive training regarding the reasonable and prudent parent standard. Caregivers shall not be liable for harm caused to a child participating in an activity chosen by the caregiver if the caregiver acted in accordance with the reasonable and prudent parent standard. No court shall order the Children's Division or any contracted agency to fund activities chosen by the caregiver.
Under this act, children in foster care who are at least 14 years old shall be consulted in the development of, revision of, or addition to their case plan. The children may choose individuals to participate as members of the family support team. The Division may reject those individuals if it has good cause to believe the individuals would not act in the best interests of the child. The child may also designate one member to be his or her advisor and, as necessary, advocate, with respect to the application of the reasonable and prudent parent standard to the child. The child shall receive a document which describes specific enumerated rights and a signed acknowledgment by the child indicating that he or she has been provided with a copy of the document and his or her rights have been explained in an appropriate manner. If a child is leaving foster care at age 18, the Division shall provide the child specified documents, unless the child is otherwise ineligible.
Finally, no child in foster care under the age of 16 shall have a permanency plan of another planned permanent living arrangement. For children with permanency plans of another planned permanent living arrangement, the court shall make specified finds of fact and conclusions of law at each permanency hearing emphasizing the Division's continuous and unsuccessful efforts to return the child home or to secure a placement with a fit and willing relative or adoptive parent, the child's desired permanency outcome, and a judicial determination that it continues not to be in the child's best interests to return home, be placed with a legal guardian or relative, or be adopted.
This act is identical to HCS/SS/SCS/SB 801 (2016), SS/HCS/HB 1877 (2016), and SCS/HB 2605 (2016), and substantially similar to HB 2583 (2016).