Bill Summary for S 625 (2023-2024)

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Summary date: 

Apr 26 2023

Bill Information:

View NCGA Bill Details2023-2024 Session
Senate Bill 625 (Public) Filed Wednesday, April 5, 2023
Intro. by Krawiec, Jarvis, Batch.

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Bill summary

Senate committee substitute to the 2nd edition makes the following changes.

Section 1

Revises the definition of abused juvenile set forth in GS 7B-101, applicable to Subchapter I, Abuse, Neglect, Dependency. Now includes any juvenile less than 18 who is found to be a minor victim of unlawful sale, surrender, or purchase of a minor under GS 14-43.14 (previously, included in the list of offenses that if committed by a parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker of a juvenile under 18, deemed the juvenile an abused juvenile). Changes the statutory violations listed for which a parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker of a juvenile under 18, the commission of which deems the juvenile abused pursuant to the definition of an abused juvenile. Now includes sexually violent offenses as defined in GS 14-208.6(5), applicable to the Sex Offender and Public Protection Registration Programs (replacing individually listed GS Chapter 14 sexual offenses previously listed). Eliminates prosecutor as a defined term. Makes a technical change to the new defined term legal counsel for the department. 

Section 2

Amends GS 7B-302(g) to provide for a person who reports alleged abuse, neglect, or dependency to request for the Department of Health and Human Services to review a county department of social services director's decision regarding any finding of abuse, neglect, or dependency, whether any protective action is being taken, and whether the report was filed as a petition (previously, permitted review by the appropriate prosecutor).

Further amends GS 7B-403, providing that a director's decision not to file a report alleging abuse, neglect, or dependency as a petition must be reviewed by DHHS (was, the prosecutor), if requested pursuant to GS 7B-305.

Section 4

Further amends GS 7B-401.1 to authorize the court to discharge a guardian, custodian, or caretaker as a party to the proceeding, after an adjudication of a juvenile as abused, neglected, or dependent, if the court finds that the person's continuation as a party is not necessary to meet the juvenile's needs and is in the best interest of the juvenile (previously, did not specify that removal is limited to after the adjudication, and provided for the court finding that the person does not have a legal right that can be affected by the action and that their continuation as a party is not necessary to meet the juvenile's needs).

Sections 5

Amends GS 7B-502 to require counties to have a judge or delegated magistrate available at all times with whom the department may request nonsecure custody of a juvenile (was, can file a juvenile petition in order to seek nonsecure custody of a juvenile). 

Section 7 

Amends GS 7B-508, by requiring written orders made pursuant to telephonic communication to include the signature and title of the clerk or magistrate who accepted the petition for filing (was, of the judicial official entering the order).

Section 9

Amends GS 7B-602 by providing that for an unemancipated minor parent, a GS 1A-1, Rule 17, guardian ad litem may be appointed when the parent is incompetent but must not be appointed solely based on the parent being under age 18 (was, only that a parent cannot be found incompetent solely due to the parent being an unemancipated minor).

Amends proposed GS 7B-604 by limiting who is required to undergo the required training to attorneys representing the county department of social services as legal counsel for the department in Subchapter I (Abuse, Neglect, Dependency) proceedings.

Section 11

Amends GS 7B-903.2 to specify that DHHS, as supervising principal of the local county department of social services, must be provided the opportunity to be heard in any hearing (was, heard) on any motion filed under (c). Requires the motion to be heard within five business days of when the motion is served or the next scheduled juvenile court session, whichever is later (was, within five business days of filing). 

Section 12

Amends GS 7B-906.1 to require before an order removing a juvenile can be made that there is a court finding after the completion of the initial disposition or the prior review hearing that one of the specified conditions exits (was, one of the conditions must have occurred but did not require a court finding). Makes a clarifying change. Amends (k) to refer to planning hearings instead of planning review hearings.

Amends GS 7B-906.2 to require, instead of the court being required to hold a hearing to review the change of placement within 10 days of the motion being filed, that the motion request that the hearing be held within 30 days. Also requires at the hearing that the caretaker be given the opportunity to present evidence, cross-examine witnesses, and be represented by an attorney at their own expense, in addition to having the opportunity to address the court. Makes additional clarifying and organizational changes. 

