HOUSE BILL 2028
State of Washington
2019 Regular Session
ByRepresentatives Corry, McCaslin, Dent, Griffey, Graham, Chambers, and Eslick
Read first time 02/13/19.Referred to Committee on Human Services & Early Learning.
AN ACT Relating to bonding and best interest assessments for children in foster care; and amending RCW 13.34.145
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF WASHINGTON:
and 2018 c 284 s 15 are each amended to read as follows:
(1) The purpose of a permanency planning hearing is to review the permanency plan for the child, inquire into the welfare of the child and progress of the case, and reach decisions regarding the permanent placement of the child.
(a) A permanency planning hearing shall be held in all cases where the child has remained in out-of-home care for at least nine months and an adoption decree, guardianship order, or permanent custody order has not previously been entered. The hearing shall take place no later than twelve months following commencement of the current placement episode.
(b) Whenever a child is removed from the home of a dependency guardian or long-term relative or foster care provider, and the child is not returned to the home of the parent, guardian, or legal custodian but is placed in out-of-home care, a permanency planning hearing shall take place no later than twelve months, as provided in this section, following the date of removal unless, prior to the hearing, the child returns to the home of the dependency guardian or long-term care provider, the child is placed in the home of the parent, guardian, or legal custodian, an adoption decree, guardianship order, or a permanent custody order is entered, or the dependency is dismissed. Every effort shall be made to provide stability in long-term placement, and to avoid disruption of placement, unless the child is being returned home or it is in the best interest of the child.
(c) Permanency planning goals should be achieved at the earliest possible date, preferably before the child has been in out-of-home care for fifteen months. In cases where parental rights have been terminated, the child is legally free for adoption, and adoption has been identified as the primary permanency planning goal, it shall be a goal to complete the adoption within six months following entry of the termination order.
(2) No later than ten working days prior to the permanency planning hearing, the agency having custody of the child shall submit a written permanency plan to the court and shall mail a copy of the plan to all parties and their legal counsel, if any.
(3) When the youth is at least age seventeen years but not older than seventeen years and six months, the department shall provide the youth with written documentation which explains the availability of extended foster care services and detailed instructions regarding how the youth may access such services after he or she reaches age eighteen years.
(4) At the permanency planning hearing, the court shall conduct the following inquiry:
(a) If a goal of long-term foster or relative care has been achieved prior to the permanency planning hearing, the court shall review the child's status to determine whether the placement and the plan for the child's care remain appropriate. The court shall find, as of the date of the hearing, that the child's placement and plan of care is the best permanency plan for the child and provide compelling reasons why it continues to not be in the child's best interest to (i) return home; (ii) be placed for adoption; (iii) be placed with a legal guardian; or (iv) be placed with a fit and willing relative. If the child is present at the hearing, the court should ask the child about his or her desired permanency outcome.
(b) In cases where the primary permanency planning goal has not been achieved, the court shall inquire regarding the reasons why the primary goal has not been achieved and determine what needs to be done to make it possible to achieve the primary goal. The court shall review the permanency plan prepared by the agency and make explicit findings regarding each of the following:
(i) The continuing necessity for, and the safety and appropriateness of, the placement;
(ii) The extent of compliance with the permanency plan by the department and any other service providers, the child's parents, the child, and the child's guardian, if any;
(iii) The extent of any efforts to involve appropriate service providers in addition to department staff in planning to meet the special needs of the child and the child's parents;
(iv) The progress toward eliminating the causes for the child's placement outside of his or her home and toward returning the child safely to his or her home or obtaining a permanent placement for the child;
(v) The date by which it is likely that the child will be returned to his or her home or placed for adoption, with a guardian or in some other alternative permanent placement; and
(vi) If the child has been placed outside of his or her home for fifteen of the most recent twenty-two months, not including any period during which the child was a runaway from the out-of-home placement or the first six months of any period during which the child was returned to his or her home for a trial home visit, the appropriateness of the permanency plan, whether reasonable efforts were made by the department to achieve the goal of the permanency plan, and the circumstances which prevent the child from any of the following:
(A) Being returned safely to his or her home;
(B) Having a petition for the involuntary termination of parental rights filed on behalf of the child;
(C) Being placed for adoption;
(D) Being placed with a guardian;
(E) Being placed in the home of a fit and willing relative of the child; or
(F) Being placed in some other alternative permanent placement, including independent living or long-term foster care.
(5) Following this inquiry, at the permanency planning hearing, the court shall order the department to file a petition seeking termination of parental rights if the child has been in out-of-home care for fifteen of the last twenty-two months since the date the dependency petition was filed unless the court makes a good cause exception as to why the filing of a termination of parental rights petition is not appropriate. Any good cause finding shall be reviewed at all subsequent hearings pertaining to the child.
(a) For purposes of this subsection, "good cause exception" includes but is not limited to the following:
(i) The child is being cared for by a relative;
(ii) The department has not provided to the child's family such services as the court and the department have deemed necessary for the child's safe return home;
(iii) The department has documented in the case plan a compelling reason for determining that filing a petition to terminate parental rights would not be in the child's best interests;
(iv) The parent is incarcerated, or the parent's prior incarceration is a significant factor in why the child has been in foster care for fifteen of the last twenty-two months, the parent maintains a meaningful role in the child's life, and the department has not documented another reason why it would be otherwise appropriate to file a petition pursuant to this section;
(v) Where a parent has been accepted into a dependency treatment court program or long-term substance abuse or dual diagnoses treatment program and is demonstrating compliance with treatment goals; or
(vi) Where a parent who has been court ordered to complete services necessary for the child's safe return home files a declaration under penalty of perjury stating the parent's financial inability to pay for the same court-ordered services, and also declares the department was unwilling or unable to pay for the same services necessary for the child's safe return home.
