CHAPTER 170

FORMERLY

SENATE BILL NO. 245

AS AMENDED BY SENATE AMENDMENT NO. 5 AND

SENATE AMENDMENT NO. 1 TO SENATE AMENDMENT NO. 5 AND

HOUSE AMENDMENT NOS. 1 AND 2

AN ACT TO AMEND TITLES 10 AND 31, DELAWARE CODE, FOR THE PURPOSE OF CREATING A FOSTER CHILD REVIEW BOARD AND ESTABLISHING A SYSTEM OF CITIZEN AND COURT REVIEW OF FOSTER CHILD CARE.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE (Two-thirds of all members elected to each House thereof concurring therein):

Section 1. Amend Title 31, Delaware Code, by inserting therein a new Chapter to read as follows:

"CHAPTER 38. FOSTER CHILD REVIEW ACT

§3801. Purpose

It is determined that an independent monitoring system to identify and Periodically review children in foster care in the State of Delaware is in the best interests of the health and welfare of all citizens of Delaware. It is the purpose of this Act to provide such a system in order to insure continuing efforts to obtain permanent homes for children; to acknowledge that the time perception of children differs from that of adults; to provide stability in the lives of children who must be removed from their homes, and to make the ongoing needs of a child for proper physical, mental, and emotional growth and development the decisive considerations in permanency planning.

§3802. Definitions

(a) 'Placement agency' shall mean the Division of Social Services and any agency, organization or institution engaged in the placement of children in foster care in this State.

(b) 'Child' shall mean any child who has been placed in the custody or care of the Division of Social Services or any other placement agency by court order, or placed voluntarily in a private placement agency for more than one year.

§3603. Foster Child Review Board

(a) There is hereby established a Delaware Foster Child Review Board. For administrative purposes, the Board shall be within the Administrative Office of the Courts.

(b) The Board shall consist of twenty-one (21) members, of whom one shall be the Chairman. No more than eleven (11) Board members shall be registered members of the same major political party. When appointed, a Board member shall be a citizen of the United States and a resident of this State for at least one (1) year immediately preceding the appointment. Four (4) members shall reside in the City of Wilmington, four (4) members shall reside in the remainder of New Castle County, four (4) members shall reside in Kent County, four (4) members shall reside in Sussex County, and five (5) members shall reside anywhere within this State.

(c) Seven (7) of the original members of the Board shall be appointed to three-year terms, seven (7) of the original members of the Board shall be appointed to two-year terms, and six (6) of the original members of the Board shall be appointed to one-year terms. At the expiration of the terms of the original members of the Board, all appointments shall be for three (3) years. A member shall continue to serve until his successor is appointed by the Governor.

(d) The Governor shall appoint the Chairman and members of the Board. The Chairman will serve at the Governor's pleasure. The Governor may remove a Board member for cause.

(e) When vacancies occur for whatever reasons, the Governor shall appoint replacements for the unexpired term only.

§3804. Meetings

The Board as a whole shall meet at least two times per year and shall annually elect such officers as are necessary from among Its members.

pm. Compensation and Expenses for Board Members

Each member of the Board shall receive, upon request, reimbursement for necessary expenses to attend meetings. Such expenses may not exceed the mileage rate paid to State employees, per mile actually travelled, or the cost of public transportation and no more than $10 per meeting for other miscellaneous expenses.

§3806. Qualification of Members

(a) Board members shall be citizens who have demonstrated an interest in children and their welfare through community service or professional experience, or possess a background in law, sociology, psychology, psychiatry, education, theology, social work, medicine, or related fields.

(b) No person employed by the Division of Social Services, any placement agency, or Family Court of the State of Delaware may be appointed to the Board.

(e) There shall be no discrimination in appointment of Board members on the basis of sex, socioeconomic, racial, or ethnic factors.

§3807. Powers of the Board

The Board shall have the power and authority to:

(a) Adopt rules and regulations consistent with the purpose and provisions of this Chapter and with applicable Federal and State laws, subject to the provisions of the Administrative Procedures Act, 29 Delaware Code, Chapter 64, Subchapter H.

(b) Designate an Executive Committee which may act between meetings of the Board, subject to confirmation of its decisions by a quorum of the Board, which Executive Committee shall consist of not less than five (5) members of the Board and shall be chaired by the Chairman of the Review Board.

(e) Employ, supervise and evaluate an Administrative Coordinator, who shall serve as chief administrator, to properly implement and administer the provisions of this Chapter, subject to budget restraints.

(d) Advise the Administrative Coordinator on the establishment of training, with periodic in-service training, of the Review Board.

