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The 192nd General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Section 6A: Foster care review unit; director

Section 6A. The commissioner shall appoint a foster care review director who shall establish an independent foster care review unit within the department. The director shall appoint, subject to the approval of the commissioner, the members of the unit who shall be employees of the department, shall devote their full time exclusively to case reviews and shall convene and conduct administrative case reviews of the status of each child in the care of the department and young adults who remain under the responsibility of the department pursuant to subsection (f) of section 23 of chapter 119, at least once every 6 months. The reviews shall be performed by panels consisting of 1 member of the unit and 2 other persons, at least 1 of whom shall not be an employee of the department and represent to the maximum extent feasible the various socioeconomic, racial and ethnic groups served by the panel. No panel member shall be the social worker with direct case responsibility for the child or young adult whose case is being reviewed or the immediate supervisor of the social worker. Such reviews shall be held at convenient locations throughout the commonwealth and shall be chaired by the member of the panel from the unit. Panel members shall have sufficient experience or training to enable them to make recommendations.

The purpose of the case review shall be to determine: (a) the necessity and appropriateness of the child's continued placement; (b) the extent of the parties' compliance with a written plan which has been developed between the department or its agent, the child's parents, and the child, where appropriate, and which states actions which must be undertaken within specified time limits by all parties to achieve identified service goals; (c) the extent of progress which has been made toward alleviating or mitigating the causes necessitating the child's placement; and (d) a projected date by which the child may likely be returned to his parents or guardian, or placed for adoption, or have a guardian appointed other than the department or its agent, or live permanently with kin or another permanent planned living arrangement.

The department shall promulgate regulations for the conduct of case reviews. The regulations shall include, but not be limited to, standards for the conduct of the reviews; for the initial and ongoing training of the members of the unit and of the panels; for the participation by the social worker with direct case responsibility for the child, the child's parents, the child, where appropriate, and such other persons whose participation may be helpful; for adequate notice to all participants of the time and place of the review; for a written report of the panel's determinations and recommendations; for an appeal to the commissioner of social services, or his designee, by the social worker, the parents, or the child aggrieved by the panel's determinations and recommendations. The decision by said commissioner or his designee shall be final.

Administrative case reviews shall not be subject to chapter 30A; provided, however, that nothing in this section shall prevent the exercise of any right of review a party may have pursuant to any other provisions of law.

The director of the unit shall submit an annual report to the governor, the child advocate and the joint committee on children, families and persons with disabilities on the performance of the unit. The report shall contain: an analysis and evaluation of the foster care review system and recommendations, if any, for its improvement; the total number of children in the care of the department or its agents during the previous fiscal year; the number of children who were in its care for more than 6 months; the number of reviews conducted; the number of children returned to their parents or guardian; the number of children for whom guardians, other than the department or its agent, were appointed; the number of children released for adoption; and the number of children adopted.