This blog post will address child welfare modifications from Articles 3 and 4 of S.F. 1675, which was recently signed into law by Governor Dayton.
Article 3: Adoption Assistance
- Language from the adoption statute 260 was moved to 259A to create a more seamless process from child protection.
Article 4: Child Protection
Reasonable efforts for reunification:
- Exemptions added:
Appropriate permanency planning for children in foster care:
- New language added regarding concurrent planning: 'primary plan' (always reunification) and 'secondary plan' (alternative plan for a legally permanent home, such as adoption)
- This statutory language implies that adoption needs to explored only if reunification is not possible. Then, if an agency wishes to pursue a transfer of legal custody, the agency will need to justify to the court why adoption is not in the best interest of the child.
There is also statutory language that discusses identifying, locating and assessing both parents and offering reunification services. Relatives of both parents will also need to be identified, located and assessed for involvement in case planning and being a placement resource. The urgency of making placements with relatives who identify as being a permanency option is discussed in Article 4 as well. (Locating relatives can be done via the internet or other electronic means.)
Definition of 'sibling': (added to 260C.007)
- 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 customs.
Placement resources/non-custodial parents:
- Court has the ability to order:
- Chemical Dependency Evaluations
- Mental Health Evaluations
- Medical Examinations
- Parenting Assessments
Case worker reports to the court at 3-Month Review Hearing to include:
- Efforts, not attempts, to engage both parents in case planning;
- Diligent efforts to identify and search for relatives and involve them in case planning;
- Efforts to engage both maternal and paternal relatives; and
- Relative placement decision or connection with relatives if placement is not possible.
How relatives can be involved in case planning:
- Participate in case planning for the parent and child;
- Identify strengths and needs of the parent and child;
- Supervise parent/child visits;
- Provide respite/vacations for the child;
- Provide transportation to appointments;
- Suggest other relatives who might be able to help support the case plan;
- Help maintain the child's familiar and regular activities, and/or
- Help maintain contact with family and friends.
Dual relationship with adoption and foster care agencies:
There should only be one home study completed by either an adoption or foster care agency approved by the commissioner. An adoption or foster care agency may complete the home study update.
*The purpose of this piece is to make sure that agencies are communicating with each other regarding placements.
What will these legislative changes mean for the children and families we serve? How might your agency work toward improving relative search? What ways might you use the internet to help with relative search?