HOUSE DOCKET, NO. 936        FILED ON: 1/18/2017

HOUSE  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  No. 783

 

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts

_________________

PRESENTED BY:

Tricia Farley-Bouvier

_________________

To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in General
Court assembled:

The undersigned legislators and/or citizens respectfully petition for the adoption of the accompanying bill:

An Act to improve permanency and placement stability.

_______________

PETITION OF:

 

Name:

District/Address:

Tricia Farley-Bouvier

3rd Berkshire

José F. Tosado

9th Hampden

Michael J. Barrett

Third Middlesex

Kay Khan

11th Middlesex

Chris Walsh

6th Middlesex

John J. Lawn, Jr.

10th Middlesex

Brian M. Ashe

2nd Hampden

Michelle M. DuBois

10th Plymouth

Louis L. Kafka

8th Norfolk

Gailanne M. Cariddi

1st Berkshire

Marjorie C. Decker

25th Middlesex


HOUSE DOCKET, NO. 936        FILED ON: 1/18/2017

HOUSE  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  No. 783

By Ms. Farley-Bouvier of Pittsfield, a petition (accompanied by bill, House, No. 783) of Tricia Farley-Bouvier and others for legislation to improve permanency and placement stability for children.  The Judiciary.

 

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts

 

_______________

In the One Hundred and Ninetieth General Court
(2017-2018)

_______________

 

An Act to improve permanency and placement stability.

 

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:
 

SECTION 1. Paragraph (7) of subsection (a) of section 23 of chapter 119 of the General Laws, as so appearing, is hereby amended by inserting after clause (i) the following subsection:-

(j) Each child, age 7 or older, shall be given a meaningful opportunity to participate in the development of the case plan and to state the child’s preference(s) for initial and any subsequent placement or custody. The department shall ask any child, age 7 or older, to provide the names of any kin or other adults with whom the child has a relationship. Further, the department shall ask any child, age 7 or older, in private, to state the child’s preference(s) for initial and any subsequent placement or custody.

Each parent shall also be asked to provide the name of kin or other adult with whom the child or the family has a relationship who could serve as a potential placement for the child. Each parent shall also be given a meaningful opportunity to participate in the development of the case plan and to state the parent’s preference(s) for initial and any subsequent placement or custody of the child.

If the department has, or is seeking, custody of a child, the department shall first investigate the possibility of placing the child in accordance with the placement preferences of the child and/or parent(s). The department shall complete that investigation before placing the child and make placement changes as appropriate based on the outcome of that investigation. Specific reasons for placement decisions must be documented in writing in the case file, including the reasons for rejecting placements identified by the child and/or parent(s).

SECTION 2. Section 29C of said chapter 119, is hereby amended by striking the section in its entirety and inserting in place thereof the following:-

If a court of competent jurisdiction commits, grants custody or transfers responsibility for a child to the department or its agent, the court shall certify that the continuation of the child in his home is contrary to his best interests and shall determine whether the department or its agent, as appropriate, has made reasonable efforts prior to the placement of a child with the department to prevent or eliminate the need for removal from the home; this shall include both the ex parte removal hearing and the temporary orders hearing under section 24, the pre-trial conference, and permanency hearings under section 29B.  In addition, parents shall be authorized to file motions for re-determination of reasonable efforts in the same manner as other motions filed pursuant to section 21.

If a child has been placed voluntarily with the department by the parent under clause (1) of subsection (a) of section 23 and the parent consents to continued placement under a petition filed under said clause (1) or clause (2) of said subsection (a) of said section 23, the court shall determine at an initial hearing only whether continued placement is in the child's best interests. Except as provided herein, if a court has previously committed, granted custody or transferred responsibility for a child to the department or its agent, the court shall determine not less frequently than annually whether the department or its agent has made reasonable efforts to make it possible for the child to return safely to his parent or guardian. In making any determination, the health and safety of the child shall be of paramount concern.

If a young adult continues under the responsibility of the department pursuant to subsection (f) of section 23, the committing court shall continue to annually determine whether the department or the department's agent has made reasonable efforts to achieve the permanent plan approved by the court under section 29B.

