S-0903.1/91       _______________________________________________


                                 SENATE BILL 5320



State of Washington              52nd Legislature             1991 Regular Session


By Senators Sutherland, L. Smith, Stratton, Talmadge, Roach and Amondson.


Read first time January 28, 1991.  Referred to Committee on Children & Family Services.Delineating circumstances for removing a child from the home.

     AN ACT Relating to circumstances for removing a child from the home; and reenacting and amending RCW 13.34.130.




     Sec. 1.  RCW 13.34.130 and 1990 c 284 s 32 and 1990 c 246 s 5 are each reenacted and amended to read as follows:

     If, after a fact-finding hearing pursuant to RCW 13.34.110, as now or hereafter amended, it has been proven by a preponderance of the evidence that the child is dependent within the meaning of RCW 13.34.030(2); after consideration of the predisposition report prepared pursuant to RCW 13.34.110 and after a disposition hearing has been held pursuant to RCW 13.34.110, the court shall enter an order of disposition pursuant to this section.

     (1) The court shall order one of the following dispositions of the case:

     (a) Order a disposition other than removal of the child from his or her home, which shall provide a program designed to alleviate the immediate danger to the child, to mitigate or cure any damage the child has already suffered, and to aid the parents so that the child will not be endangered in the future.  In selecting a program, the court should choose those services that least interfere with family autonomy, provided that the services are adequate to protect the child.

     (b) Order that the child be removed from his or her home and ordered into the custody, control, and care of a relative or the department of social and health services or a licensed child placing agency for placement in a foster family home or group care facility licensed pursuant to chapter 74.15 RCW or in a home not required to be licensed pursuant to chapter 74.15 RCW.  Unless there is reasonable cause to believe that the safety or welfare of the child would be jeopardized or that efforts to reunite the parent and child will be hindered, such child shall be placed with a grandparent, brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister, uncle, aunt, or first cousin with whom the child has a relationship and is comfortable, and who is willing and available to care for the child.  An order for out-of-home placement may be made only if the court finds that reasonable efforts have been made to prevent or eliminate the need for removal of the child from the child's home and to make it possible for the child to return home, specifying the services that have been provided to the child and the child's parent, guardian, or legal custodian, and that:

     (i) There is no parent or guardian available to care for such child;

     (ii) The parent, guardian, or legal custodian is not willing to take custody of the child;

     (iii) A manifest danger exists that the child will suffer serious abuse or neglect if the child is not removed from the home and an order under RCW 26.44.063 would not protect the child from danger.  A manifest danger includes, but is not limited to:

     (A) Emotional illness, mental illness, or mental deficiency of the parent of such nature and duration as to render the parent incapable of providing proper care for the child;

     (B) Conduct of the parent toward any child of an abusive, cruel, or sexual nature;

     (C) Addictive or habitual use of intoxicating liquors or controlled substances by the parent to the extent that parental ability has been substantially impaired;

     (D) Physical neglect of the child by the parent; or

     (iv) The extent of the child's disability is such that the parent, guardian, or legal custodian is unable to provide the necessary care for the child and the parent, guardian, or legal custodian has determined that the child would benefit from placement outside of the home.

     (2) If the court has ordered a child removed from his or her home pursuant to RCW 13.34.130(1)(b), the court may order that a petition seeking termination of the parent and child relationship be filed if the court finds it is recommended by the supervising agency, that it is in the best interests of the child and that it is not reasonable to provide further services to reunify the family because the existence of aggravated circumstances make it unlikely that services will effectuate the return of the child to the child's parents in the near future.  In determining whether aggravated circumstances exist, the court shall consider one or more of the following:

     (a) Conviction of the parent of rape of the child in the first, second, or third degree as defined in RCW 9A.44.073, 9A.44.076, and 9A.44.079;

     (b) Conviction of the parent of criminal mistreatment of the child in the first or second degree as defined in RCW 9A.42.020 and 9A.42.030;

     (c) Conviction of the parent of assault of the child in the first or second degree as defined in RCW 9A.36.011 and 9A.36.021;

     (d) Conviction of the parent of murder, manslaughter, or homicide by abuse of the child's other parent, sibling, or another child;

     (e) A finding by a court that a parent is a sexually violent predator as defined in RCW ((9A.88.010)) 71.09.020;

     (f) Failure of the parent to complete available treatment ordered under this chapter or the equivalent laws of another state, where such failure has resulted in a prior termination of parental rights to another child and the parent has failed to effect significant change in the interim.

