Enacts Article 5A, Safe Surrender of Infants, to GS Chapter 7B. States the Article's purpose and scope, limiting the scope exclusively to safely surrendered infants, defined to mean an infant reasonably believed to be under seven days of age and without signs of abuse or neglect who is voluntarily delivered to an individual pursuant to new Article 5A by the infant's parent who does not express an intent to return for the infant, as enacted in GS 7B-101. Explicitly excludes from the Article's scope surrendered infants not reasonably believed to be seven days old, infants that show signs of abuse or neglect, when there's reasonable belief that the surrendering individual was not the infant's parent, or when there was reason to believe the parent intended to return for the infant at the time of surrender.
Creates a duty for the following individuals to take temporary custody of an infant reasonably believed to be under seven days of age that is voluntarily delivered to the individual by the infant's parent who does not express an intent to return for the infant: a health care provider on duty or at a hospital or at a local or district health department or a nonprofit community center; a first responder; and a social services worker on duty or at a local department of social services. Does not require a court order. Details duties of the individual taking temporary custody of the surrendered infant, including immediately notifying the department of social services of the county. Allows the individual to inquire about personal information of the parents or the child so long as the individual discloses that the parent is not required to provide the information. Requires the individual to provide the surrendering parent information created by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Division of Social Services (DSS) regarding the surrender of infants and parental rights. Grants full immunity to individuals to whom an infant is surrendered, less conduct that constitutes gross negligence, wanton conduct, or intentional wrongdoing.
Details confidentiality requirements for the surrendering parent's identity. Requires the individual taking an infant into temporary custody to provide any personal information obtained about the infant or the infant's parents and the circumstances of surrender to the director of the department of social services (dss director), which may only be disclosed to local law enforcement to determine if the infant is a missing child, contact with the non-surrendering parent, or as ordered by a court. Identifies authorized disclosure of the information by the dss director, including to a health care provider, placement provider, agencies involved in adoption placement, court, and guardian ad litem. Deems the confidentiality provisions to not apply if dss determines the juvenile is not a safely surrendered infant or is the victim of a crime.
Deems the dss director to have the surrendering parents' rights to legal and physical custody of the infant without obtaining a court order. Authorizes dss to apply ex parte after properly published notice for a district court order finding that the infant has been safely surrendered and confirming dss's custody for purposes of obtaining certified identifying documents of the child or benefits for the minor. Enumerates seven duties of the dss director, including verifying the infant's age and that there are no signs of abuse or neglect (with treatment as a juvenile who has been reported to be an abused, neglected, or dependent juvenile if the infant is found to be over seven days old or has signs of abuse or neglect); notifying law enforcement to investigate whether the infant is a missing child; contacting the non-surrendering parent if known; arrange genetic testing if there is uncertainty and a parent seeks custody; and initiate a termination of parental rights for the surrendering parent after 60 days of surrender if the surrendering parent has not sought custody and the infant has not been placed with the non-surrendering parent. Establishes three criteria for the infant to be placed with the non-surrendering parent. Provides for treating the juvenile as if reported of abuse, neglect or dependency if the known non-surrendering parent is suspected to have created such circumstances; bars the surrendering parent from being party to the dss assessment or a petition filed under GS 7B-302.
Sets extensive requirements for the dss director to publish notice in a qualified newspaper within 14 days from the date of surrender that an infant has been surrendered and taken into dss custody. Requires the notice to be published once a week for three successive weeks. Details content requirements. Requires the publisher to file an affidavit at the preliminary hearing for termination of parental rights for the safely surrendered infant, if commenced.
Provides for the surrendering parent's right to seek custody prior to the filing of a termination of parental rights petition; requires the dss director to treat such a request as a report of neglect and comply with the provisions of GS 7B-302. Specifies a surrendering parent can execute relinquishment of their parental rights for adoption. Provides for immunity under GS 14-322.3 for the surrendering parent. Directs DSS to create information about infant safe surrender and parental rights, which must be posted on its website and available for distribution to agencies where individuals who may receive surrendered infants are on duty, and other agencies upon request. Details required content. Directs DSS to create a printable and downloadable medical history form that is optional for surrendering parents, that includes instructions on completion and return.
Amends GS 7B-101 to exclude safely surrendered infants from the defined term neglected juvenile. Adds non-surrendering parent and surrendering parent to the defined terms.
Enacts GS 7B-1105.1 to establish parameters for a preliminary hearing regarding a safely surrendered infant. Requires a preliminary hearing within 10 days of filing of a petition to terminate parental rights of the surrendering or non-surrendering parent, or during the next term of court if no court is held in that county during that period. Provides for a closed hearing unless the surrendering parent appears and requests for the hearing to be open. Provides for the purpose of the hearing and the court's required inquiries of the dss director. Directs the court to determine whether any diligent efforts are required to identify or locate the surrendering parent, and specifies the required efforts of dss and required service. Provides for service of the non-surrendering parent. Requires the court to order service by publication and specify notice content, meeting enumerated requirements. Requires an affidavit of the publisher to be filed upon completion of the service by publication. Requires the court to issue the order within 30 days of the hearing unless additional time is needed for investigation. Specifies that no summons is required for a parent who is served by publication.
Amends GS 7B-1111 to exclude from the grounds warranting a court to terminate parental rights upon finding the parental rights of the parent has been terminated involuntarily with respect to another child of the parent, instances when the parent's parental rights were terminated as a result of the other child being a safely surrendered infant.
Makes conforming changes to GS 7B-401.1 (regarding when a parent cannot be a party to a abuse, neglect, dependency proceeding); GS 7B-500 (repealing existing law regarding taking temporary custody of a safely surrendered infant); GS 7B-501 (regarding duties for individuals taking a juvenile into temporary custody); GS 7B-1111 (regarding termination of parental rights); GS 14-322.3 (regarding abandonment of an infant); and GS 115C-47, GS 115C-218.75, GS 115C-548, GS 115C-556, and GS 115C-565 (regarding local boards of education, charter schools, and nonpublic schools' duty to ensure certain students annually receive information on lawfully abandoning an infant).
Effective October 1, 2021.
Status: Ref To Com On Rules and Operations of the Senate (Senate action) (Apr 6 2021)
Bill S 535 (2021-2022)Summary date: Apr 5 2021 - More informationCourts/Judiciary, Civil, Civil Law, Juvenile Law, Abuse, Neglect and Dependency, Criminal Justice, Criminal Law and Procedure, Education, Elementary and Secondary Education, Government, Public Safety and Emergency Management, State Agencies, Department of Health and Human Services, Health and Human Services, Health, Health Care Facilities and Providers, Social Services, Child Welfare