On Monday, we highlighted some of the changes to the foster care statutes that were passed in the 2012 legislative session in Minnesota. This post will continue the focus on the foster care changes that were made.
- The court may now order an agency to reopen its search for relatives at any time during the juvenile protection proceedings.
- Previously, it was required that paternity for the father had to have been adjudicated in order for paternal relatives to be included in a relative search. That requirement has been eliminated.
- The new law now allows for internet or other electronic means of identifying and locating relatives.
- Agencies may now ask a child in an age appropriate manner who they consider to be family.
- Identify maternal and paternal relatives,
- Engage with relatives to provide support for a child and family, and
- The agency must document its decisions regarding relative placements.
Strengthened policies regarding working and engaging with relatives include:
- Amending language to require placement consideration with relatives any time a child moves from, or is returned to, foster care;
- Clarifying the agency's responsibility to engage with relatives who respond to a notice of a child in care. This section now includes activities that may be considered "participation in the care and planning for a child" including:
- Relatives must be notified that they have the right to be notified of any court hearings and that they have an opportunity to be heard by the court.
- Agencies must do one of the following at the permanent placement hearing:
- Send notice to relatives,
- Ask the court to modify the requirement to send notice to relatives, or
- Ask the court to relieve the requirement to send notice to relatives.
Placement decisions based on the best interest of the child:
One of the requirements for placing children for foster care and adoption is that the placement is based on the best interest factors (previously eight, now ten). The amended law now requires this same requirement for any placement into a permanent legal and physical custody home.
The court must now review and determine findings regarding the agency's competence in:
- Conducting diligent efforts regarding relative search,
- Conducting individualized determination of the child's needs, and
- Assessing a home that is best able to meet the needs of the child.
Other major changes:
- A court may no longer order a child into long-term foster care.
- Eliminates the option for a private agency to be appointed guardian for a child whose parents are deceased.
- The option to separate guardianship and legal custody has been eliminated. Previously a court had the ability to grant one person or agency guardianship and another person or agency legal custody.
- Foster parents may no longer be appointed guardian for a non-adopted foster child age 14 years or older.
- The commissioner is no longer guardian of a child past the age of 18 years. If a youth 18 or older continues or re-enters foster care, the social service agency has legal responsibility for the child.