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 NONCARETAKER DEFINITION FOR THE RESPONSIBLE INDIVIDUALS LIST; 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; TO DEVELOP A PLAN TO INCREASE APPROPRIATE TREATMENT AND RESIDENTIAL SETTINGS; AND TO PROVIDE SAFE AND APPROPRIATE PLACEMENT FOR CHILDREN IN NEED OF BEHAVIORAL AND MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES.
Amends GS 7B-100 by amending the purpose of Subchapter I, Abuse Neglect Dependency, of Article 1 of GS Chapter 7B so that it includes providing standards for ensuring that the best interests of the juvenile are of paramount consideration by the court and that when it is not in the juvenile's best interest to be returned home, the juvenile will be placed in a safe, permanent home within one year from the date of the initial order removing custody (was, within a reasonable amount of time).
Amends GS 7B-101, which sets out the terms used in Subchapter I, as follows. Includes in the definition of a neglected juvenile a juvenile less than age 18 whose parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker uses an illegal controlled substance or abuses alcohol or a controlled substance and is unable to care for and provide a safe and appropriate home for the juvenile. Adds and defines the term relative as an individual directly related to the juvenile by blood, marriage, or adoption including, but not limited to, a grandparent, sibling, aunt, or uncle. Makes technical conforming changes.
Amends GS 7B-503 by extending the conditions under which an order for nonsecure custody is to be made when there is a reasonable factual basis to believe the allegations in the petition are true, to also include when the juvenile is an infant who was born drug-exposed to alcohol, unlawful controlled substances, or controlled substances used in violation of the law; specifies that the alcohol or substance use is not be the sole grounds for ordering nonsecure custody if the parent is enrolled in and meeting or exceeding the benchmarks of a substance abuse treatment program. Adds the requirement that the developmental and attachment needs of the juvenile be considered in making nonsecure custody determinations.
Amends GS 7B-505 to require the department of social services to use due diligence to identify and notify adult relatives, next of kin, and other persons with legal custody of a juvenile's sibling within 30 days after the initial order removing custody. Requires the department to file information on such attempts with the court. Adds the juvenile's developmental and attachment needs to the issues to be considering when considering whether to order a juvenile in nonsecure custody to be placed with a relative.
Amends GS 7B-901 to provide that when a juvenile is placed in the custody of a county department of social services, the court is to direct that reasonable efforts for reunification are not required if the court determines that aggravated circumstances exist because the parent has exposed the juvenile to unlawful controlled substances in utero or controlled substances were used in violation of the law in utero. In these instances or where there is chronic or toxic exposure to alcohol or controlled substances that causes impairment or addiction in the juvenile, requires the court to consider where a parent is enrolled in and meeting or exceeding the benchmarks of a substance abuse treatment program.
Amends GS 7B-903 to require the court to also consider the juvenile's developmental and attachment needs when deciding whether to place a juvenile in out-of-home care with a relative. Adds that if the court does not place the juvenile with a relative, the court may consider whether nonrelative kin or other persons with legal custody of the juvenile's sibling are willing and able to provide proper care and supervision of the juvenile in a safe home. Allows the court to order the department to notify the juvenile's State-recognized tribe of the need for nonsecure custody for the purpose of locating relatives or nonrelative kin for placement. Allows placing a juvenile with nonrelative kin if the court finds it is in the juvenile's best interests. Adds that once a juvenile who is not a member of a State-recognized tribe has resided in a foster parent's home continuously for at least nine months, the foster parent is deemed to be nonrelative kin for these purposes.
Amends GS 7B-906.1, concerning review and permanency planning hearings, to require a permanency planning hearing to be conducted within nine (was, 12) months of the date of the initial order removing custody. Requires the court to consider and make written findings at each hearing on whether efforts to reunite the juvenile with either parent clearly would be unsuccessful or inconsistent with the juvenile's health or safety and need for a safe, permanent home within a reasonable period of time; adds that this includes whether a parent has engaged in any of the factors described under GS 7B-901(c) (conditions under which the court is to direct that reasonable efforts for reunification not be required). Prohibits the court from waiving or refusing to conduct a permanency planning hearing (was, a review hearing) if a party files a motion seeking the hearing.
Amends GS 7B-905 to require that an initial dispositional order direct that the review hearing be conducted within 90 days from the date of the initial dispositional hearing (was, applicable to a dispositional order under which a juvenile is removed from the custody of a parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker).
Amends GS 7B-906.2 to require that in a permanency planning hearing, reunification must be a primary or secondary plan unless the court makes or has made written findings (was, unless the court made findings), or one of the already listed conditions are met.
Amends GS 7B-1103 by amending who can file a petition or motion to terminate the parental rights of either or both parents, to include any person with whom the juvenile has resided continuously for 15 months (was, two years) or more next preceding the filing of the petition or motion.
Applies to actions filed or pending on or after October 1, 2021.
© 2021 School of Government The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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