Chief Sponsor: Merrill F. Nelson

Senate Sponsor: Todd Weiler


8     General Description:
9          This bill enacts provisions related to the adoption and placement of high needs children.
10     Highlighted Provisions:
11          This bill:
12          ▸     defines terms;
13          ▸     modifies terms;
14          ▸     requires a child placing agency to provide certain information and training for a
15     prospective adoptive parent of a high needs child;
16          ▸     prohibits a person from engaging in an unregulated custody transfer; and
17          ▸     makes technical changes.
18     Money Appropriated in this Bill:
19          None
20     Other Special Clauses:
21          None
22     Utah Code Sections Affected:
23     AMENDS:
24          62A-4a-208, as last amended by Laws of Utah 2009, Chapter 75
25          62A-4a-601, as last amended by Laws of Utah 2006, Chapter 281
26          78A-6-105, as last amended by Laws of Utah 2016, Chapters 109 and 351
27     ENACTS:
28          62A-4a-609, Utah Code Annotated 1953
29          62A-4a-711, Utah Code Annotated 1953


31     Be it enacted by the Legislature of the state of Utah:
32          Section 1. Section 62A-4a-208 is amended to read:
33          62A-4a-208. Child protection ombudsman -- Responsibility -- Authority.
34          (1) As used in this section:
35          (a) "Complainant" means a person who initiates a complaint with the ombudsman.
36          (b) "Ombudsman" means the child protection ombudsman appointed pursuant to this
37     section.
38          (2) (a) There is created within the department the position of child protection
39     ombudsman. The ombudsman shall be appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the executive
40     director.
41          (b) The ombudsman shall be:
42          (i) an individual of recognized executive and administrative capacity;
43          (ii) selected solely with regard to qualifications and fitness to discharge the duties of
44     ombudsman; and
45          (iii) have experience in child welfare, and in state laws and policies governing abused,
46     neglected, and dependent children.
47          (c) The ombudsman shall devote full time to the duties of office.
48          (3) (a) Except as provided in Subsection (3)(b), the ombudsman shall, upon receipt of a
49     complaint from any person, investigate whether an act or omission of the division with respect
50     to a particular child:
51          (i) is contrary to statute, rule, or policy;
52          (ii) places a child's health or safety at risk;
53          (iii) is made without an adequate statement of reason; or
54          (iv) is based on irrelevant, immaterial, or erroneous grounds.
55          (b) The ombudsman may decline to investigate any complaint. If the ombudsman
56     declines to investigate a complaint or continue an investigation, the ombudsman shall notify
57     the complainant and the division of the decision and of the reasons for that decision.

58          (c) The ombudsman may conduct an investigation on the ombudsman's own initiative.
59          (4) The ombudsman shall:
60          (a) in accordance with Title 63G, Chapter 3, Utah Administrative Rulemaking Act,
61     make rules that govern the following:
62          (i) receiving and processing complaints;
63          (ii) notifying complainants and the division regarding a decision to investigate or to
64     decline to investigate a complaint;
65          (iii) prioritizing workload;
66          (iv) maximum time within which investigations shall be completed;
67          (v) conducting investigations;
68          (vi) notifying complainants and the division regarding the results of investigations; and
69          (vii) making recommendations based on the findings and results of recommendations;
70          (b) report findings and recommendations in writing to the complainant and the
71     division, in accordance with the provisions of this section;
72          (c) within appropriations from the Legislature, employ staff as may be necessary to
73     carry out the ombudsman's duties under this part;
74          (d) provide information regarding the role, duties, and functions of the ombudsman to
75     public agencies, private entities, and individuals;
76          (e) annually report to the:
77          (i) Child Welfare Legislative Oversight Panel;
78          (ii) governor;
79          (iii) Division of Child and Family Services;
80          (iv) executive director of the department; and
81          (v) director of the division; and
82          (f) as appropriate, make recommendations to the division regarding individual cases,
83     and the rules, policies, and operations of the division.
84          (5) (a) Upon rendering a decision to investigate a complaint, the ombudsman shall
85     notify the complainant and the division of that decision.

