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First Substitute H.B. 338

This document includes House Floor Amendments incorporated into the bill on Thu, Feb 24, 2005 at 8:21 AM by chopkin. --> This document includes Senate 2nd Reading Floor Amendments incorporated into the bill on Wed, Mar 2, 2005 at 9:07 PM by smaeser. -->

Representative LaVar Christensen proposes the following substitute bill:




Sponsor: LaVar Christensen

             6      LONG TITLE
             7      General Description:
             8          This bill amends provisions of the Utah Human Services Code and the Judicial Code
             9      relating to child welfare and the rights of parents.
             10      Highlighted Provisions:
             11          This bill:
             12          .    describes the rights of parents and the obligations of the state with regard to children
             13      and the protection of children;
             14          .    provides that prior to an adjudication of unfitness, government action in relation to
             15      parents and their children may not exceed the least restrictive means or alternatives
             16      available to accomplish a compelling state interest;
             17          .    provides that all portions of the Utah Code relating to child protection be interpreted
             18      and applied consistent with parental rights and government obligations;
             19          .    requires that the state juvenile court:
             20              .     act in the best interests of a minor in all cases; and
             21              .     preserve and strengthen family ties;
             22          .    provides that the appointment of an attorney guardian ad litem for a minor shall be
             23      based on findings that establish the necessity for the appointment;
             24          .    provides that the appointment of an attorney guardian ad litem may be terminated at
             25      any stage of a child protection proceeding upon motion of the court or any party to

             26      the proceeding; and
             27          .     makes technical changes.
             28      Monies Appropriated in this Bill:
             29          None
             30      Other Special Clauses:
             31          None
             32      Utah Code Sections Affected:
             33      AMENDS:
             34          62A-4a-201, as last amended by Chapter 274, Laws of Utah 2000
             35          78-3a-102, as last amended by Chapter 329, Laws of Utah 1997
             36          78-3a-912, as last amended by Chapter 356, Laws of Utah 2004
             38      Be it enacted by the Legislature of the state of Utah:
             39          Section 1. Section 62A-4a-201 is amended to read:
             40           62A-4a-201. Rights of parents -- Children's rights -- Interest and responsibility of
             41      state.
             42          (1) (a) Under both the United States Constitution and the constitution of this state, a
             43      parent possesses a fundamental liberty interest in the care, custody, and management of the
             44      parent's children. A fundamentally fair process must be provided to parents if the state moves
             45      to challenge or interfere with parental rights. A governmental entity must support any actions
             46      or allegations made in opposition to the rights and desires of a parent regarding the parent's
             47      children by sufficient evidence to satisfy a parent's constitutional entitlement to heightened
             48      protection against government interference with the parent's fundamental rights and liberty
             49      interests.
             50          (b) The fundamental liberty interest of a parent concerning the care, custody, and
             51      management of the parent's children is recognized, protected, and does not cease to exist
             52      simply because a parent may fail to be a model parent or because the parent's child is placed in
             53      the temporary custody of the state. At all times, a parent retains a vital interest in preventing
             54      the irretrievable destruction of family life. Prior to an adjudication of unfitness, government
             55      action in relation to parents and their children may not exceed the least restrictive means or
             56      alternatives available to accomplish a compelling state interest. Until the state proves parental

             57      unfitness, the child and the child's parents share a vital interest in preventing erroneous
             58      termination of their natural relationship and the state cannot presume that a child and the child's
             59      parents are adversaries.
             60          [(1) (a)] (c) [Courts have recognized a general presumption that it] It is in the best
             61      interest and welfare of a child to be raised under the care and supervision of H. [ his ]
             61a      the child's .H natural parents.
             62      A child's need for a normal family life in a permanent home, and for positive, nurturing family
             63      relationships will usually best be met by H. [ his ] the child's .H natural parents. Additionally,
             63a      the integrity of the
             64      family unit, and the right of parents to conceive and raise their children have found protection
             65      in the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The
             66      right of a fit, competent parent to raise H. [ his ] the parent's .H child without undue government
             66a      interference is a
             67      fundamental liberty interest that has long been protected by the laws and Constitution of this
             68      state and of the United States.
             69          [(b)] (d) It is the public policy of this state that parents retain the fundamental right and
             70      duty to exercise primary control over the care, supervision, upbringing, and education of their
             71      children [who are in their custody].
             72          (e) Subsections (2) through (7) S. [ and all portions of the Utah Code that relate to child
             73      protection
] .S
shall be interpreted and applied consistent with H. this .H Subsection (1).
             74          (2) It is also the public policy of this state that children have the right to protection
             75      from abuse and neglect, and that the state retains a compelling interest in investigating,
             76      prosecuting, and punishing abuse and neglect, as defined in this chapter, and in Title 78,
             77      Chapter 3a, Juvenile H. [ Courts ] Court Act of 1996 .H . Therefore, [as a counterweight to
             77a      parental rights,] the state, as
             78      parens patriae, has an interest in and responsibility to protect children whose parents abuse
             79      them or do not adequately provide for their welfare. There [are] may be circumstances where a
             80      parent's conduct or condition is a substantial departure from the norm and the parent is unable
             81      or unwilling to render safe and proper parental care and protection. Under those circumstances,
             82      the state may take action for the welfare and protection of the parent's children [is the
             83      consideration of paramount importance].
             84          (3) When the division intervenes on behalf of an abused, neglected, or dependent child,
             85      it shall take into account the child's need for protection from immediate harm. Throughout its
             86      involvement, the division shall utilize the least intrusive and least restrictive means available to
             87      protect a child, in an effort to ensure that children are brought up in stable, permanent families,