     (3) Whenever a child is ordered removed from the child's home, the agency charged with his or her care shall provide the court with:

     (a) A permanent plan of care that may include one of the following:  Return of the child to the home of the child's parent, adoption, guardianship, or long-term placement with a relative or in foster care with a written agreement.

     (b) Unless the court has ordered, pursuant to RCW 13.34.130(2), that a termination petition be filed, a specific plan as to where the child will be placed, what steps will be taken to return the child home, and what actions the agency will take to maintain parent-child ties.  All aspects of the plan shall include the goal of achieving permanence for the child.

     (i) The agency plan shall specify what services the parents will be offered in order to enable them to resume custody, what requirements the parents must meet in order to resume custody, and a time limit for each service plan and parental requirement.

     (ii) The agency shall be required to encourage the maximum parent-child contact possible, including regular visitation and participation by the parents in the care of the child while the child is in placement.  Visitation may be limited or denied only if the court determines that such limitation or denial is necessary to protect the child's health, safety, or welfare.

     (iii) A child shall be placed as close to the child's home as possible, preferably in the child's own neighborhood, unless the court finds that placement at a greater distance is necessary to promote the child's or parents' well-being.

     (iv) The agency charged with supervising a child in placement shall provide all reasonable services that are available within the agency, or within the community, or those services which the department of social and health services has existing contracts to purchase.  It shall report to the court if it is unable to provide such services.

     (c) If the court has ordered, pursuant to RCW 13.34.130(2), that a termination petition be filed, a specific plan as to where the child will be placed, what steps will be taken to achieve permanency for the child, services to be offered or provided to the child, and, if visitation would be in the best interests of the child, a recommendation to the court regarding visitation between parent and child pending a fact-finding hearing on the termination petition.  The agency shall not be required to develop a plan of services for the parents or provide services to the parents.

     (4) If there is insufficient information at the time of the disposition hearing upon which to base a determination regarding the suitability of a proposed placement with a relative, the child shall remain in foster care and the court shall direct the supervising agency to conduct necessary background investigations as provided in chapter 74.15 RCW and report the results of such investigation to the court within thirty days.  However, if such relative appears otherwise suitable and competent to provide care and treatment, the criminal history background check need not be completed before placement, but as soon as possible after placement.  Any placements with relatives, pursuant to this section, shall be contingent upon cooperation by the relative with the agency case plan and compliance with court orders related to the care and supervision of the child including, but not limited to, court orders regarding parent-child contacts and any other conditions imposed by the court.  Noncompliance with the case plan or court order shall be grounds for removal of the child from the relative's home, subject to review by the court.

     (5) The status of all children found to be dependent shall be reviewed by the court at least every six months from the beginning date of the placement episode or the date dependency is established, whichever is first, at a hearing in which it shall be determined whether court supervision should continue.  The review shall include findings regarding the agency and parental completion of disposition plan requirements, and if necessary, revised permanency time limits.

     (a) A child shall not be returned home at the review hearing unless the court finds that a reason for removal as set forth in this section no longer exists.  The parents, guardian, or legal custodian shall report to the court the efforts they have made to correct the conditions which led to removal.  If a child is returned, casework supervision shall continue for a period of six months, at which time there shall be a hearing on the need for continued intervention.

     (b) If the child is not returned home, the court shall establish in writing:

     (i) Whether reasonable services have been provided to or offered to the parties to facilitate reunion, specifying the services provided or offered;

     (ii) Whether the child has been placed in the least-restrictive setting appropriate to the child's needs, including whether consideration has been given to placement with the child's relatives;

     (iii) Whether there is a continuing need for placement and whether the placement is appropriate;

     (iv) Whether there has been compliance with the case plan by the child, the child's parents, and the agency supervising the placement;

     (v) Whether progress has been made toward correcting the problems that necessitated the child's placement in out-of-home care;

     (vi) Whether the parents have visited the child and any reasons why visitation has not occurred or has been infrequent;

     (vii) Whether additional services are needed to facilitate the return of the child to the child's parents; if so, the court shall order that reasonable services be offered specifying such services; and

     (viii) The projected date by which the child will be returned home or other permanent plan of care will be implemented.

     (c) The court at the review hearing may order that a petition seeking termination of the parent and child relationship be filed.