(e) Monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the implementation of this Act.

(f) Review and analyze reports on the status of all children in foster care, which reports shall be provided at least quarterly by the placement agencies. The first reports shall be provided within 180 days of effective date of this Act. Such reports arc to include information concerning the number of children entering and [caving foster care during each quarter.

(g) Provide advice to placement agencies concerning the kind of information which should be maintained and provided by said agencies to assist in the review and monitoring of the foster care system.

(h) Consult with placement agencies and other entities as appropriate in arriving at policies and procedures in order that the maximum amount of coordination and cooperation may be achieved between the Board and organizations which are involved in foster child care.

(i) Approve the Administrative Coordinator's annual budget request and other applications for funds from any sources.

(j) Make recommendations to the Governor, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware, the General assembly concerning resources, policies, preedures and statutes which affect the goal of permanency for children.

(k) Make a written annual report on the effectiveness of this Act to the Governor, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware, the General Assembly, which shall be available to the general public upon request.

§3808. General Responsibilities for Case Review

(a) The Board is hereby authorized to select annually a representative sample of the foster care caseloads of placement agencies for individual review, subject to the following:

(1) A maximum of 400 reviews per year may be conducted.

(2) The number of reviews from each placement agency's caseload is to be proportionate to that agency's percentage of the total.

(3) The Board may review an individual child's case twice yearly.

(4) The Board shall begin reviewing eases effective July 1, 1980.

(b) The Board is authorized to divide itself into committees of not less than five (5) members for the purpose of reviewing the eases of individual children in foster care.

(e) The purposes of ease review are as follows:

(I) To submit review reports with findings and recommendations to the placement agency and participating parties.

(2) To encourage and facilitate movement toward the return of a child to his or her parents or guardian or initiation of termination of parental rights proceedings.

(3) To encourage stable, long-term foster care in the event that return to the parents or guardian or termination of parental rights is not possible, feasible, or in the best interest of the child.

(4) To encourage and facilitate stability in foster care by urging fewer changes in placement per child and by urging good foster parent recruitment procedures.

(5) To assist placement agencies with dissemination of information about the rights and responsibilities of biological parents, foster parents, and other interested parties in regard to a child in foster care.

(6) To make recommendations to the Board regarding foster care policies and procedures.

§3809. Review Board Procedures

(a) The review procedures for the Board shall include consideration and evaluation of such matters as:

(1) The goal of the permanent placement plan.

(2) Services to the child and others involved.

(3) Placement of siblings.

(4) Length of time spent in foster care.

(5) Number of placements.

(6) Whether the child's wishes were considered, where appropriate.

(7) Efforts made to fulfill the permanent placement plan by all involved.

(8) The opportunity to have and participate in regular visits with the child by the biological parents or legal guardian.

(9) Whether there are obstacles which hinder or prevent attainment of the placement goal.

(b) Any Board member who has personal knowledge of, or is acquainted with, any of the principals in a ease shall disqualify himself or herself from reviewing that case.

(e) Meetings at which individual cases are discussed or reviewed shall not be subject to the provisions of Title 29, Delaware Code, Chapter 100, 910004.

(d) Records of the Review Board which pertain to individual cases and reviews thereof shall be exempt from the provisions of Title 29, Delaware Code, Chapter 100.

§3810. Notice of Review

The Review Board shall send out written notices of a scheduled review at least thirty (30) days in advance to the following, who may appear at the review session: The placement agency; the child, where appropriate; parents or legal guardian; foster parents; child's attorney, if applicable; and any person or agency interested in or having knowledge or information about the child.

§3811. Records of Review

(a) At least seven (7) days before each child's review, the placement agency shall submit to the Administrative Coordinator the child's permanent placement plan and a written report on the progress towards implementation of such plan.

(b) Subject to legal requirements, placement agencies are obligated to provide the Review Board with information needed for review, in addition to the information supplied in 83811(a). The Board may petition Family Court for a hearing if it is refused records which it believes it should have under the provisions of this Section.

§3812. Confidentiality of Records

(a) All records and information in the possession of the Division of Social Services, any placement agency, or the Foster Child Review Board regarding children and their parents or relatives shall be deemed confidential, and shall be disclosed only pursuant to the provisions of this Chapter.

(b) Violation of this Section is a Class C misdemeanor. The Superior Court shall have jurisdiction over violations of this Section.

(e) Any member of the Review Board or the administrative staff of the Review Board who violates these provisions and improperly discloses confidential information shall immediately be removed or dismissed.

§3813. Review Board Recommendations

The Review Board shall submit a written report of the review, within fifteen (15) days, to the placement agency and other participating parties. This report shall offer findings and recommendations such as:

(a) Return of the child to his or her parents or guardian.