             88      rather than in temporary foster placements under the supervision of the state.
             89          (4) When circumstances within the family pose a threat to the child's immediate safety
             90      or welfare, the [state's interest in the child's welfare is paramount to the rights of a parent. The]
             91      division may obtain custody of the child for a planned period and place H. [ him ] the child .H
             91a      in a safe
             92      environment, in accordance with the requirements of Title 78, Chapter 3a, Part 3, Abuse,
             93      Neglect, and Dependency Proceedings.
             94          (5) In determining and making "reasonable efforts" with regard to a child, pursuant to
             95      the provisions of Section 62A-4a-203 [and keeping with the presumptions described in
             96      Subsection (1)], both the division's and the court's paramount concern shall be the child's
             97      health, safety, and welfare. The desires of a parent for the parent's child shall be given full and
             98      serious consideration by the division and the court.
             99          (6) In cases where actual sexual abuse, abandonment, or serious physical abuse or
             100      neglect are [involved] established, the state has no duty to make "reasonable efforts" or to, in
             101      any other way, attempt to maintain a child in H. [ his ] the child's .H home, provide reunification
             101a      services, or to
             102      attempt to rehabilitate the offending parent or parents. This Subsection (6) does not exempt the
             103      division from providing court-ordered services.
             104          (7) (a) It is the division's obligation, under federal law, to achieve permanency for
             105      children who are abused, neglected, or dependent. If the use or continuation of "reasonable
             106      efforts," as described in Subsections (5) and (6), is determined to be inconsistent with the
             107      permanency plan for a child, then measures shall be taken, in a timely manner, to place the
             108      child in accordance with the permanency plan, and to complete whatever steps are necessary to
             109      finalize the permanent placement of the child.
             110          (b) If, because of his conduct or condition, a parent is determined to be unfit or
             111      incompetent based on the grounds for termination of parental rights described in Title 78,
             112      Chapter 3a, Part 4, Termination of Parental Rights Act, the welfare and best interest of the
             113      child is of paramount importance, and shall govern in determining whether that parent's rights
             114      should be terminated.
             115          Section 2. Section 78-3a-102 is amended to read:
             116           78-3a-102. Establishment of juvenile court -- Organization and status of court --
             117      Purpose.
             118          (1) There is established for the state a juvenile court.

             119          (2) The juvenile court is a court of record. It shall have a seal, and its judges, clerks,
             120      and referees have the power to administer oaths and affirmations.
             121          (3) The juvenile court is of equal status with the district courts of the state.
             122          (4) The juvenile court is established as a forum for the resolution of all matters
             123      properly brought before it, consistent with applicable constitutional and statutory requirements
             124      of due process.
             125          (5) The purpose of the court under this chapter is to:
             126          (a) promote public safety and individual accountability by the imposition of
             127      appropriate sanctions on persons who have committed acts in violation of law;
             128          (b) order appropriate measures to promote guidance and control, preferably in the
             129      minor's own home, as an aid in the prevention of future unlawful conduct and the development
             130      of responsible citizenship;
             131          (c) where appropriate, order rehabilitation, reeducation, and treatment for persons who
             132      have committed acts bringing them within the court's jurisdiction;
             133          (d) adjudicate matters that relate to minors who are beyond parental or adult control
             134      and to establish appropriate authority over these minors by means of placement and control
             135      orders;
             136          (e) adjudicate matters that relate to abused, neglected, and dependent minors and to
             137      provide care and protection for these minors by placement, protection, and custody orders;
             138          (f) remove a minor from parental custody only where the minor's safety or welfare, or
             139      the public safety, may not otherwise be adequately safeguarded; and
             140          (g) consistent with the ends of justice, [strive to] act in the best interests of the
             141      [minor's] minor in all cases and [attempt to] preserve and strengthen family ties [where
             142      possible].
             143          Section 3. Section 78-3a-912 is amended to read:
             144           78-3a-912. Appointment of attorney guardian ad litem -- Right of refusal --
             145      Duties and responsibilities -- Training -- Trained staff and court-appointed special
             146      advocate volunteers -- Costs -- Immunity -- Annual report.
             147          (1) (a) The court may appoint an attorney guardian ad litem to represent the best
             148      interest of a minor involved in any case before the court and shall consider [only] the best
             149      interest of a minor, consistent with the provisions of Section 62A-4a-201 , in determining

