AN ACT TO AMEND VARIOUS ABUSE, NEGLECT, AND DEPENDENCY LAWS TO ENSURE THE SAFETY OF CHILDREN IN OUT-OF-HOME PLACEMENTS AND EXPEDITE PERMANENCY PLANNING HEARINGS FOR CHILDREN WHO HAVE BEEN REMOVED FROM THE HOME; TO CLARIFY THE NON-CARETAKER DEFINITION FOR THE RESPONSIBLE INDIVIDUALS LIST; TO INCREASE THE NUMBER OF EMERGENCY JUDGES TO ADDRESS THE CHILD WELFARE CASE BACKLOG; TO HIRE REGIONAL ABUSE AND MEDICAL SPECIALISTS TO IMPROVE THE CHILD WELFARE SYSTEM; AND TO REQUIRE THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, DIVISION OF SOCIAL SERVICES, TO DEVELOP A PLAN TO IMPLEMENT A CENTRALIZED HOTLINE FOR CHILD WELFARE INTAKE.
Amends the definition of terms as they are used in Subchapter I, Abuse, Neglect, Dependency, of GS Chapter 7B as follows: (1) expands upon the definition of neglected juvenile to include any juvenile whose parent, guardian, custodian or caretaker has not provided for or arranged for necessary medical or remedial care (was, provision only), creates or allows to be created an environment that is injurious to the juvenile's welfare (was, allows or lives in such an environment), or has participated or attempted to participate in the unlawful transfer of custody of the juvenile (was, unlawful transfer without specificity as to participation); and (2) defines relative as an individual directly related to the juvenile by blood, marriage, or adoption, including, but not limited to, a parent, grandparent, sibling, aunt, or uncle. Makes technical changes. Makes a conforming change to the statutory cross-reference in GS 7B-1001 to the definition of reunification.
Enacts GS 7B-302(a3) to authorize legislators and NCGA joint oversight committees to request access to confidential information and records maintained pursuant to Article 3 (governing the screening of abuse and neglect complaints) by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) or county department of social services (dss). Restricts requests to purposes of overseeing programs related to child protective services. Provides for coordination between DHHS and dss in fulfilling a request made to either DHHS or a dss director. Deems the confidential information and records shared the minimum necessary to satisfy the request. Prohibits legislators from retaining, receiving copies of, or taking photos or electronic images of any information or records reviewed. Requires shared information and records to be withheld from public inspection and maintained in a confidential manner. Bars sharing or disclosing the following in response to a request: the identity of the reporter, and the juvenile court records of Article 29, Records and Social Reports of Cases of Abuse, Neglect, and Dependency. Deems violation of the new subsection a Class 1 misdemeanor.
Adds to GS 7B-505 to require dss to use due diligence to identify and notify adult relatives and other persons with legal custody of a sibling of the juvenile within 30 days of the initial order removing custody of the juvenile after finding reasonable basis that the charges in an abuse, neglect or dependency petition are true and criteria of subsection (a) are met. Requires dss to file with the court information regarding such attempts made.
Enacts GS 7B-903(a4), authorizing the court to consider placement of a juvenile following disposition with nonrelative kin or other persons and order placement if the court finds it in the best interest of the juvenile. Allows the court to order dss to notify the juvenile's State-recognized tribe of the need for nonsecure custody for the purposes of locating relatives or nonrelative kin for placement.
Expands the parameters and requirements of GS 7B-903.1 to permit dss to recommend unsupervised visits with or return of physical custody of the juvenile to the parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker from whose home the juvenile was removed and placed in the custody or placement responsibility of dss (was, limited to recommendations for the return of physical custody). Makes the existing observation visit requirements applicable to recommendation for unsupervised visits, and adds to the requirements applicable to both types of recommendations, that the observation visits must occur within 30 days of the hearing at which dss makes the recommendation. Makes conforming changes.
Enacts GS 7B-905.1(b1), providing that a parent's positive result from a drug screen alone is insufficient to deny the parent court-ordered visitation with the juvenile. Directs dss to file a motion within 30 days of a parent's positive result from a drug screen for unsupervised visitation for review of the visitation plan to ensure the child's safety. Authorizes cancellation of visitation if, at the time that visitation between the parent and the juvenile occurs, a parent is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and exhibits behavior that may create an unsafe environment for a child, or the parent appears to be actively impaired.
