Sponsored by Sen. Roach, SB 5762 allows a relative of a dependent child to petition the juvenile court to be heard on the department or supervising agency's decision to remove the child from the relative's care if: (a) The child has been found to be a dependent child under this chapter; (b) The parents of the child have consented to the relative filing a petition to be heard on the placement decision; (c) The child is in the custody of the department or supervising agency at the time the petition is filed; (d) The department or supervising agency has made the decision to remove or has already removed the child from the relative's care; and (e) The child had been in the relative's care for twelve months or more prior to the decision to remove or the removal of the child. Additionally, the bill gives the relative ten business days from the date the relative learns of the removal decision, or the child is removed from the relative's care, whichever is later, to file the petition to be heard. If the requirements are met, the court shall grant the petition to be heard on the sole issue of the placement decision and shall schedule an expedited hearing on the matter. Relatives have the right to be represented by counsel, at the expense of the relative. The relative is given the ability to call and cross-examine witnesses at the hearing. The bill makes it clear that the relative is not granted party status in the underlying dependency.
SB 5762 also establishes that there is a presumption that the placement is in the best interests of the child as long as the placement will not impede reasonable efforts to reunify. The department has the burden to overcome the presumption by a preponderance of the evidence.