Reasonable efforts by the department prior to removal of a child from the home or to return the child to a parent or guardian shall not be required if the court finds that: (i) the child has been abandoned as defined in section 3 of chapter 210; (ii) the parent's consent to adoption of a sibling of the child was dispensed with under section 26 or under said section 3 of said chapter 210, or the parent's rights were involuntarily terminated in a case involving a sibling of the child; (iii) the parent has been convicted of 1 of the following crimes by a court of competent jurisdiction: (a) murder or voluntary manslaughter of another child of the parent or aiding, abetting, attempting, conspiring or soliciting to commit such a murder or voluntary manslaughter; or (b) an assault constituting a felony which resulted in serious bodily injury to the child or another child of the parent; or (iv) a parent has subjected the child to aggravated circumstances consisting of murder of another parent of the child in the presence of the child or by subjecting the child or other children in the home to sexual abuse or exploitation or severe or repetitive conduct of a physically or emotionally abusive nature. For the purposes of this section, conduct of an “emotionally abusive nature” shall mean any conduct causing an impairment to or disorder of the intellectual or psychological capacity of a child as evidenced by observable and substantial reduction in the child's ability to function within a normal range of performance and behavior.

If a court has determined at a permanency hearing convened under section 29B, that reasonable efforts to safely return the child to his parent or guardian are inconsistent with the permanency plan for the child or if a court has determined that reasonable efforts are not required as set forth herein, the court shall determine at least annually thereafter whether the department has made reasonable efforts to place the child in a timely manner in accordance with the permanency plan determined and reviewed under section 29B. In addition, parents shall be authorized to file motions for re-determination of reasonable efforts in the same manner as other motions filed pursuant to section 21.

The court shall make the certification and determinations required under this section in written form, which shall include the basis for the certification and determinations. A determination by the court that reasonable efforts were not made shall not preclude the court from making any appropriate order conducive to the child's best interest.

SECTION 3. Said Chapter 119 is hereby amended by added at the end thereof the following new section:-

Section 86. (a) There shall be a review by a regional clinical review team when a child or young adult experiences more than 2 placements in a single foster care episode. Said review shall include, but not be limited to, the physical, mental, and emotional effects experienced by that child or young adult as a result of frequent placements and additional services to mitigate these effects.

(b) In accordance with federal Child and Family Service Reviews, a single foster care episode shall begin on the date when a child is removed from the home and shall end when the child is no longer under the care and custody of the commonwealth. The count of placement settings shall not include temporary stays in hospitals, camps, respite care, or institutional placements.

SECTION 4. Section 3 of chapter 210 of the General Laws, as so appearing, is hereby amended by adding the following subsection:-

(e) For the purposes of this subsection, the term “child” shall include a young adult as defined in section 21 of chapter 119. If at least 2 years have passed since the court entered an order terminating parental rights pursuant to this chapter or chapter 119, a child whose parents were the subject of that order may file a motion requesting that the court reinstate parental rights with respect to 1 or both of the child’s former parents, but only if all of the following apply:

(i) the child is at least 12 years of age;

(ii) the court has determined after a hearing held pursuant to section 29B of chapter 119 that adoption is no longer the permanency plan for the child; and

(iii) either the child has not been adopted or, if the child has been adopted, a court has entered an order terminating the parental rights of the child’s adoptive parents or the adoptive parents have voluntarily surrendered their parental rights.

The child shall sign the motion in absence of a showing of good cause as to why the child is unable to sign the motion. The court shall order that an evidentiary hearing be held and provide notice, in the manner prescribed for a petition filed pursuant to section 24 of chapter 119, of the hearing to the child’s former parents. Neither parent shall be considered a party for the purpose of the motion, nor shall either have an independent right to be heard, though a parent’s testimony may be offered into evidence if the parent is called as a witness by a party. The court shall grant the motion if it determines by a preponderance of the evidence that vacating the order terminating parental rights is in the child’s best interests. The court shall specify in writing the factual basis for its determination. As soon as practicable after granting the motion, the court shall enter an order pursuant to subsection (b) of section 26 of chapter 119, provided that the order is in the best interests of the child.