Section 14

Amends GS 48-3-601 by making clarifying changes.

Section 15

Amends GS 112C-142.2 to clarify that the director must contact the appropriate LME/MCO or PHP as soon as practicable, not later than 24 hours of the start of the juvenile's stay (was, no later than 24 hours of the stay) in the hospital to request an assessment. Amends the time within which the LME/MCO or PHP must arrange for the assessment to within 72 (was, 48 hours) following notification from the director. Adds the county department of social services to those entities with whom a Rapid Response Team must develop a plan regarding the steps need to meet a juvenile's treatment needs.

Section 16

Amends GS 108A-74 (concerning requirement for counties and regional social services departments to annually enter into written agreement for all social service programs other than medical assistance and related corrective actions) by adding that a director's failure to comply with the directive of the DHHS made under the statute is contrary to the director's duties and responsibilities and falls outside the scope of the county department's agency relationship with DHHS.

Section 17

Amends GS 48-1-101 by amending the definition of post-adoption contract agreement and order to specify that it is a voluntary mediated agreement (was, voluntary agreement). 

Removes the proposed changes to GS 48-2-102 (transfer, stay, or dismissal of adoption proceedings) and GS 48-2-607 (adoption appeals).

Amends GS 48-2-305 to also require a petitioner for adoption to file, if applicable, a certified copy of any post-adoption contract agreement and order.

Amends GS 48-3-706 to provide that the post-adoption contract agreement and order are void if relinquishment is revoked as provided for in GS 48-3-704 (Content of relinquishment; optional provisions) or GS 48-3-706 (Revocation of relinquishments), or rescinded, set aside, or voided under GS 48-3-707 (Challenges to validity of relinquishments) or GS 7B-909(b1) (concerning circumstances under which that any relinquishment for adoption signed by a parent who has surrendered the child for adoption shall be voided).

Amends GS 48-3-708 as follows. Allows before executing a relinquishment the parent(s) of a minor adoptee who is in the custody of a county department of social services according to an order entered under Subchapter I (Abuse, Neglect, Dependency) and the prospective adoptive parent(s) to voluntarily participate in a court-approved mediation program to reach a voluntarily mediated post-adoption contract agreement. Allows the court with jurisdiction over the proceeding involving the minor under Subchapter I to make the referral to mediation. Provides that jurisdiction and venue (was, venue) for approval (was, approval and enforcement) of such agreement is before the district court with jurisdiction over the proceeding involving the minor under Subchapter I of GS Chapter 7B (was, having jurisdiction under GS Chapter 7B). Removes the provisions: (1) requiring the court to close the hearing; and (2) setting out determinations that the court must make in order to approve the voluntarily mediated agreement.

Amends the required content of the statements that must be included in the voluntarily mediated agreement as follows. Requires the agreement to be signed under oath by the parties or accompanied by an affidavit made under oath that affirmatively states that the agreement was entered into knowingly and voluntarily and is not the product of coercion, fraud, or duress; allows the affidavit to be executed jointly or separately. Requires a statement that the agreement is entered into pursuant to the provisions of GS 48-3-708. Adds that any termination of the agreement does not affect the validity of the relinquishment or the final decree of adoption. Makes additional conforming and clarifying changes.

Prohibits the court from entering an order to approve the post-adoption contact agreement unless the agreement is in writing and executed prior to or as part of the relinquishment. Requires, when the court approves the post-adoption contact agreement, that: (1) the court must enter a post-adoption contact agreement and order and instruct the clerk to treat the order as an initiation of a civil action for custody; (2) the court must designate the caption of the action and the parties to the action and waives the civil filing fee unless the court orders one or more of the parties to the agreement and order to pay the filing fee for a civil action into the office of the clerk of superior court; (3) the order must constitute a custody determination, and any motion to enforce, modify, or terminate the order must be filed in the newly created civil action and is governed by GS 48-3-709, also allows the Administrative Office of the Courts to adopt rules and requires developing and making available appropriate forms for establishing a civil file; (4) the record of the civil action must be withheld from public inspection and may only be examined by the parties to the civil proceeding and their attorneys, the minor, or by order of the court. Automatically terminates a post-adoption contact agreement and order on the date the child turns 18 or is otherwise emancipated. 

