BILL REQ. #: S-4039.1
|State of Washington||61st Legislature||2010 Regular Session|
Read first time 01/22/10. Referred to Committee on Human Services & Corrections.
AN ACT Relating to child welfare; amending RCW 13.34.060, 13.34.105, and 74.14B.030; reenacting and amending RCW 13.34.130; adding new sections to chapter 13.34 RCW; and creating a new section.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF WASHINGTON:
NEW SECTION. Sec. 1 The legislature finds that in 2008, the
office of the family and children's ombudsman, at the request of the
secretary of the department of social and health services, conducted an
investigation of several division of children and family services
offices. Through its investigation, the ombudsman determined that
parents were not regularly informed about certain aspects regarding the
placement of their children in out of home care, guardians ad litem and
court-appointed special advocates overstepped some of their duties,
children were removed from relative caregiver homes without prior
notice or explanation, and child protection teams were not always used
as they were intended. The legislature further finds that these
concerns exist in multiple places in the system and require legislative
involvement to correct.
Sec. 2 RCW 13.34.060 and 2007 c 413 s 3 are each amended to read
(1) A child taken into custody pursuant to RCW 13.34.050 or 26.44.050 shall be immediately placed in shelter care. A child taken by a relative of the child in violation of RCW 9A.40.060 or 9A.40.070 shall be placed in shelter care only when permitted under RCW 13.34.055. No child may be held longer than seventy-two hours, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, after such child is taken into custody unless a court order has been entered for continued shelter care. In no case may a child who is taken into custody pursuant to RCW 13.34.055, 13.34.050, or 26.44.050 be detained in a secure detention facility.
(2) Unless there is reasonable cause to believe that the health, safety, or welfare of the child would be jeopardized or that the efforts to reunite the parent and child will be hindered, priority placement for a child in shelter care, pending a court hearing, shall be with any person described in RCW 74.15.020(2)(a) or 13.34.130(1)(b). The department or supervising agency shall inform the parent, both verbally and in writing, what relatives the agency has considered for placement and the outcome of that consideration. If the agency does not recommend placement with a relative, then it must inform the relative, in writing, why it is not recommending that the child be placed with that relative. The person must be willing and available to care for the child and be able to meet any special needs of the child and the court must find that such placement is in the best interests of the child. The person must be willing to facilitate the child's visitation with siblings, if such visitation is part of the supervising agency's plan or is ordered by the court. If a child is not initially placed with a relative or other suitable person requested by the parent pursuant to this section, the department or supervising agency shall make an effort within available resources to place the child with a relative or other suitable person requested by the parent on the next business day after the child is taken into custody. The supervising agency shall document its effort to place the child with a relative or other suitable person requested by the parent pursuant to this section. Nothing within this subsection (2) establishes an entitlement to services or a right to a particular placement.
(3) Whenever a child is taken into custody pursuant to this section, the supervising agency may authorize evaluations of the child's physical or emotional condition, routine medical and dental examination and care, and all necessary emergency care.
Sec. 3 RCW 13.34.130 and 2009 c 520 s 27, 2009 c 491 s 2, and
2009 c 397 s 3 are each reenacted and amended to read as follows:
If, after a fact-finding hearing pursuant to RCW 13.34.110, it has been proven by a preponderance of the evidence that the child is dependent within the meaning of RCW 13.34.030 after consideration of the social study 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 determining the disposition, the court should choose services to assist the parents in maintaining the child in the home, including housing assistance, if appropriate, that least interfere with family autonomy and are adequate to protect the child.
(b) Order the child to be removed from his or her home and into the custody, control, and care of a relative or other suitable person, the department, or a supervising agency for supervision of the child's placement. The department or supervising agency has the authority to place the child, subject to review and approval by the court (i) with a relative as defined in RCW 74.15.020(2)(a), (ii) in the home of another suitable person if the child or family has a preexisting relationship with that person, and the person has completed all required criminal history background checks and otherwise appears to the department or supervising agency to be suitable and competent to provide care for the child, or (iii) in a foster family home or group care facility licensed pursuant to chapter 74.15 RCW. Absent good cause, the department or supervising agency shall follow the wishes of the natural parent regarding the placement of the child in accordance with RCW 13.34.260. The department or supervising agency may only place a child with a person not related to the child as defined in RCW 74.15.020(2)(a) when the court finds that such placement is in the best interest of the child. Unless there is reasonable cause to believe that the health, safety, or welfare of the child would be jeopardized or that efforts to reunite the parent and child will be hindered, the child shall be placed with a person who is: (A) Related to the child as defined in RCW 74.15.020(2)(a) with whom the child has a relationship and is comfortable; or (B) a suitable person as described in this subsection (1)(b); and (C) willing, appropriate, and available to care for the child. The court shall consider the child's existing relationships and attachments when determining placement.
