HCS/SS/SCS/SB 801 - This act modifies provisions regarding foster home placement and establishes guidelines for foster child caregivers, foster child involvement in case plans, and permanency hearings, and the Supporting and Strengthening Families act.
Under current law, preferential placement of a child first goes to grandparents, next to trusted adults with a pre-existing relationship with the child, and then to licensed foster parents. This act supplants the trusted adults placement option with that of kin or kinship placement, defined in the act as a person who is related to the child by blood or affinity beyond the third degree or a person who is not so related, but has a close relationship with the child or child's family. Additionally, kin who have a child in their care under this provision may have, on a case-by-case basis, licensure standards not related to safety waived, to the same extent as grandparents under current law.
These provisions are identical to provisions contained in SB 1073 (2016) and similar to HB 2492 (2016).
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 findings 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.
These provisions are identical to sections in SS/HCS/HB 1877 (2016) and SCS/SB 979 (2016).
Part of this act may be known as the "Supporting and Strengthening Families Act". These provisions provide that during a child protective investigation if the child is at risk for possible removal the Children's Division shall provide information to the parent about community service programs that provide support services for families in crisis.
Additionally, a parent or legal custodian of a child may delegate to an attorney-in-fact, without compensation, any powers regarding the care and custody of a child for a period not to exceed one year, unless an exception applies as specified in the act. Such delegation does not change parental or legal rights established by a court order or deprive the parent or legal custodian of any rights regarding child custody, visitation, or support.
A parent who intentionally uses a power of attorney to permanently avoid legal responsibility for the care of the child is guilty of violating current law on transferring child custody without a court order. A child subject to the power of attorney shall not be considered placed in foster care and the parties shall not be subject to any licensing regulations for foster care or community care for children.
Community service programs for families in crisis must conduct a background check of an attorney-in-fact and any adult members of his or her household prior to the placement of the child.
An attorney-in-fact must make arrangements to ensure that the child attends classes at an appropriate school based upon the residency requirements of the school, and the child's school shall be notified of the existence of the power of attorney and be provided a copy of the power of attorney. Unless specified otherwise by state or federal law, the delegation of care under the act shall not modify a child's eligibility for the benefits, such as free or reduced lunch, that the child is receiving at the time of the execution of the power of attorney.
Finally, this act specifies the information to be included on a form delegating any powers regarding the care and custody of a child under this act.
These provisions are identical to provisions contained in SCS/HCS/HB 1433 (2016) and similar to HB 684 (2015).