An Act To Specify the Rights of Parents
Sec. 1. 22 MRSA §4004, sub-§4 is enacted to read:
Sec. 2. 22 MRSA §4005, sub-§2, as amended by PL 1983, c. 783, §2, is further amended to read:
Sec. 3. 22 MRSA §4005-E, sub-§2, as amended by PL 2007, c. 371, §2, is further amended to read:
Sec. 4. 22 MRSA §4008, sub-§3, ¶L, as amended by PL 2015, c. 381, §2, is further amended to read:
Sec. 5. 22 MRSA §4008, sub-§3, ¶M, as enacted by PL 2015, c. 381, §3, is amended to read:
Sec. 6. 22 MRSA §4008, sub-§3, ¶N is enacted to read:
Sec. 7. 22 MRSA §4008, sub-§8 is enacted to read:
Sec. 8. 22 MRSA §4021-A is enacted to read:
§ 4021-A. Independent testimony
Sec. 9. 22 MRSA §4033, sub-§2-A is enacted to read:
Sec. 10. 22 MRSA §4041, sub-§1-A, ¶A, as enacted by PL 2001, c. 559, Pt. CC, §5, is amended to read:
(1) Develop a rehabilitation and reunification plan as provided in this subparagraph.
(a) In developing the rehabilitation and reunification plan, the department shall make good faith efforts to seek the participation of the parent. Information that must be included in developing the plan includes the problems that present a risk of harm serious harm or a threat of serious harm to the child, the services needed to address those problems, provisions to ensure the safety of the child while the parent engages in services, a means to measure the extent to which progress has been made, and visitation that protects the child's physical and emotional well-being. With this information, the department shall prepare a written rehabilitation and reunification plan.
(b) The department shall circulate the plan to the parties at least 10 days before a scheduled court hearing and shall present the plan to the court for filing at that hearing.
(c) The rehabilitation and reunification plan must include the following:
(i) The reasons for the removal of the child from home;
(ii) The changes that are necessary to eliminate jeopardy to the child while in the care of a parent;
(iii) Rehabilitation services that will be provided the department is responsible for providing or making available and that must be completed satisfactorily prior to the child's returning home;
(iv) Services that must be provided or made the department is responsible for providing or making available to assist the parent in rehabilitating and reunifying with the child, as appropriate to the child and family, including, but not limited to, reasonable transportation for the parent for visits and services, child care, housing assistance, assistance with transportation to and from required services and other services that support reunification;
(v) A schedule of and conditions for visits between the child and the parent designed to provide the parent and child time together in settings that provide as positive a parent-child interaction as can practicably be achieved while ensuring the emotional and physical well-being of the child when visits are not detrimental to the child's best interests;
(vi) Any use of kinship support, including, but not limited to, placement, supervision of visitation, in-home support or respite care;
(vii) A reasonable time schedule for proposed reunification, reasonably calculated to meet the child's needs; and
(viii) A statement of the financial responsibilities of the parent and the department during the reunification process ; .
(d) The department is responsible for providing or making available all rehabilitation services required in the rehabilitation and reunification plan. If the department fails to provide or make available the required services within a reasonable time schedule, the department shall report the failure to the court, which shall extend the time schedule for the proposed reunification as provided in the plan to take into account the failure to provide or make available the required services;
(2) Provide the parent with prompt written notice of the following, unless that notice would be detrimental to the best interests of the child:
(a) The child's residence and, when practicable, at least 7 days' advance written notice of a planned change of residence; and
(b) Any serious injuries, major medical care received or hospitalization of the child;
(3) Make good faith efforts to cooperate with the parent in the pursuit of the plan;
(4) Periodically review with the parent the progress of the plan and make any appropriate changes in that plan. If the parties disagree about the proposed changes in the plan, any party may seek an informal conference with all other parties in an effort to resolve the disagreement, prior to initiating court action. If the parties are unable to agree after an informal conference, the parties may have access to the court's case management system. This subparagraph may not be construed to limit the court's authority to manage and control any cases within the court;
(5) Petition for judicial review and return of custody of the child to the parent at the earliest appropriate time; and
(6) Petition for termination of parental rights at the earliest possible time that it is determined that family reunification efforts will be discontinued pursuant to subsection 2 and that termination is in the best interests of the child.