(2) The department or supervising agency shall inform the parent, both verbally and in writing, what relatives the agency has considered for placement and the outcome of that consideration. If the agency does not recommend placement with a relative, then it must inform the relative, in writing, why it is not recommending that the child be placed with that relative.
(3) Placement of the child with a relative or other suitable person as described in subsection (1)(b) of this section shall be given preference by the court. 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, including housing assistance, that have been provided to the child and the child's parent, guardian, or legal custodian, and that preventive services have been offered or provided and have failed to prevent the need for out-of-home placement, unless the health, safety, and welfare of the child cannot be protected adequately in the home, and that:
(a) There is no parent or guardian available to care for such child;
(b) The parent, guardian, or legal custodian is not willing to take custody of the child; or
(c) The court finds, by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence, 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.
(3))) (4) If the court has ordered a child removed from his or
her home pursuant to subsection (1)(b) of this section, the court shall
consider whether it is in a child's best interest to be placed with,
have contact with, or have visits with siblings.
(a) There shall be a presumption that such placement, contact, or visits are in the best interests of the child provided that:
(i) The court has jurisdiction over all siblings subject to the order of placement, contact, or visitation pursuant to petitions filed under this chapter or the parents of a child for whom there is no jurisdiction are willing to agree; and
(ii) There is no reasonable cause to believe that the health, safety, or welfare of any child subject to the order of placement, contact, or visitation would be jeopardized or that efforts to reunite the parent and child would be hindered by such placement, contact, or visitation. In no event shall parental visitation time be reduced in order to provide sibling visitation.
(b) The court may also order placement, contact, or visitation of a child with a step-brother or step-sister provided that in addition to the factors in (a) of this subsection, the child has a relationship and is comfortable with the step-sibling.
(4))) (5) If the court has ordered a child removed from his or
her home pursuant to subsection (1)(b) of this section and placed into
nonparental or nonrelative care, the court shall order a placement that
allows the child to remain in the same school he or she attended prior
to the initiation of the dependency proceeding when such a placement is
practical and in the child's best interest.
(5))) (6) If the court has ordered a child removed from his or
her home pursuant to subsection (1)(b) of this section, the court may
order that a petition seeking termination of the parent and child
relationship be filed if the requirements of RCW 13.34.132 are met.
(6))) (7) 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 or other suitable
person, the child shall remain in foster care and the court shall
direct the department or 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 or other person 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 or other
suitable persons, pursuant to this section, shall be contingent upon
cooperation by the relative or other suitable person 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, sibling 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 or other suitable person's home, subject to review by the
NEW SECTION. Sec. 4 A new section is added to chapter 13.34 RCW
to read as follows:
(1) The department or supervising agency shall provide a care provider currently caring for a dependent child with a minimum of five days' written notice of the department's or supervising agency's intent to remove a child from the home of the care provider unless there is an imminent risk of harm to the child if the removal does not occur before the five-day period. The notice must include a clear explanation of the reasons for the agency's decision to remove the child.
(2) In the event a care provider is the subject of a child abuse or neglect referral, the department shall meet with the provider in person to explain the nature of the allegations and give the care provider a reasonable opportunity to respond to the allegations.
(3) Neither the department nor a supervising agency may remove a child from a relative care provider unless the department has made a finding that the relative has abused or neglected the child, clearly violated a court order or the child is at imminent risk of harm if the removal does not occur.
(4) For purposes of this section, "care provider" means a relative described in RCW 74.15.020(2)(a) or has the same meaning as "foster-family home" as defined in RCW 74.15.020(1)(e).
NEW SECTION. Sec. 5 A new section is added to chapter 13.34 RCW
to read as follows:
(1) Any relative, as described in RCW 74.15.020(2)(a), who has provided care for a dependent child for more than six months may seek review of the department's or supervising agency's decision to remove that child from the relative's care.
(2) Within twenty days of receiving the written notice required in RCW 13.34.130(1), the relative may request that the department review the removal decision. The request must be made in writing.
(3) Upon receipt of the written request for review, the department shall review, and if appropriate, may alter the removal decision. Management level staff within the children's administration designated by the secretary are responsible for the review. The review must be conducted in accordance with procedures the department establishes by rule. Upon completion of the review, the department shall notify the relative in writing of the agency's determination. The notification must be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the relative's last known address. There may be no further review of the department's decision.
