Section 12-15-315

Permanency hearing for Department of Human Resources cases only.

(a) Within 12 months of the date a child is removed from the home and placed in out-of-home care, and not less frequently than every 12 months thereafter during the continuation of the child in out-of-home care, the juvenile court shall hold a permanency hearing. The Department of Human Resources shall present to the juvenile court at the hearing a permanent plan for the child. The juvenile court shall consult with the child, in an age-appropriate manner, regarding the permanency plan and any transition plan to independent living. If a permanent plan is not presented to the juvenile court at this hearing, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that the child should be returned home. This provision is intended to ensure that a permanent plan is prepared by the Department of Human Resources and presented to the juvenile court within 12 months of the placement of any child in foster care and no less frequently than every 12 months thereafter. The purpose of the permanency hearing shall be to determine the permanency plan for the child which may include whether, and, if applicable, when, the child shall be:

(1) Returned home on a specific date.

(2) Placed for adoption with no identified resource or with the current foster parent wherein the Department of Human Resources shall file a petition for termination of parental rights.

(3) Permanently placed with a relative with a transfer of legal and physical custody to the relative or with a transfer of physical custody to the relative but with the Department of Human Resources retaining legal custody.

(4) Permanently placed with a kinship guardian pursuant to a written request filed by the Department of Human Resources for appointment of an individual as a kinship guardian. In addition to the allegations set forth in this section, the written request shall further contain the following:

a. That granting kinship guardianship of the child to the relative caregiver is in the best interests of the child and that neither a permanency goal of return of the child to the parents of the child nor adoption would be in the best interests of the child and are therefore not appropriate permanent plans for the child.

b. That granting a kinship guardianship of the child to the relative caregiver will provide the child with a safe and permanent home.

c. That the child demonstrates a strong attachment to the relative caregiver and the relative caregiver demonstrates a strong commitment to caring permanently for the child.

d. That the relative caregiver has been approved as a foster parent pursuant to regulations of the Department of Human Resources, has completed a criminal history clearance and child abuse and neglect central registry clearance, and that results of these clearances have been provided to the juvenile court.

e. That the child has been in foster care in the care of the prospective kinship guardian for a period of not less than six consecutive months preceding the filing of the written request for appointment of a kinship guardian.

f. That a child who is 14 years of age or older has been consulted as to his or her position regarding the prospective kinship guardianship and, if the child is 18 years of age or older, he or she has consented to the kinship guardianship if capable of giving effective consent.

(5) Placed in adult custodial care.

(6) Placed in another planned permanent living arrangement. In the case of a child who will not be returned home, at the permanency hearing, the juvenile court shall consider in-state and out-of-state placement options.

(b) If the juvenile court determines the permanent plan under subsection (a) shall be placement in another planned permanent living arrangement, the Department of Human Resources must document to the juvenile court a compelling reason for determining that it would not be in the best interests of the child to return home, be placed for adoption with no identified resource or with the current foster parent, or be permanently placed with a relative, with a transfer of legal and physical custody to the relative or with a transfer of physical custody to the relative but with the Department of Human Resources retaining legal custody, be placed with a kinship guardian, or be placed in adult custodial care. If the child has been placed in foster care outside the State of Alabama, at the permanency hearing, the juvenile court shall determine whether the out-of-state placement continues to be appropriate and in the best interests of the child. In the case of a child who has attained the age of 14 years, at the permanency hearing, the juvenile court shall consider the services needed to assist the child to make the transition from foster care to independent living. In any permanency hearing held with respect to the child, including any hearing regarding the transition of the child from foster care to independent living, the juvenile court shall consult, in an age-appropriate manner, with the child regarding the proposed permanency or transition plan for the child. Permanency plans may be concurrent and the Department of Human Resources may make reasonable efforts concurrently towards multiple permanency goals.

(c) The permanency hearing order of the juvenile court shall address whether the Department of Human Resources has made reasonable efforts to finalize any existing permanency plan for the child.

(d) The Department of Human Resources shall provide a copy of available health and education records of the foster child to the foster parent or foster care provider at the time of placement and provide a copy of available health and education records to the foster child, at no cost, at the time the child is emancipated or released from foster care by reason of attaining the age of majority.

(e) If the permanency plan for a child is placement with a kinship guardian, the individualized service plan must contain the following:

(1) The steps that the Department of Human Resources has taken to determine that it is not appropriate for the child to be returned home or adopted.

(2) The reasons for any separation of siblings during placement.

(3) The reasons why a permanent placement with a fit and willing relative caregiver through a kinship guardianship arrangement is in the best interests of the child.

(4) The ways in which the child meets the eligibility requirements for the kinship guardianship program.

(5) The efforts the Department of Human Resources has made to discuss adoption by the relative foster parent of the child as a more permanent alternative to a kinship guardianship and, in the case of a relative foster parent who has chosen not to pursue adoption, documentation of the reasons therefor.

(6) The efforts made by the Department of Human Resources to discuss with the parent, legal guardian, or legal custodian of the child the kinship guardianship arrangement, or the reasons why the efforts were not made.

(Act 2008-277, p. 441, §18; Act 2010-712, p. 1744, §13; Act 2016-129, §1.)