Sec. 11. 22 MRSA §4052, sub-§2-A, ¶A, as amended by PL 2005, c. 372, §7, is further amended to read:
(1) The time the child has been in foster care begins when the child is considered to have entered foster care as specified in section 4038-B, subsection 1, paragraph B;
(2) When a child experiences multiple exits from and entries into foster care during the 22-month 30-month period, all periods in foster care must be accumulated; and
(3) The time in foster care does not include trial home visits or times during which the child is a runaway.
This paragraph does not apply if the department is required to undertake reunification efforts and the department has not provided to the family of the child such services as the court determines to be necessary for the safe return of the child to the child's home consistent with the time period in the case plan . The time during which the department failed to provide or make available the services required in the rehabilitation and reunification plan under section 4041, subsection 1-A within a reasonable time schedule is not included in the calculation of the time in foster care;
Sec. 12. 22 MRSA §4055, sub-§1-A, ¶B, as amended by PL 2015, c. 360, §4, is further amended to read:
(2) Felony murder;
(4) Aiding or soliciting suicide;
(5) Aggravated assault;
(7) Gross sexual misconduct or gross sexual assault;
(8) Sexual abuse of minors;
(11) Promotion of prostitution, sexual exploitation of a minor, sex trafficking or aggravated sex trafficking; or
(12) A comparable crime in another jurisdiction ; .
The court may consider rehabilitative measures taken by the parent to address the underlying criminal behavior identified in this paragraph.
Sec. 13. Review. The Department of Health and Human Services shall provide within available resources review of all cases where the courts have denied preliminary protection, jeopardy or termination of parental rights petitions. This review must include but is not limited to the quality of evidence presented, the thoroughness of case workers' investigations, the timeliness and good faith efforts at reunification, or any other information that is pertinent. By December 6, 2017, the department shall provide a report on its findings to the Joint Standing Committee on Health and Human Services.
This bill amends the Child and Family Services and Child Protection Act in several ways.
1. The bill prohibits the Department of Health and Human Services from discriminating against parents who engage in nontraditional methods of parenting when the department determines whether to take any child protective actions and in determining what actions to take.
2. The bill requires the court to give appropriate weight to the importance of maintaining the familial bond connecting the child and the relative requesting placement when determining the best interests of the child.
3. The bill requires the department to share confidential records with a person one or both parents designate as a participant.
4. The bill clarifies that the restrictions on the release of confidential information do not prohibit a parent, other family member, participant or caretaker of a child from sharing any information about the child, the family or the circumstances involving the child that is the subject of an investigation or proceeding under this Act as long as the information shared was not obtained by the parent, other family member, participant or caretaker from confidential records of the department.
5. The bill requires the department to develop a roster of appropriate professionals capable and appropriately credentialed to investigate, interview or provide expert testimony that may be admissible in a proceeding under this Act. At the request of a parent, the court is required to order a professional on the roster to investigate, interview or provide expert testimony in addition to any investigation, interview or expert testimony provided by one or more persons already involved by the department. The State is responsible for paying the costs of the additional expert's services.
6. The bill amends the law concerning rehabilitation and reunification plans to ensure that the department provide or make available any services the department identifies as necessary for a parent to receive and complete to be reunited with the child. If the department fails to provide or make those services available, the department is required to report the failure to the court, and the court will extend the time within which the parent is required to meet the requirements of the plan. Related to the failure of the department to provide or make available the identified services is the adjustment to the calculation of the time the child is considered in foster care for the purpose of triggering the termination of parental rights. The period of time during which the department is required to provide or make available services but fails to do so is not included in the time the child is considered in foster care.
7. Current law provides that the department may file a termination of parental rights petition when the child has been in foster care for at least 15 of the most recent 22 months. The bill extends those periods to 24 months and 30 months, respectively.
8. The bill provides an opportunity for a parent who has been convicted of a crime to show the rehabilitative steps taken to address the underlying criminal behavior, and thus rebut the presumption favoring termination of parental rights.