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H.B. 161 Enrolled

             1     

RIGHTS OF PARENTS AND CHILDREN

             2     
2012 GENERAL SESSION

             3     
STATE OF UTAH

             4     
Chief Sponsor: LaVar Christensen

             5     
Senate Sponsor: Wayne L. Niederhauser

             6     
             7      LONG TITLE
             8      General Description:
             9          This bill modifies Title 62A, Chapter 4a, Child and Family Services and Title 78A,
             10      Chapter 6, Juvenile Court Act of 1996, by affirming parental rights, amending
             11      procedures regarding the Division of Child and Family Services, and amending court
             12      procedures regarding the termination of parental rights.
             13      Highlighted Provisions:
             14          This bill:
             15          .    requires the Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Interim Committee
             16      to study issues regarding the rights of parents and children during the 2012 interim
             17      and report findings in the 2013 General Session;
             18          .    affirms parental rights in relation to the rights of the state;
             19          .    requires the court to consider the protections of parental rights before terminating
             20      parental rights;
             21          .    emphasizes the importance of in-home services and kinship placement over other
             22      forms of state intervention;
             23          .    states that the termination of parental rights should be pursued as a last resort only;
             24          .    requires an appellate court to consider "fundamental liberty interests" in an appeal
             25      of a termination of parental rights;
             26          .    makes technical changes.
             27      Money Appropriated in this Bill:
             28          None
             29      Other Special Clauses:


             30          None
             31      Utah Code Sections Affected:
             32      AMENDS:
             33          62A-4a-201, as last amended by Laws of Utah 2008, Chapters 3 and 299
             34          78A-6-503, as renumbered and amended by Laws of Utah 2008, Chapter 3
             35          78A-6-507, as renumbered and amended by Laws of Utah 2008, Chapter 3
             36          78B-6-132, as renumbered and amended by Laws of Utah 2008, Chapter 3
             37      ENACTS:
             38          62A-4a-122, Utah Code Annotated 1953
             39          63I-2-262, Utah Code Annotated 1953
             40          78A-4-201, Utah Code Annotated 1953
             41     
             42      Be it enacted by the Legislature of the state of Utah:
             43          Section 1. Section 62A-4a-122 is enacted to read:
             44          62A-4a-122. Review of state policies affecting parents and children.
             45          (1) Before the 2013 General Session of the Utah Legislature, the Judiciary, Law
             46      Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Interim Committee shall study and make findings on the
             47      status of and need for action regarding:
             48          (a) the Legislative Auditor's report, dated January 2011, and whether:
             49          (i) the rise in the budget for the Division of Child and Family Services from $45
             50      million to nearly $160 million per year is:
             51          (A) prudent;
             52          (B) in the best interest of the state; and
             53          (C) consistent with the state's values and public policy; and
             54          (ii) the 19 recommendations for better practice should be implemented;
             55          (b) whether federal law and funding is interfering with the full achievement of state
             56      policy regarding parental rights and family unification;
             57          (c) the potential to seek a jury trial in juvenile court when faced with potential


             58      termination of parental rights;
             59          (d) appellate review following a termination of parental rights by a juvenile court;
             60          (e) the fairness of fixed timelines and potential for premature findings that can result in
             61      a permanent loss of parental rights;
             62          (f) allowing increased opportunity for extended family members to help resolve
             63      parental deficiencies in their family without state interference, or loss of a child from the entire
             64      family;
             65          (g) whether the division should:
             66          (i) be designated as an authorized lead entity and redirect its current focus and practices
             67      in relation to federal law and the receipt of federal funding to strengthen families and prevent
             68      child abuse under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 5116; and
             69          (ii) reduce the number of cases and costs associated with foster care, which is
             70      approximately $47,000 per child, in comparison with in-home services, which cost
             71      approximately $1,700 per child, and focus on the strong public policy of fostering family
             72      unification to the fullest extent possible and as described in the January 2011 legislative audit;
             73          (h) the full, balanced consideration and application of the principles and protections
             74      recognized and provided in state law constitutes the best interest of a child.
             75          (2) The division shall provide the interim committee with:
             76          (a) copies of annual reports and state plans; and
             77          (b) communications regarding child protection that have been provided to or received
             78      from the federal government, and which may affect levels of federal funding and current
             79      practices of the state.
             80          (3) The interim committee may request additional information from the division, as
             81      necessary to fulfill the requirements of this section.
             82          Section 2. Section 62A-4a-201 is amended to read:
             83           62A-4a-201. Rights of parents -- Children's rights -- Interest and responsibility of
             84      state.
             85          (1) (a) Under both the United States Constitution and the constitution of this state, a