Revises GS 7B-906.1 as follows. Requires the court to conduct a review or permanency planning hearing within 90 days of the initial disposition hearing, and every six months thereafter, with hearings designated as a review hearing if custody has not been removed from a parent, guardian, caretaker or custodian, or a permanency planning hearing if custody has been removed (previously, provided for permanency planning hearings within six months of the initial order removing custody and every six months thereafter). Adds a new requirement for the court to provide any person providing care for the juvenile the opportunity to address the court regarding the juvenile's well being. Requires the court's written findings at each hearing to include services offered to prevent removal of the juvenile from either parent, and reports on the juvenile's continuation in the home of the parent, guardian, or custodian, the appropriateness of such continuation, and the goals of the family services plan. No longer includes findings regarding when and if termination of parental rights should be considered. Directs the court to schedule a permanency planning hearing within 30 days of a review hearing in which the juvenile is removed from the custody of a parent, guardian or custodian. Establishes three written findings the court must make at any review hearing to order removal of the juvenile, including that the juvenile has experienced substantial risk of experiencing physical or emotional harm as a result of at least one specified factor (which overlap with criteria for nonsecure custody under GS 7B-503(a)), the juvenile has experienced substantial risk of experiencing physical or emotional harm as a result of at least one specified factor has occurred since the initial disposition hearing (which overlap with criteria which make reunification efforts following the initial dispositional hearing not required under GS 7B-901(c)), and the parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker consents to the order of removal. Describes the purpose of review hearings. Requires the parent, guardian, or custodian to complete court-ordered services within 12 months from the date of the filing of the petition, demonstrate precipitating circumstances of DHHS involvement with the family have resolved to the satisfaction of the court, and provide a safe home for the juvenile. Directs the court to terminate jurisdiction upon completion of court-ordered services and the juvenile residing in a safe home, absent extraordinary circumstances. Requires consideration and written findings regarding when and if termination of parental rights should be considered at permanency planning hearings where the juvenile is not placed with the parent. Relieves the court of its duty to conduct period reviews of placement at any time a juvenile that has been removed from a parent and legal custody has been awarded to either parent (was, upon placement with the parent). Bars a court from waiving or refusing to conduct a review hearing or a permanency planning hearing if a party files a motion seeking the hearing. Makes clarifying changes to subsection (n) regarding the court's authority to waive hearings, require written reports of the agency or person holding custody, or order less-often hearings, making provisions clearly applicable to permanency planning hearings, as specified.
Adds to the training requirements for foster parent licensure under GS 131D-10.6A, a module that is created and made available by DHHS that explains the roles and obligations of foster parents in judicial proceedings conducted under Subchapter I of GS Chapter 7B.
Repeals GS 7B-905(b), which requires dispositional orders removing custody of the juvenile from the parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker to direct a review hearing to be held within 90 days of the dispositional hearing.
Amends GS 7B-906.2 to allow the court to not include reunification as a primary or secondary plan of the adopted concurrent plans if the court has made written findings under GS 7B-901(c) or GS 7B-906.1(d)(3) (previously, did not specify findings must be written).
Applies to actions filed or pending on or after October 1, 2021.
Enacts GS 7B-320(a1) to require a dss director to cooperate with law enforcement and the district attorney to determine the safest way possible to provide notification to the identified responsible individual if the director determines that the juvenile is the victim of human trafficking by an individual other than the juvenile's parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker. Requires documentation of the basis for not providing this notification. Bars notification or proceeding further under Article 3A (Judicial Review; Responsible Individuals List) if the notification is likely to cause mental or physical harm or danger to the juvenile, undermine an ongoing or future criminal investigation, or jeopardize the State's ability to prosecute the identified responsible individual. Effective October 1, 2021.
Increases the number of emergency district court judges on the active list described in GS 7A-52 from 25 to 30.
Directs the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to assign the maximum amount of emergency judges of the district court to hear cases in judicial districts that have a backlog of juvenile cases regarding abuse, neglect, and dependency matters and termination of parental rights hearings. Requires consultation with the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), the NC Association of District Court Judges, and the Chief District Court Judge of each judicial district. Directs assignment in order of necessity as determined by the Chief Justice.
Appropriates $250,000 in recurring funds from the General Fund to DHHS, Division of Social Services (DSS) for 2021-23 to create seven full-time equivalent regional abuse and medical specialists. Details the responsibilities and focus of these positions. Requires collaboration for hiring, training, and oversight of the positions with the NC Child Medical Evaluation Program in UNC School of Medicine. Directs DSS to report to the specified NCGA committee and committee chairs by June 30, 2022, and annually for three successive years. Effective July 1, 2021.
Directs DHHS to develop an operational plan to create and implement a statewide child protective services (CPS) hotline. Provides for creation and membership of a planning and evaluation team. Identifies seven required components of the plan, including a fiscal analysis and implementation time line. Directs DHHS to submit the operation plan to the specified NCGA committee by September 1, 2022.
Makes the act effective on the date the act becomes law unless otherwise provided.
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