SENATE SUBSTITUTE NO. 1
SENATE BILL NO. 49
AS AMENDED BY SENATE AMENDMENT NO. 1
AN ACT TO AMEND CHAPTER 38, TITLE 31, DELAWARE CODE, RELATING TO THE RE-ESTABLISHMENT OF A FOSTER CHILD REVIEW ACT.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OP DELAWARE:
Section 1. Amend Chapter 38, Title 31, Delaware Code, by striking said Chapter in its entirety and re-establishing a new Chapter 38 to read as follows:
"CHAPTER 38. FOSTER CHILD REVIEW ACT
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 of administrative review 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.
As used in this Chapter, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise, the following terms shall have the meanings designated in this Section:
(a) 'Placement Agency' shall mean the Division of Child Protective 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 Child Protective Services or any other placement agency by court order, or placed voluntarily in a private placement agency for more than nine months with the following exception:
(1) a child placed for adoption in accordance with 13 Del. C., Chapter 9, shall be exempt from review for no less than 18 months from the time of adoptive placement if such placement remains continuous.
§3803. Foster Child Review Board
(a) There is hereby established a Delaware Foster Care Review Board. For administrative purposes, the Board shall be within the Administrative Office of the Courts.
(b) The Board shall consist of no less than twenty-six members. No more than a simple majority of the 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 (I) year immediately preceding the appointment. Geographic representation shall be considered when appointing Board members. A member shall continue to serve until a successor is appointed.
(I) The Governor shall appoint one Board member Chairman. The Chairman will serve at the Governor's pleasure.
(2) The Governor shall appoint and designate five (5) Board members as members of the Executive Committee. When appointing Executive Committee members, preference shall be given to current or former Board members. Two (2) of the original Executive Committee members shall be appointed to three year terms, two (2) of the original Executive Committee members shall be appointed to two year terms, and one (I) of the original Executive Committee
members shall be appointed to a one-year term. At the expiration of the terms of the original members of the Executive Committee, all appointments shall be for three (3) years. The Executive Committee shall be chaired by the Chairman.
(3) The Governor shall appoint not less than twenty (20) Board members as general members. Upon the advice of the Chairman, the Governor may increase or decrease the number of general Board members, never decreasing, however, the general membership below the minimum of twenty. The term of a general Board member's appointment shall not exceed three years. When making general Board membership appointments, the Governor shall fix the tenure of individual appointments such that no more than one third of the general memberships' term expires in a given fiscal year.
(c) When vacancies occur for whatever reasons, the Governor shall appoint replacements for the unexpired term only. The Governor may remove a Board member for cause.
§3804. Qualifications 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 Child Protective Services, any placement agency, or Family Court of the State of Delaware may be appointed to the Board.
(c) There shall be no discrimination in appointment of Board members on the basis of sex, socioeconomic, racial, or ethnic factors.
The Executive Committee shall meet at least six times per year. The Board as a whole shall meet at least two times per year and shall elect annually such officers as are necessary from among its members.
§3806. 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 traveled, or the cost of public transportation and no more than $10 per meeting for other miscellaneous expenses.
§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) Assign to the Executive Committee through its rules and regulations such duties and responsibilities which are consistent with the purpose and provisions of this Chapter and not otherwise assigned to the Executive Committee.
(c) Designate annually no more than three additional general Board members to the Executive Committee.
(d) Employ, supervise and evaluate an Executive Director, who shall serve as chief administrator to properly implement and administer the provisions of this Chapter, subject to budget restraints.
(e) Advise the Executive Director on the establishment of training, with periodic in-service training, of the Board.
(f) Approve the Executive Director's annual budget request and other applications for funds from any sources.
(g) Provide advice to the Executive Committee concerning the kind of information which should be maintained and provided by placement agencies to assist in the review and monitoring of foster children and 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) Make recommendations to the Governor, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware, the General Assembly concerning resources, policies, procedures and statutes which affect the goal of permanency for children.
(j) 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. Duties of the Executive Committee
The Executive Committee has the responsibility to:
(a) Monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the Board's child review program.
(b) 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.
(c) Review and analyze reports on the status of all children in foster care, which reports shall be provided at least monthly by the placement agencies. Such reports shall include identifying information for each child entering and leaving foster care during the month. The first reports shall be provided within thirty (30) days of the effective date of this Act.
(d) Review and analyze reports prepared by the Executive Director. The Executive Committee may advise the Executive Director on report preparation.
(e) Provide an accounting to the Board on its review and analysis of reports provided by placement agencies and the Executive Director.
(f) Develop and set forth, with the concurrence of the Board, child advocacy programs which are consistent with the purpose of this Chapter.
§3809. General Responsibilities for Administrative Review
(a) The Board is hereby authorized to conduct an administrative review of 50% of the children in foster care, no less frequently than once every six months, except in instances where the child is the subject of or a party to a continuing judicial proceeding. The Board retains discretion to select the children to be reviewed.