             86      parent possesses a fundamental liberty interest in the care, custody, and management of the
             87      parent's children. A fundamentally fair process must be provided to parents if the state moves
             88      to challenge or interfere with parental rights. A governmental entity must support any actions
             89      or allegations made in opposition to the rights and desires of a parent regarding the parent's
             90      children by sufficient evidence to satisfy a parent's constitutional entitlement to heightened
             91      protection against government interference with the parent's fundamental rights and liberty
             92      interests.
             93          (b) The fundamental liberty interest of a parent concerning the care, custody, and
             94      management of the parent's children is recognized, protected, and does not cease to exist
             95      simply because a parent may fail to be a model parent or because the parent's child is placed in
             96      the temporary custody of the state. At all times, a parent retains a vital interest in preventing
             97      the irretrievable destruction of family life. Prior to an adjudication of unfitness, government
             98      action in relation to parents and their children may not exceed the least restrictive means or
             99      alternatives available to accomplish a compelling state interest. Until the state proves parental
             100      unfitness, the child and the child's parents share a vital interest in preventing erroneous
             101      termination of their natural relationship and the state cannot presume that a child and the child's
             102      parents are adversaries.
             103          (c) It is in the best interest and welfare of a child to be raised under the care and
             104      supervision of the child's natural parents. A child's need for a normal family life in a
             105      permanent home, and for positive, nurturing family relationships [will] is usually best [be] met
             106      by the child's natural parents. Additionally, the integrity of the family unit[,] and the right of
             107      parents to conceive and raise their children [have found protection in the due process clause of
             108      the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution] are constitutionally protected.
             109      The right of a fit, competent parent to raise the parent's child without undue government
             110      interference is a fundamental liberty interest that has long been protected by the laws and
             111      Constitution [of this state and of the United States] and is a fundamental public policy of this
             112      state.
             113          (d) The state recognizes that:


             114          (i) a parent has the right, obligation, responsibility, and authority to raise, manage,
             115      train, educate, provide for, and reasonably discipline the parent's children; and
             116          (ii) the state's role is secondary and supportive to the primary role of a parent.
             117          (e) It is the public policy of this state that parents retain the fundamental right and duty
             118      to exercise primary control over the care, supervision, upbringing, and education of their
             119      children.
             120          (f) Subsections (2) through (7) shall be interpreted and applied consistent with this
             121      Subsection (1).
             122          (2) It is also the public policy of this state that children have the right to protection
             123      from abuse and neglect, and that the state retains a compelling interest in investigating,
             124      prosecuting, and punishing abuse and neglect, as defined in this chapter, and in Title 78A,
             125      Chapter 6, Juvenile Court Act of 1996. Therefore, the state, as parens patriae, has an interest in
             126      and responsibility to protect children whose parents abuse them or do not adequately provide
             127      for their welfare. There may be circumstances where a parent's conduct or condition is a
             128      substantial departure from the norm and the parent is unable or unwilling to render safe and
             129      proper parental care and protection. Under those circumstances, the state may take action for
             130      the welfare and protection of the parent's children.
             131          (3) When the division intervenes on behalf of an abused, neglected, or dependent child,
             132      it shall take into account the child's need for protection from immediate harm and the extent to
             133      which the child's extended family may provide needed protection. Throughout its involvement,
             134      the division shall utilize the least intrusive and least restrictive means available to protect a
             135      child, in an effort to ensure that children are brought up in stable, permanent families, rather
             136      than in temporary foster placements under the supervision of the state.
             137          (4) When circumstances within the family pose a threat to the child's immediate safety
             138      or welfare, the division may [obtain] seek custody of the child for a planned period and place
             139      the child in a safe environment, subject to the requirements of this section and in accordance
             140      with the requirements of Title 78A, Chapter 6, Part 3, Abuse, Neglect, and Dependency
             141      Proceedings[.], and:


