Several definitions were amended:
- "Child" was amended to include references to other statutes allowing youth to remain in foster care to age 21.
- "Sibling" was amended to "one of two or more individuals who have one or both parents in common through blood, marriage or adoption, including siblings as defined by the child's tribal code or custom."
Amendments were made regarding juvenile court to include its jurisdiction for youth up to age 21 in child welfare and permanency, and to include adoption proceedings in juvenile court.
Emergency protective custody hearing amendments include:
- Reasonable efforts to prevent placement are NOT required if a parent has committed sexual abuse against their child or another child, or is a registered sexual predator.
- The court may order chemical dependency, mental health, medical or parenting assessments/evaluations as the court deems necessary as a means of supporting the development of a reunification plan.
- Out of Home Placement plans must be based on the results of the emergency protective custody hearing, and the agency must make reasonable efforts to engage both parents (including paternal) in case planning.
The term "residential facility" was replaced with "foster care" and includes
- family foster homes (both relative and non-relative),
- group homes,
- emergency shelters,
- residential facilities (not otherwise excluded),
- child care institutions, and
- pre-adoptive homes.
Duties of the commissioner and the child-placing agency
Changes to the legislation include:
- Training for prospective foster and adoptive parents now must specifically include preparing parents to care for the needs of foster and adoptive children.
- Home studies must follow the commissioner's designated format.
- The home study must provide the information needed for agencies to determine the family's capacity to meet the needs of a child based on the best interest factors.
- Licensing agencies may provide the updated adoption home study for their foster families who want to adopt.
- Prospective adoptive parents with approved home studies may have their foster care license applied through the same agency.
Additions to section 260C also include permanency planning for children in foster care that includes both a primary plan for reunification with parents and a secondary plan for an alternative permanent legal home in the case that reunification "cannot be achieved in a timely manner." Reasonable efforts include:
- Locating and assessing both parents,
- Identifying and notifying relatives, and
- Placement with a caregiver that supports concurrent permanency efforts.
**What are your thoughts about adoption being prioritized in statute as the preferred permanency option? What are the political and/or social biases that led to this expressed change in the law? What are the potential outcomes for families?****