The Board may participate in the Division of Child Protective Services Internal administrative review panel of all other foster children as defined in Section 3802(b). The Board retains all rights to issue recommendations on these children pursuant to Section 3814 to petition for judicial hearing pursuant to Section 3815. The Division of Child Protective Services internal reveiwer may participate in the administrative reviews conducted by the Foster Care Review Board.
(b) The Board is authorized to divide its general membership into Review Committees of not less than three (3) members for the purpose of reviewing the cases of individual children in foster care.
(c) The purposes of Administrative Reveiw are as follows:
(1) To submit review reports with recommendations to the placement agency and all parties to the child's foster placement. The Review Committee shall have discretion over the distribution of review findings in consultation with the placement agencies at the time of the review.
(2) To encourage and facilitate movement toward the return of a child to his or her parent(s) 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 disseminate 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 and Executive Committee regarding foster care policies and procedures.
§3810. Administrative Review Procedures
(a) The administrative 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 lmowledge of, or is acquainted with, any of the principals in a case shall disqualify himself or herself from reviewing that case.
(c) Meetings at which Individual cases are discussed or reviewed shall not be subject to the provisions of Title 29, Delaware Code, Chapter 100, 510004.
(d) Records of the Board which pertain to individual cases and reviews thereof shall be exempt from the provisions of Title 29, Delaware Code, Chapter 100.
§3811. Notice of Administrative Review To insure adequate notice of review:
(a) The Board shall send out written notices of a scheduled review at least thirty (30) days in advance to the following parties, who may appear at the review session: The placement agency; the child, unless inappropriate, parents or legal guardian; foster parents; child's attorney, if applicable. The Board shall also send out written notices of a scheduled review at least 30 days in advance to any person, agency, or school official interested in or having imowledge or information about the child.
(a) The Board shall request of the placement agency no less than sixty (60) days in advance of a scheduled review a listing of the prospective review participants, as defined in the subsection (a) of this Section. Within fifteen (15) days of receipt of this request, the placement agency shall provide the Board with the requested listing and shall include for each identified review participant the most current mailing address available.
§3812. Records of Review
(a) At least seven (7) days before each child's review, the placement agency shall submit to the Executive Director 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 Board with information needed for review in addition to the information supplied in §3812(a) and 3811(b). The Board, or its Executive Committee, may petition Family Court for a hearing if it is refused records or information which it believes It should have under the provisions of this Section.
§3813. Confidentiality of Records
(a) All records and information in the possession of the Division of Child Protective Services, any placement agency, or the 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.
(c) Any member of the Board or the administrative staff of the Board who violates these provisions and improperly discloses confidential information shall immediately be removed or dismissed.
§3814. Board Recommendations
The 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 recommendations such as:
(a) Return of the child to his or her parents or guardian.
(b) Adoption of the child.
(c) 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.
§3815. Petition for Judicial Hearing
(a) Upon receipt of the review report required by 53814, the placement agency shall notify the Board in writing within fifteen (15) days of:
(I) Its disagreement with the Board's recommendations, in which case the Board, or its Executive Committee, or other parties may petition Family Court within twenty (20) days for a Judicial hearing; or
(2) its agreement with the Board's recommendation.
(b) The Board may petition Family Court for a hearing if it believes there has been no progress towards achieving permanency for the child during a six (6) month period.
§3816. Notice of Hearing
A judicial hearing by Family Court of the State of Delaware shall be held upon petition by the Board or a party to the foster placement, 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 Executive Director; the child, unless inappropriate; the parents or legal guardian; the foster parents; the child's attorney, where applicable; and other interested or involved persons.
§3817. 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;
(b) Continuing placement under the current permanent placement plan; or
(c) Continuing placement under a revised permanent placement plan. §3818. 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 prepared the permanent placement plan.
(b) The permanent placement plan for each child shall includes
(1) The purpose for which the child was placed.
(2) The goal for permanent placement.
(3) The projected date for goal achievement.
(4) 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.
§3819. Duties of the Executive Director
Under the direction of the Board, the Executive Director's duties shall include, but not be limited to:
(a) Application for and administration of funds for the administrative review system established in this Chapter.
(b) Hiring and supervising of system employees, maintaining all necessary records and files, and supervising the day to day operations of the Board.
(c) Collecting necessary data and statistics, conducting research and preparing reports.
(d) Advising the Executive Committee on the development of advocacy programs designed to improve the lives of children.
(e) Implementing policies and procedures of the Board and representing the Board's policies In contacts with various other agencies and organizations.
(f) Consulting with appropriate agencies, organizations and individuals to assure the maximum coordination and cooperation between everyone involved in the delivery of services to children.
All appointments of Board members shall be made within ninety (90) days of the effective date of this Act, and the Executive Director shall be selected within one hundred eighty (180) days of the effective date of this Act.
This Chapter, being necessary for the welfare of the State and its Inhabitants, shall be liberally construed to effect the purposes thereof.
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 effect or impair any of the remaining provisions.
§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.
§3824. Board Members': Term
Each member of the present Foster Child Review Board shall serve out the term for which he was appointed. The present Chairman of the Board shall remain as Chairman until a new Chairman is appointed pursuant to Section 3803(b)(1)."
Approved June 9, 1983.