(b) The court's assessment of whether a parent who is incarcerated maintains a meaningful role in the child's life may include consideration of the following:
(i) The parent's expressions or acts of manifesting concern for the child, such as letters, telephone calls, visits, and other forms of communication with the child;
(ii) The parent's efforts to communicate and work with the department or other individuals for the purpose of complying with the service plan and repairing, maintaining, or building the parent-child relationship;
(iii) A positive response by the parent to the reasonable efforts of the department;
(iv) Information provided by individuals or agencies in a reasonable position to assist the court in making this assessment, including but not limited to the parent's attorney, correctional and mental health personnel, or other individuals providing services to the parent;
(v) Limitations in the parent's access to family support programs, therapeutic services, and visiting opportunities, restrictions to telephone and mail services, inability to participate in foster care planning meetings, and difficulty accessing lawyers and participating meaningfully in court proceedings; and
(vi) Whether the continued involvement of the parent in the child's life is in the child's best interest.
(c) The constraints of a parent's current or prior incarceration and associated delays or barriers to accessing court-mandated services may be considered in rebuttal to a claim of aggravated circumstances under RCW 13.34.132
(4)(h) for a parent's failure to complete available treatment.
(6)(a) If the permanency plan identifies independent living as a goal, the court at the permanency planning hearing shall make a finding that the provision of services to assist the child in making a transition from foster care to independent living will allow the child to manage his or her financial, personal, social, educational, and nonfinancial affairs prior to approving independent living as a permanency plan of care. The court will inquire whether the child has been provided information about extended foster care services.
(b) The permanency plan shall also specifically identify the services, including extended foster care services, where appropriate, that will be provided to assist the child to make a successful transition from foster care to independent living.
(c) The department shall not discharge a child to an independent living situation before the child is eighteen years of age unless the child becomes emancipated pursuant to chapter 13.64
(7) If the child has resided in the home of a foster parent or relative for more than six months prior to the permanency planning hearing, the court shall:
(a) Enter a finding regarding whether the foster parent or relative was informed of the hearing as required in RCW 74.13.280
(6), and 13.34.096
(b) If the department is recommending a placement other than the child's current placement with a foster parent, relative, or other suitable person, enter a finding as to the reasons for the recommendation for a change in placement.
(8) In all cases, at the permanency planning hearing, the court shall:
(a)(i) Order the permanency plan prepared by the department to be implemented; or
(ii) Modify the permanency plan, and order implementation of the modified plan; and
(b)(i) Order the child returned home only if the court finds that a reason for removal as set forth in RCW 13.34.130
no longer exists; or
(ii) Order the child to remain in out-of-home care for a limited specified time period while efforts are made to implement the permanency plan.
(9) Following the first permanency planning hearing, the court shall hold a further permanency planning hearing in accordance with this section at least once every twelve months until a permanency planning goal is achieved or the dependency is dismissed, whichever occurs first.
(10) Prior to the second permanency planning hearing, the agency that has custody of the child shall consider whether to file a petition for termination of parental rights. Prior to the second permanency planning hearing, the department shall also contract with a mental health professional to conduct a bonding and best interest assessment. For purposes of this section, a "bonding and best interest assessment" means an assessment of a child's behavior and interactions with the current placement provider and any proposed placement provider to determine the effect on the child of a change in the child's placement.
(11) If the court orders the child returned home, casework supervision by the department shall continue for at least six months, at which time a review hearing shall be held pursuant to RCW 13.34.138
, and the court shall determine the need for continued intervention.
(12) The juvenile court may hear a petition for permanent legal custody when: (a) The court has ordered implementation of a permanency plan that includes permanent legal custody; and (b) the party pursuing the permanent legal custody is the party identified in the permanency plan as the prospective legal custodian. During the pendency of such proceeding, the court shall conduct review hearings and further permanency planning hearings as provided in this chapter. At the conclusion of the legal guardianship or permanent legal custody proceeding, a juvenile court hearing shall be held for the purpose of determining whether dependency should be dismissed. If a guardianship or permanent custody order has been entered, the dependency shall be dismissed.
(13) Continued juvenile court jurisdiction under this chapter shall not be a barrier to the entry of an order establishing a legal guardianship or permanent legal custody when the requirements of subsection (12) of this section are met.
(14) Nothing in this chapter may be construed to limit the ability of the agency that has custody of the child to file a petition for termination of parental rights or a guardianship petition at any time following the establishment of dependency. Upon the filing of such a petition, a fact-finding hearing shall be scheduled and held in accordance with this chapter unless the department requests dismissal of the petition prior to the hearing or unless the parties enter an agreed order terminating parental rights, establishing guardianship, or otherwise resolving the matter.
(15) The approval of a permanency plan that does not contemplate return of the child to the parent does not relieve the department of its obligation to provide reasonable services, under this chapter, intended to effectuate the return of the child to the parent, including but not limited to, visitation rights. The court shall consider the child's relationships with siblings in accordance with RCW 13.34.130
(16) Nothing in this chapter may be construed to limit the procedural due process rights of any party in a termination or guardianship proceeding filed under this chapter.
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