SB 1473 – signed by the Governor April 5, 2018
Overview: New timelines for termination of parental rights when aggravated circumstances present. New guidelines for placement and determination of best interest of the child.
Modifies various requirements related to foster care and kinship foster care.
Children who have been removed from home by the Department of Child Safety (DCS) are placed in temporary out-of-home care, commonly called foster care, with a goal of permanent placement established for each child. The federal Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) declares that a child’s health and safety must be the paramount concern when making decisions about a child’s out-of-home placement and permanency planning. The ASFA also requires that a child be placed in the least restrictive, or most family-like, setting possible.
Similarly, Arizona statute requires DCS to place a child in the least restrictive type of placement available, consistent with the needs of the child. The order of preference for placement is as follows: with a parent, with a grandparent, in kinship care with another member of the child’s family including a person who has a significant relationship with the child, in family foster care, in therapeutic foster care, in a group foster home and in a residential treatment facility (A.R.S. § 8-514).
DCS established the Kinship Foster Care Program (Program) to promote the placement of children removed from their homes with a relative, including a person who has a significant relationship with the child. An individual who seeks to become a kinship care foster parent must apply with DCS, be at least 18 years of age, sign an agreement outlining the conditions of placement and submit to a criminal record check and DCS central registry check. Additionally, DCS is required to determine if kinship care applicants can meet a child’s health and safety needs (A.R.S. § 8-514.03).
Any person or agency with a legitimate interest in the welfare of a child, including relatives, foster parents, DCS or a private child welfare agency, may file a petition for TPR with the juvenile court. According to statute, grounds for TPR include: 1) abuse or neglect; 2) abandonment; 3)
inability to discharge parental responsibilities due to mental illness or chronic substance abuse; 4) conviction of a felony proving the unfitness of that parent to have custody of a child; 5) proof that the parent has had parental rights to another child terminated within the past two years for the same cause; or 6) demonstration that the child has been in out-of-home placement for longer than nine months, or if the child is under three years of age, longer than six months and the parent neglected or refused to remedy the problems. The court must also consider the best interests of the child when considering grounds for TPR.
An order for TPR eliminates all legal rights, privileges, duties and obligations the parent and the child have with respect to each other, with certain exceptions. If a petition for TPR is contested, the court holds a termination adjudication hearing to determine whether there is clear and convincing evidence of grounds for TPR (A.R.S. § 8-533).
Currently, the court is required to consider specified factors to determine if parental unification is to be provided. reunification is not required if the court finds, by clear and convincing evidence, that an aggravating circumstance exists (A.R.S. § 8-846).
There is no anticipated fiscal impact to the state General Fund associated with this legislation.
1. Requires DCS to maintain a goal to place infants in their custody into a prospective permanent placement within one year of filing a dependency petition.
2. Requires DCS to place a child consistent with the best interests of the child, rather than the needs of the child.
3. Establishes that a child under the age of three who has lived with a foster parent or kinship caregiver for at least nine months is presumed to have a significant relationship with the foster parent or kinship caregiver.
4. Directs DCS to consider the following criteria when determining if a placement is in the best interest of a child:
a) the interest of a caregiver in providing permanence for the child if reunification efforts fail;
b) the expressed wishes of the child and birth parent, unless they are contrary to law;
c) the relationship of the caregiver with the child and child’s family;
d) the proximity of the placement home to the parent’s home and the child’s school or school district;
e) the caregiver’s strengths and parenting style in relation to the child’s behavior and needs;
f) the caregiver’s willingness to communicate and interact with the birth family to support visitation and reunification;
g) the caregiver’s willingness and ability to accept the child and any of the child’s siblings;
h) the caregiver’s willingness and ability to maintain frequent visitation or other ongoing contact between the child and their siblings, if the siblings are placed separately;
i) the child’s fit with the placement family with respect to age, gender and sibling relationships;
FACT SHEET – Amended S.B. 1473 Page 3
j) the ability of the caregiver to provide supervision to prevent harm, and whether a child’s behavior will place other children in the home at risk, if a child has chronic behavioral health needs; and
k) compliance with applicable federal law.
5. Removes the requirement that the Program promote the placement of a child with a child’s relative and instead requires placement of a child in kinship foster care to be determined by the best interests of the child.
6. Requires the Program to promote the best interests of a child.
7. Requires, if a child is taken into temporary custody, that DCS use due diligence in an initial search to identify and notify relatives of the child and individuals who have a significant relationship with the child, within 30 days after the child is taken into custody.
8. Specifies that the initial search is part of the ongoing search.
9. Requires DCS to file information with the courts regarding attempts to identify and notify relatives and individuals with a significant relationship with a child.
10. Requires a dependency petition to include whether DCS believes an aggravating circumstance exists.
11. Requires DCS to give the court and the other parties written notice at least 15 days before a disposition hearing, if DCS intends to present evidence that an aggravating circumstance exists.
12. Eliminates the following as options for the placement of a dependent child by the court:
a) a suitable institution;
b) an association willing to receive a child; and
c) a reputable citizen of good moral character.
13. Authorizes the court to place a dependent child with a licensed foster home if placing the child with their parents is contrary to the child’s welfare.
14. Requires DCS to file a motion for TPR within 10 days of the court finding that an aggravating circumstance exists, unless TPR is not in the best interest of the child.
15. Adds the following as an aggravating circumstance:
a) a child under six months old who is exposed to a drug or substance and both of the following are true:
i. the parent is unable to discharge parental responsibilities due to a history of chronic drug or substance abuse; and
ii. reasonable grounds exist to believe that the parent’s condition will continue for a prolonged or indeterminate amount of time, based on an opinion from a licensed health care provider.
Thank you for your great question! If you have questions, send them to #youaskedfa or Kim@fosteraz.com