HB 1943 directs the courts in various dependency hearings to address the following (but not limited to): best interest of the child, attachment to the caregivers, the impact of continuances on the ability to achieve timely permanency, the need to have established a relationship with a child prior to incarcerated (if one or both of the parents is incarcerated) and a good cause exception is being requested related to termination of parental rights, and steps that have been taken to promote stable, nurturing relationships in the child’s life. The bill also allows the court to order services at the shelter care hearing, and removes the references to “a supervising agency” and replaces it with the Department of Social and Health Services.
Proposed Substitute bill compared to original bill:
· Restores current law, which does not allow a court to order a parent to undergo examinations, evaluations, or services at the shelter care hearing unless a parent agrees to those services.
· Restores language referring to supervising agencies.
· Revises the requirements for a court considering a request for a continuance of a permanency planning or review hearing by removing the limitation that these hearings only be continued after a finding that the continuance is in the best interest of the child.
· For purposes of the findings a court must make following a review hearing, the court must find whether consideration instead of preference has been given to placement of the child with a relative and the court must find whether consideration has been given to maintaining the child's placement with a caregiver with whom the child has been placed for two years or longer and has established a bond with if such placement is in the child's best interest.
· The requirement that there be a preexisting relationship between an incarcerated parent and child before incarceration is removed and an additional consideration in the court's assessment of whether an incarcerated parent maintains a meaningful role in a child's life related to the parent's involvement in the child's life prior to incarceration or prior to the filing of the dependency petition is added.