Makes organizational changes by moving portions of GS 48-3-708 into GS 48-3-709 and makes the following changes to GS 48-3-709. Allows a party to a court-approved post-adoption contract agreement and order to seek to modify, enforce, or terminate the agreement by filing a motion in the civil action created under GS 48-3-708(h). Makes conforming changes to allow for termination. Adds that there is no right to appeal an order entered under the statute. Makes additional conforming changes.

Deletes the proposed changes to GS 48-9-102 (records confidential and sealed), GS 7B-401.1 (concerning when a juvenile's parents are parties), and GS 7B-908 (post termination of parental rights' placement court review).

Section 17 is effective July 1, 2024.

Section 18

Amends proposed GS 7B-325 by no longer specifying that the filing of petition for expungement of an individual's name from the responsible individuals list is notwithstanding any time limitations contained in the statute or in GS 7B-324. At the hearing on the petition for expungement, places the burden on the petitioner and requires all findings of fact to be based on clear and convincing evidence. Specifies that the rules of evidence applicable in civil cases apply, but allows the court to permit the admission of any reliable and relevant evidence if the general purposes of the rules of evidence and the interests of justice will best be served by its admission (was, court may consider any evidence, including hearsay evidence or testimony or evidence from any person that is not a party that the court finds to be relevant, reliable, and necessary). Allows a party to appeal the court's decision.

Section 18 is effective July 1, 2024.

Section 19

Amends GS 7B-305 to require a person making a report of abuse or neglect to have five working days to notify the complaint line at DHHS (was, notify the prosecutor) that the person is requesting review. Makes conforming changes by assigning related responsibilities to DHHS instead of the prosecutor. 

Amends GS 7B-306 by requiring DHHS, instead of the prosecutor, to review the determination that a petition should not be filed within 20 days after receiving a request for review (was, 20 days after the person making the report is notified). Amends the action that can be taken after review to include directing the director to take a specific action to provide protective services.

Makes conforming changes to GS 7B-308.

Section 20

Amends GS 50-13.10 to provide that a child support payment is not past due and no arrearages accrues for foster care assistance owed to the State during any period when the child is placed in custody of a department of social services (was, when the child is placed in foster care).

Amends proposed GS 110-135.1 to refer to when the child has been placed in the custody of a department of social services instead of when the child has been placed in foster care.

Section 21

Amends Section 9A of SL 2015-245, as amended, as follows. Directs DHHS to seek approval from CMS through either the 1115 waiver or another federal authority to allow a parent or caretaker relative to retain Medicaid eligibility when (1) the department of social services has been granted custody of a child formerly in the care of a parent or caretaker relative (was, when a parent or caretaker has lost custody of a child) pursuant to Subchapter I of GS Chapter 7B or comparable federally recognized tribal code (was, Chapter 7B only), (2) the child is being served temporarily by the foster care system, regardless of the type of out-of-home placement, and (3) a court has not found any of the following: (a) that aggravated circumstances exist in accordance with GS 7B-901(c) or comparable federally recognized tribal code (tribal code not previously included), (b) that a plan of reunification would be unsuccessful nor inconsistent with the child's health or safety in accordance with GS 7B-906.1(d) or comparable federally recognized tribal code (tribal code not previously included) or (c) that custody or guardianship with the caretaker relative is an inappropriate permanent plan for the juvenile under GS 7B-906.2(a)(3) or (a)(4) or comparable federally recognized tribal code (new provision).

Makes conforming changes to GS 108A-54.3A. 

Amends Section 9D.14 of SL 2021-180 (which amended Section 9A of SL 2015-245 and GS 108A-54.3A) to set the section to expire if approval is not granted by CMS within 90 days of enactment of a joint resolution adjourning the 2023 Regular Session of the General Assembly sine die (was, if approval is not granted before June 30, 2023).

Section 22

Makes conforming changes to the act's effective date provision.