             150      whether to appoint a guardian ad litem.
             151          (b) In all cases where an attorney guardian ad litem is appointed, the court shall make a
             152      finding that establishes the necessity of the appointment.
             153          (2) H. [ [ ] An [ ] ] [ If appointed, an ] .H attorney guardian ad litem shall represent the best
             153a      interest of
             154      each minor who may become the subject of a petition alleging abuse, neglect, or dependency,
             155      from the date the minor is removed from the minor's home by the division, or the date the
             156      petition is filed, whichever occurs earlier.
             157          (3) The Office of the Guardian Ad Litem Director, through an attorney guardian ad
             158      litem, shall:
             159          (a) represent the best interest of the minor in all proceedings;
             160          (b) be trained in applicable statutory, regulatory, and case law, and in accordance with
             161      the United States Department of Justice National Court Appointed Special Advocate
             162      Association guidelines, prior to representing any minor before the court;
             163          (c) conduct or supervise an independent investigation in order to obtain first-hand, a
             164      clear understanding of the situation and needs of the child;
             165          (d) (i) personally meet with the minor;
             166          (ii) personally interview the minor if the minor is old enough to communicate;
             167          (iii) determine the minor's goals and concerns regarding placement; and
             168          (iv) personally assess or supervise an assessment of the appropriateness and safety of
             169      the minor's environment in each placement;
             170          (e) file written motions, responses, or objections at all stages of a proceeding when
             171      necessary to protect the best interest of a minor;
             172          (f) personally or through a trained volunteer, paralegal, or other trained staff, attend all
             173      administrative and foster care citizen review board hearings pertaining to the minor's case;
             174          (g) participate in all appeals unless excused by order of the court;
             175          (h) be familiar with local experts who can provide consultation and testimony
             176      regarding the reasonableness and appropriateness of efforts made by the Division of Child and
             177      Family Services to maintain a minor in the minor's home or to reunify a minor with the minor's
             178      parent;
             179          (i) to the extent possible, and unless it would be detrimental to the minor, personally or
             180      through a trained volunteer, paralegal, or other trained staff, keep the minor advised of the

             181      status of the minor's case, all court and administrative proceedings, discussions, and proposals
             182      made by other parties, court action, and psychiatric, medical, or other treatment or diagnostic
             183      services that are to be provided to the minor;
             184          (j) review proposed orders for, and as requested by the court, prepare proposed orders
             185      with clear and specific directions regarding services, treatment, and evaluation, assessment, and
             186      protection of the minor and the minor's family; and
             187          (k) personally or through a trained volunteer, paralegal, or other trained staff, monitor
             188      implementation of a minor's treatment plan and any dispositional orders to determine whether
             189      services ordered by the court are actually provided, are provided in a timely manner, and
             190      attempt to assess whether they are accomplishing their intended goal.
             191          (4) (a) An attorney guardian ad litem may use trained volunteers, in accordance with
             192      Title 67, Chapter 20, Volunteer Government Workers Act, trained paralegals, and other trained
             193      staff to assist in investigation and preparation of information regarding the cases of individual
             194      minors before the court. An attorney guardian ad litem may not, however, delegate the
             195      attorney's responsibilities described in Subsection (3).
             196          (b) All volunteers, paralegals, and staff utilized pursuant to this section shall be trained
             197      in and follow, at a minimum, the guidelines established by the United States Department of
             198      Justice Court Appointed Special Advocate Association.
             199          (c) The court may use volunteers trained in accordance with the requirements of
             200      Subsection (4)(b) to assist in investigation and preparation of information regarding the cases
             201      of individual minors within the jurisdiction.
             202          (d) When possible and appropriate, the court may use a volunteer who is a peer of the
             203      minor appearing before the court, in order to provide assistance to that minor, under the
             204      supervision of an attorney guardian ad litem or the attorney's trained volunteer, paralegal, or
             205      other trained staff.
             206          (5) H. [ (a) ] .H The attorney guardian ad litem shall continue to represent the best
             206a      interest of the
             207      minor until released from duties by the court.
             208           H. [ (b) The appointment of the attorney guardian ad litem may be terminated at any stage
             209      of the proceeding upon motion of:
             210          (i) the court; or
             211          (ii) any party to the proceeding, as approved by the court.
] .H