             142          (a) when safe and appropriate, return the child to the child's parent; or
             143          (b) as a last resort, pursue another permanency plan.
             144          (5) In determining and making "reasonable efforts" with regard to a child, pursuant to
             145      the provisions of Section 62A-4a-203 , both the division's and the court's paramount concern
             146      shall be the child's health, safety, and welfare. The desires of a parent for the parent's child,
             147      and the constitutionally protected rights of a parent, as described in this section, shall be given
             148      full and serious consideration by the division and the court.
             149          (6) In cases where actual sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, abandonment, severe
             150      abuse, or severe neglect are established, the state has no duty to make "reasonable efforts" or
             151      to, in any other way, attempt to maintain a child in the child's home, provide reunification
             152      services, or to attempt to rehabilitate the offending parent or parents. This Subsection (6) does
             153      not exempt the division from providing court-ordered services.
             154          (7) (a) [It is the division's obligation, under federal law, to] The division shall strive to
             155      achieve appropriate permanency for children who are abused, neglected, or dependent. The
             156      division shall provide in-home services, where appropriate and safe, in an effort to help a
             157      parent to correct the behavior that resulted in abuse, neglect, or dependency of the parent's
             158      child. If in-home services fail or are otherwise insufficient or inappropriate, the division shall
             159      also seek qualified extended family support or a kinship placement to maintain a sense of
             160      security and stability for the child. If in-home services and kinship placement are not safe or
             161      appropriate, or in-home services and kinship placement fail and cannot be corrected, the
             162      division may pursue a foster placement.
             163          (b) If the use or continuation of "reasonable efforts," as described in Subsections (5)
             164      and (6), is determined to be inconsistent with the permanency plan for a child, then measures
             165      shall be taken, in a timely manner, to place the child in accordance with the permanency plan,
             166      and to complete whatever steps are necessary to finalize the permanent placement of the child.
             167          [(b) If,] (c) Subject to the parental rights recognized and protected under this section,
             168      if, because of a parent's conduct or condition, the parent is determined to be unfit or
             169      incompetent based on the grounds for termination of parental rights described in Title 78A,


             170      Chapter 6, Part 5, Termination of Parental Rights Act, the continuing welfare and best interest
             171      of the child is of paramount importance, and shall [govern] be protected in determining
             172      whether that parent's rights should be terminated.
             173          (8) The state's right to direct or intervene in the provision of medical or mental health
             174      care for a child is subject to Subsection 78A-6-117 (2)(n).
             175          Section 3. Section 63I-2-262 is enacted to read:
             176          63I-2-262. Repeal dates, Title 62A.
             177          Section 62A-4a-122 is repealed January 1, 2014.
             178          Section 4. Section 78A-4-201 is enacted to read:
             179          78A-4-201. Appellate review of juvenile courts.
             180          To uphold the clear and compelling fundamental liberty interests and constitutionally
             181      protected rights of parents and the strong public policy in favor of maximizing family
             182      unification, appropriate appellate review shall be made available and applied in furtherance of
             183      those interests.
             184          Section 5. Section 78A-6-503 is amended to read:
             185           78A-6-503. Judicial process for termination -- Parent unfit or incompetent -- Best
             186      interest of child.
             187          (1) Under both the United States Constitution and the constitution of this state, a parent
             188      possesses a fundamental liberty interest in the care, custody, and management of the parent's
             189      child.
             190          (2) The court shall provide a fundamentally fair process to a parent if a party moves to
             191      terminate parental rights.
             192          (3) If the party moving to terminate parental rights is a governmental entity, the court
             193      shall find that any actions or allegations made in opposition to the rights and desires of a parent
             194      regarding the parent's child are supported by sufficient evidence to satisfy a parent's
             195      constitutional entitlement to heightened protection against government interference with the
             196      parent's fundamental rights and liberty interests.
             197          (4) The fundamental liberty interest of a parent concerning the care, custody, and


             198      management of the parent's child is recognized, protected, and does not cease to exist simply
             199      because a parent may fail to be a model parent or because the parent's child is placed in the
             200      temporary custody of the state.
             201          (5) At all times, a parent retains a vital interest in preventing the irretrievable
             202      destruction of family life.
             203          (6) Prior to an adjudication of unfitness, government action in relation to a parent and a
             204      parent's child may not exceed the least restrictive means or alternatives available to accomplish
             205      a compelling state interest.
             206          (7) Until parental unfitness is established, the child and the child's parent share a vital
             207      interest in preventing erroneous termination of their relationship and the court may not presume
             208      that a child and the child's parents are adversaries.
             209          (8) It is in the best interest and welfare of a child to be raised under the care and
             210      supervision of the child's natural parents. A child's need for a normal family life in a
             211      permanent home, and for positive, nurturing family relationships is usually best met by the
             212      child's natural parents. Additionally, the integrity of the family unit and the right of parents to
             213      conceive and raise their children are constitutionally protected.
             214          (9) The right of a fit, competent parent to raise the parent's child without undue
             215      government interference is a fundamental liberty interest that has long been protected by the
             216      laws and Constitution of this state and of the United States, and is a fundamental public policy
             217      of this state.
             218          (10) The state recognizes that:
             219          (a) a parent has the right, obligation, responsibility, and authority to raise, manage,
             220      train, educate, provide for, and reasonably discipline the parent's children; and
             221          (b) the state's role is secondary and supportive to the primary role of a parent.
             222          (c) It is the public policy of this state that parents retain the fundamental right and duty
             223      to exercise primary control over the care, supervision, upbringing, and education of their
             224      children.
             225          [(1)] (11) This part provides a judicial process for voluntary and involuntary severance