(4) The reviews conducted under this section are confidential and are not open to the public. Information about reports, reviews, and hearings may be disclosed only in accordance with federal and state laws pertaining to child welfare records.
Sec. 6 RCW 13.34.105 and 2008 c 267 s 13 are each amended to read
(1) Unless otherwise directed by the court, the duties of the guardian ad litem for a child subject to a proceeding under this chapter, including an attorney specifically appointed by the court to serve as a guardian ad litem, include but are not limited to the following:
(a) To investigate, collect relevant information about the child's situation, and report to the court factual information regarding the best interests of the child;
(b) To meet with, interview, or observe the child, depending on the child's age and developmental status, and report to the court any views or positions expressed by the child on issues pending before the court;
(c) To monitor all court orders for compliance and to bring to the court's attention any change in circumstances that may require a modification of the court's order;
(d) To report to the court information on the legal status of a child's membership in any Indian tribe or band;
(e) Court-appointed special advocates and guardians ad litem may make recommendations based upon an independent investigation regarding the best interests of the child, which the court may consider and weigh in conjunction with the recommendations of all of the parties; and
(f) To represent and be an advocate for the best interests of the child.
(2) The duties of the guardian ad litem may not include conducting investigations into child abuse or neglect allegations related to their clients that run parallel to the department's abuse or neglect investigations.
(3) A guardian ad litem shall be deemed an officer of the court for the purpose of immunity from civil liability.
(3))) (4) Except for information or records specified in RCW
13.50.100(7), the guardian ad litem shall have access to all
information available to the state or agency on the case. Upon
presentation of the order of appointment by the guardian ad litem, any
agency, hospital, school organization, division or department of the
state, doctor, nurse, or other health care provider, psychologist,
psychiatrist, police department, or mental health clinic shall permit
the guardian ad litem to inspect and copy any records relating to the
child or children involved in the case, without the consent of the
parent or guardian of the child, or of the child if the child is under
the age of thirteen years, unless such access is otherwise specifically
prohibited by law.
(4))) (5) A guardian ad litem may release confidential
information, records, and reports to the office of the family and
children's ombudsman for the purposes of carrying out its duties under
chapter 43.06A RCW.
(5))) (6) The guardian ad litem shall release case information in
accordance with the provisions of RCW 13.50.100.
Sec. 7 RCW 74.14B.030 and 1987 c 503 s 12 are each amended to
read as follows:
(1) The department shall establish and maintain one or more ((
multidisciplinary)) culturally diverse and responsive child
protection teams in each (( state)) administrative region of the
(( division of children and family services)) children's administration
in the department.
(2) The child protection team shall consist of at least four persons, selected by the department, from professions which provide services to abused and neglected children and/or the parents of such children. ((
The teams shall be available for consultation on all cases
where a risk exists of serious harm to the child and where there is
dispute over whether out-of-home placement is appropriate.))
Participants may include, but are not limited to, law enforcement
officers, physicians, mental health and substance abuse treatment
professionals, or other mandated child abuse or neglect reporters. In
addition, the department shall invite treatment providers, other
professionals who play a significant role with the family, individuals
with responsibility identified in the child's safety plan, the family,
if appropriate, the foster parent or other care providers, and the
child if over age twelve.
(3) The department shall use the child protection teams as follows:
(a) In all child protection cases in which the risk assessment results in a "moderately high" or "high" risk classification, and the child is age six years or younger;
(b) In all child protection cases where serious professional disagreement, including disagreement by the foster parents or relative caregiver, exists about a risk of death or serious injury;
(c) In all child protection cases that are opened on the basis of "imminent harm";
(d) In all cases prior to return home or dismissal of a dependency, when the child is aged six or younger and any risk assessment has resulted in a risk level of moderately high or high risk;
(e) In all complex child protection cases where such consultation will help improve outcomes for children; and
(f) In any other case in which the department determines the assistance of the child protection team will be useful.
(4) The department shall establish, maintain, and staff the child protection teams sufficiently to review the cases listed in subsection (3) of this section as soon as feasible and shall continue to develop a broad array of team members who will work with the department to make the best decisions possible.
(5) The department shall develop and implement uniform written procedures for establishing, convening, and managing the child protection teams. The procedures must include a process for both department staff and community professionals to refer a case to the child protection team.
(6) The department shall provide child protection team members with source documentation from service providers on cases subject to consultation and provide a legal basis for withholding the information if it is not being shared with the team.