(b) Adoption of the child.

(e) Initiation of termination of parental rights proceedings.

(d) Continued foster care placement is best and permanent placement plan is appropriate.

(e) Continued foster care placement is best but permanent placement plan is not appropriate.

§3814. Petition for Judicial Hearing

(a) Upon receipt of the Review Report required by 53813, the placement agency shall inform the Board within ten (10) days of any disagreement with the Board's recommendations, in which ease the Board or other participating parties may petition Family Court within fifteen (15) days for a judicial hearing. If the agency fails to advise the Board of such disagreement, it shall be presumed that the agency agrees with the recommendations of the Board and will net accordingly.

(b) The Board may petition Family Court for a judicial hearing if there has been no documented action toward achievement of a permanency plan during a one-year period.

§3815. Notice of Hearing

A judicial hearing by Family Court of the State of Delaware shall be held upon petition by the Review Board or participating party, within forty-five (45) days after filing date of such petition. The court shall send written notification of such hearing at least fifteen (15) days in advance to: The placement agency; the Administrative Coordinator; the child, where appropriate; the parents or legal guardian; the foster parents; the child's attorney, where applicable; and other interested or involved persons.

§3816. Court Orders

After a judicial hearing, Family Court of the State of Delaware may enter an order:

(a) Directing the return of the child to his or her parents or guardian;

(a) Continuing placement under the current permanent placement plan; or (e) Continuing placement under a revised permanent placement plan; or

(d) Appointing an attorney to represent the child and recommend that the child's attorney initiate termination of parental rights proceedings on behalf of the child in the appropriate court of competent jurisdiction.

§3817. Permanent Placement Plan

(a) The placement agency holding custody shall prepare, with consultation and Information from the child's parents or guardian, the child's attorney if applicable, and where appropriate the child, a permanent placement plan for the child. Where no placement agency holds custody, the placement agency having care of the child shall prepare the permanent placement plan.

(b) The permanent placement plan for each child shall include:

(I) The purpose for which the child was placed.

(2) The goal for permanent placement.

(3) The length of time in foster care needed to achieve the goal.

(9) A statement of duties of the placement agency, parents, legal guardian, and foster parents and services to be provided by the placement agency and other service providers.

(5) The person in the placement agency directly responsible for the implementation of the permanent placement plan.

§3818. Duties of the Administrative Coordinator

Under the direction of the Board, the Administrative Coordinator's duties shall Include, but not be limited to:

(a) Application for and administration of funds for the Foster Child Review System.

(b) Hiring and supervising of system employees and maintaining all necessary records and files.

(c) Implementing policies and procedures of the Board and representing the Board's policies in contacts with various other agencies and organizations.

(d) Collecting necessary date and statistics in order that the Board may monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of implementation of this Act.

(e) Supervising the day-to-day operations of the Review Board.

(f) Providing training programs for the Board.

(g) Conduct research and develop advocacy programs designed to improve the lives of children in foster care.

(h) Consulting the placement agencies and other appropriate parties to assure the maximum coordination and cooperation between everyone involved in foster care.

§3819. Timetable

All appointments of Board members shall be made within ninety (90) days of the effective date of this Act, and the Administrative Coordinator shall be selected within one hundred eighty (180) days of effective date of this Act.

§3820. Construction

This Chapter, being necessary for the welfare of the State and its inhabitants, shall be liberally construed to effect the purposes thereof.

§3821. Severability

The provisions of this Chapter are severable, and if any of its provisions shall be held unconstitutional by any court of competent jurisdiction, the decision of such court shall not affect or Impair any of the remaining provisions.

§3822. Evaluation of Foster Care Review System

No later than three (3) years after the effective date of this Act, the Review Board, in consultation with the Department of Health and Social Services, shall retain a qualified consultant to perform an independent evaluation of the State's

foster care review program, who shall, by December 1, 1982, make recommendation to the Governor and the General Assembly as to the continuation or termination of the foster care review program and the proper scope of the program, including the expansion or reduction of the number of individual case reviews.

§3823. Conflict with Existing Laws

Any provisions of this Chapter which shall cause the State to lose Federal funding shall be considered null and void."

Section 2. Amend Title 10, Delaware Code, Chapter 9, by adding thereto a new 5914 to read as follows:

§914. Designation of Foster Care Review Board

Pursuant to any requirement of Federal law, the Court may designate the Foster Care Review Board to serve as the arm of the Court for the purpose of monitoring the progress of children in foster care."

Approved July 13, 1979.