             226      of the parent-child relationship, designed to safeguard the rights and interests of all parties
             227      concerned and promote their welfare and that of the state.
             228          [(2)] (12) Wherever possible family life should be strengthened and preserved, but if a
             229      parent is found, by reason of his conduct or condition, to be unfit or incompetent based upon
             230      any of the grounds for termination described in this part, the court shall then consider the
             231      welfare and best interest of the child of paramount importance in determining whether
             232      termination of parental rights shall be ordered.
             233          Section 6. Section 78A-6-507 is amended to read:
             234           78A-6-507. Grounds for termination of parental rights -- Findings regarding
             235      reasonable efforts.
             236          (1) [The] Subject to the protections and requirements of Section 78A-6-503 , and if the
             237      court finds strictly necessary, the court may terminate all parental rights with respect to a parent
             238      if the court finds any one of the following:
             239          (a) that the parent has abandoned the child;
             240          (b) that the parent has neglected or abused the child;
             241          (c) that the parent is unfit or incompetent;
             242          (d) (i) that the child is being cared for in an out-of-home placement under the
             243      supervision of the court or the division;
             244          (ii) that the parent has substantially neglected, wilfully refused, or has been unable or
             245      unwilling to remedy the circumstances that cause the child to be in an out-of-home placement;
             246      and
             247          (iii) that there is a substantial likelihood that the parent will not be capable of
             248      exercising proper and effective parental care in the near future;
             249          (e) failure of parental adjustment, as defined in this chapter;
             250          (f) that only token efforts have been made by the parent:
             251          (i) to support or communicate with the child;
             252          (ii) to prevent neglect of the child;
             253          (iii) to eliminate the risk of serious harm to the child; or


             254          (iv) to avoid being an unfit parent;
             255          (g) (i) that the parent has voluntarily relinquished the parent's parental rights to the
             256      child; and
             257          (ii) that termination is in the child's best interest;
             258          (h) that, after a period of trial during which the child was returned to live in the child's
             259      own home, the parent substantially and continuously or repeatedly refused or failed to give the
             260      child proper parental care and protection; or
             261          (i) the terms and conditions of safe relinquishment of a newborn child have been
             262      complied with, pursuant to Title 62A, Chapter 4a, Part 8, Safe Relinquishment of a Newborn
             263      Child.
             264          (2) The court may not terminate the parental rights of a parent because the parent has
             265      failed to complete the requirements of a child and family plan.
             266          (3) (a) Except as provided in Subsection (3)(b), in any case in which the court has
             267      directed the division to provide reunification services to a parent, the court must find that the
             268      division made reasonable efforts to provide those services before the court may terminate the
             269      parent's rights under Subsection (1)(b), (c), (d), (e), (f), or (h).
             270          (b) Notwithstanding Subsection (3)(a), the court is not required to make the finding
             271      under Subsection (3)(a) before terminating a parent's rights:
             272          (i) under Subsection (1)(b), if the court finds that the abuse or neglect occurred
             273      subsequent to adjudication; or
             274          (ii) if reasonable efforts to provide the services described in Subsection (3)(a) are not
             275      required under federal law, and federal law is not inconsistent with Utah law.
             276          Section 7. Section 78B-6-132 is amended to read:
             277           78B-6-132. Children in the custody of the Division of Child and Family Services
             278      -- Consideration of child's relationship with foster parents who petition for adoption.
             279          (1) In assessing the best interest of a child in the custody of the Division of Child and
             280      Family Services whose foster parents have petitioned for adoption, the court shall give special
             281      consideration to the relationship of the child with his foster parents, if the child has been in that


             282      home for a period of six months or longer.
             283          (2) Nothing in this section shall be construed as requiring an adoption that would be
             284      contrary to the public policy of placing an adoptable child with a married couple whenever
             285      possible.


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