             212          (6) (a) The juvenile court is responsible for all costs resulting from the appointment of
             213      an attorney guardian ad litem and the costs of volunteer, paralegal, and other staff appointment
             214      and training, and shall use funds appropriated by the Legislature for the guardian ad litem
             215      program to cover those costs.
             216          (b) (i) When the court appoints an attorney guardian ad litem under this section, the
             217      court may assess all or part of the attorney's fees, court costs, and paralegal, staff, and volunteer
             218      expenses against the minor's parents, parent, or legal guardian in a proportion that the court
             219      determines to be just and appropriate.
             220          (ii) The court may not assess those fees or costs against a legal guardian, when that
             221      guardian is the state, or against a parent who is found to be impecunious. If a person claims to
             222      be impecunious, the court shall require of that person an affidavit of impecuniosity as provided
             223      in Section 78-7-36 and the court shall follow the procedures and make the determinations as
             224      provided in Section [ 78-7-36 ] 78-7-37 .
             225          (7) An attorney guardian ad litem appointed under this section, when serving in the
             226      scope of the attorney guardian ad litem's duties as guardian ad litem is considered an employee
             227      of the state for purposes of indemnification under Title 63, Chapter 30, Utah Governmental
             228      Immunity Act.
             229          (8) (a) An attorney guardian ad litem shall represent the best interest of a minor. If the
             230      minor's wishes differ from the attorney's determination of the minor's best interest, the attorney
             231      guardian ad litem shall communicate the minor's wishes to the court in addition to presenting
             232      the attorney's determination of the minor's best interest. A difference between the minor's
             233      wishes and the attorney's determination of best interest may not be considered a conflict of
             234      interest for the attorney.
             235          (b) The court may appoint one attorney guardian ad litem to represent the best interests
             236      of more than one minor child of a marriage.
             237          (9) An attorney guardian ad litem shall be provided access to all Division of Child and
             238      Family Services records regarding the minor at issue and the minor's family.
             239          (10) An attorney guardian ad litem shall maintain current and accurate records
             240      regarding the number of times the attorney has had contact with each minor and the actions the
             241      attorney has taken in representation of the minor's best interest.
             242          (11) (a) Except as provided in Subsection (11)(b), all records of an attorney guardian

             243      ad litem are confidential and may not be released or made public upon subpoena, search
             244      warrant, discovery proceedings, or otherwise. This subsection supersedes Title 63, Chapter 2,
             245      Government Records Access and Management Act.
             246          (b) All records of an attorney guardian ad litem are subject to legislative subpoena,
             247      under Title 36, Chapter 14, Legislative Subpoena Powers, and shall be released to the
             248      Legislature.
             249          (c) Records released in accordance with Subsection (11)(b) shall be maintained as
             250      confidential by the Legislature. The Office of the Legislative Auditor General may, however,
             251      include summary data and nonidentifying information in its audits and reports to the
             252      Legislature.
             253          (d) Because of the unique role of an attorney guardian ad litem described in Subsection
             254      (8), and the state's role and responsibility to provide a guardian ad litem program and, as parens
             255      patriae, to protect minors, Subsection (11)(b) constitutes an exception to Rules of Professional
             256      Conduct, Rule 1.6, as provided by Rule 1.6(b)(4). A claim of attorney-client privilege does not
             257      bar access to the records of an attorney guardian ad litem by the Legislature, through legislative
             258      subpoena.
             259          (e) The Office of the Guardian Ad Litem shall present an annual report to the Child
             260      Welfare Legislative Oversight Panel detailing:
             261          (i) the development, policy, and management of the statewide guardian ad litem
             262      program;
             263          (ii) the training and evaluation of attorney guardians ad litem and volunteers; and
             264          (iii) the number of children served by the Office of the Guardian Ad Litem.

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