86          (b) The ombudsman may advise a complainant to pursue all administrative remedies or
87     channels of complaint before pursuing a complaint with the ombudsman. Subsequent to
88     processing a complaint, the ombudsman may conduct further investigations upon the request of
89     the complainant or upon the ombudsman's own initiative. Nothing in this subsection precludes
90     a complainant from making a complaint directly to the ombudsman before pursuing an
91     administrative remedy.
92          (c) If the ombudsman finds that an individual's act or omission violates state or federal
93     criminal law, the ombudsman shall immediately report that finding to the appropriate county or
94     district attorney or to the attorney general.
95          (d) The ombudsman shall immediately notify the division if the ombudsman finds that
96     a child needs protective custody[, as that term is defined in Section 78A-6-105].
97          (e) The ombudsman shall immediately comply with Part 4, Child Abuse or Neglect
98     Reporting Requirements.
99          (6) (a) All records of the ombudsman regarding individual cases shall be classified in
100     accordance with federal law and the provisions of Title 63G, Chapter 2, Government Records
101     Access and Management Act. The ombudsman may make public a report prepared pursuant to
102     this section in accordance with the provisions of Title 63G, Chapter 2, Government Records
103     Access and Management Act.
104          (b) The ombudsman shall have access to all of the department's written and electronic
105     records and databases, including those regarding individual cases. In accordance with Title
106     63G, Chapter 2, Government Records Access and Management Act, all documents and
107     information received by the ombudsman shall maintain the same classification that was
108     designated by the department.
109          (7) (a) The ombudsman shall prepare a written report of the findings and
110     recommendations, if any, of each investigation.
111          (b) The ombudsman shall make recommendations to the division if the ombudsman
112     finds that:
113          (i) a matter should be further considered by the division;

114          (ii) an administrative act should be addressed, modified, or canceled;
115          (iii) action should be taken by the division with regard to one of its employees; or
116          (iv) any other action should be taken by the division.
117          Section 2. Section 62A-4a-601 is amended to read:
118          62A-4a-601. Definitions.
119          For purposes of this part:
120          (1) "Child placing" means:
121          (a) receiving, accepting, or providing custody or care for a child, temporarily or
122     permanently, for the purpose of finding a person to adopt the child; or
123          (b) placing a child, temporarily or permanently, in a home for adoption or substitute
124     care.
125          (2) "Child placing agency" means an individual, agency, firm, corporation, association,
126     or group children's home that engages in child placing.
127          (3) "High needs child" means a child:
128          (a) with an attachment or trauma-related disorder;
129          (b) who suffered from prenatal exposure to alcohol or drugs;
130          (c) who is the subject of an intercountry adoption;
131          (d) who was previously adopted; or
132          (e) who is in foster care.
133          Section 3. Section 62A-4a-609 is enacted to read:
134          62A-4a-609. Preplacement disclosure and training before high needs child
135     adoption.
136          Before referring a high needs child for adoption or entering into a contract to provide
137     adoption services to a prospective adoptive parent of a high needs child, the child placing
138     agency shall ensure that the prospective adoptive parent receives:
139          (1) at a minimum, to the extent available, the following information:
140          (a) a social history of the high needs child to be adopted, including:
141          (i) a history of the high needs child's cultural, racial, religious, ethnic, linguistic, and

142     educational background; and

143          (ii) any conditions in the high needs child's country of origin, if applicable, to which
144     the child may have been exposed and that may have an impact on the child's physical or mental
145     health; and

146          (b) a record, if available, of the high needs child's:
147          (i) physical health, mental health, behavioral issues, or exposure to trauma, including
148     whether the child placing agency knows or suspects that the high needs child has been exposed
149     to alcohol or drugs in utero; and

150          (ii) history of institutionalization or previous adoptive or foster placements and, if
151     applicable, the reason a previous placement was terminated; and

152          (2) at a minimum, training on the following issues:
153          (a) the impact leaving familiar ties and surroundings may have on a high needs child,
154     and the grief, loss, and identity issues that a high needs child may experience in adoption;

155          (b) the potential impact of an institutional setting on a high needs child;
156          (c) attachment disorders, trauma-related disorders, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders,
157     and other emotional problems that a high needs child may suffer, particularly when the high
158     needs child has been institutionalized, traumatized, or cared for by multiple caregivers;

159          (d) the general characteristics of a successful adoption placement, including
160     information on the financial resources, time, and insurance coverage necessary for handling the
161     adoptive family's and the high needs child's adjustment following placement;

162          (e) the medical, therapeutic, and educational needs a high needs child may require,
163     including language acquisition training;

164          (f) how to access post-placement and post-adoption services that may assist the family
165     to respond effectively to adjustment, behavioral, and other difficulties that may arise after the
166     high needs child is placed or adopted;

167          (g) issues that may lead to the disruption of an adoptive placement or the dissolution of
168     an adoption, including how an adoptive parent may access resources to avoid disruption or
169     dissolution;

170          (h) the long-term implications for a family that becomes multicultural through
171     adoption;

172          (i) for a prospective adoptive parent who is seeking to adopt two or more unrelated
173     children, the differing needs of children based on their respective ages, backgrounds, length of
174     time outside of family care, and the time management requirements and other challenges that
175     may be presented in a multi-child adoption; and
176          (j) the prohibition against an unregulated custody transfer of a child.
177          Section 4. Section 62A-4a-711 is enacted to read:
178          62A-4a-711. Penalty.
179          An individual or entity that knowingly engages in an unregulated custody transfer, as
180     defined in Subsection 78A-6-105(48), is guilty of a class B misdemeanor.
181          Section 5. Section 78A-6-105 is amended to read:
182          78A-6-105. Definitions.
183          As used in this chapter:
184          (1) (a) "Abuse" means:
185          (i) nonaccidental harm of a child;
186          (ii) threatened harm of a child;
187          (iii) sexual exploitation;
188          (iv) sexual abuse; or
189          (v) human trafficking of a child in violation of Section 76-5-308.5.
190          (b) that a child's natural parent:
191          (i) intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes the death of another parent of the
192     child;
193          (ii) is identified by a law enforcement agency as the primary suspect in an investigation
194     for intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing the death of another parent of the child; or
195          (iii) is being prosecuted for or has been convicted of intentionally, knowingly, or
196     recklessly causing the death of another parent of the child.
197          (c) "Abuse" does not include:

198          (i) reasonable discipline or management of a child, including withholding privileges;
199          (ii) conduct described in Section 76-2-401; or
200          (iii) the use of reasonable and necessary physical restraint or force on a child:
201          (A) in self-defense;
202          (B) in defense of others;
203          (C) to protect the child; or
204          (D) to remove a weapon in the possession of a child for any of the reasons described in
205     Subsections (1)(b)(iii)(A) through (C).
206          (2) "Abused child" means a child who has been subjected to abuse.
207          (3) "Adjudication" means a finding by the court, incorporated in a decree, that the facts
208     alleged in the petition have been proved. A finding of not competent to proceed pursuant to
209     Section 78A-6-1302 is not an adjudication.
210          (4) "Adult" means a person 18 years of age or over, except that a person 18 years or
211     over under the continuing jurisdiction of the juvenile court pursuant to Section 78A-6-120 shall
212     be referred to as a minor.
213          (5) "Board" means the Board of Juvenile Court Judges.
214          (6) "Child" means a person under 18 years of age.
215          (7) "Child placement agency" means:
216          (a) a private agency licensed to receive a child for placement or adoption under this
217     code; or
218          (b) a private agency that receives a child for placement or adoption in another state,
219     which agency is licensed or approved where such license or approval is required by law.
220          (8) "Clandestine laboratory operation" means the same as that term is defined in
221     Section 58-37d-3.
222          (9) "Commit" means, unless specified otherwise:
223          (a) with respect to a child, to transfer legal custody; and
224          (b) with respect to a minor who is at least 18 years of age, to transfer custody.
225          (10) "Court" means the juvenile court.

226          (11) "Dependent child" includes a child who is homeless or without proper care
227     through no fault of the child's parent, guardian, or custodian.
228          (12) "Deprivation of custody" means transfer of legal custody by the court from a
229     parent or the parents or a previous legal custodian to another person, agency, or institution.
230          (13) "Detention" means home detention and secure detention as defined in Section
231     62A-7-101 for the temporary care of a minor who requires secure custody in a physically
232     restricting facility:
233          (a) pending court disposition or transfer to another jurisdiction; or
234          (b) while under the continuing jurisdiction of the court.
235          (14) "Division" means the Division of Child and Family Services.
236          (15) "Formal referral" means a written report from a peace officer or other person
237     informing the court that a minor is or appears to be within the court's jurisdiction and that a
238     petition may be filed.
239          (16) "Group rehabilitation therapy" means psychological and social counseling of one
240     or more persons in the group, depending upon the recommendation of the therapist.
241          (17) "Guardianship of the person" includes the authority to consent to:
242          (a) marriage;
243          (b) enlistment in the armed forces;
244          (c) major medical, surgical, or psychiatric treatment; or
245          (d) legal custody, if legal custody is not vested in another person, agency, or institution.
246          (18) "Habitual truant" means the same as that term is defined in Section 53A-11-101.
247          (19) "Harm" means:
248          (a) physical or developmental injury or damage;
249          (b) emotional damage that results in a serious impairment in the child's growth,
250     development, behavior, or psychological functioning;
251          (c) sexual abuse; or
252          (d) sexual exploitation.
253          (20) (a) "Incest" means engaging in sexual intercourse with a person whom the

254     perpetrator knows to be the perpetrator's ancestor, descendant, brother, sister, uncle, aunt,
255     nephew, niece, or first cousin.
256          (b) The relationships described in Subsection (20)(a) include:
257          (i) blood relationships of the whole or half blood, without regard to legitimacy;
258          (ii) relationships of parent and child by adoption; and
259          (iii) relationships of stepparent and stepchild while the marriage creating the
260     relationship of a stepparent and stepchild exists.
261          (21) "Intellectual disability" means:
262          (a) significantly subaverage intellectual functioning, an IQ of approximately 70 or
263     below on an individually administered IQ test, for infants, a clinical judgment of significantly
264     subaverage intellectual functioning;
265          (b) concurrent deficits or impairments in present adaptive functioning, the person's
266     effectiveness in meeting the standards expected for his or her age by the person's cultural
267     group, in at least two of the following areas: communication, self-care, home living,
268     social/interpersonal skills, use of community resources, self-direction, functional academic
269     skills, work, leisure, health, and safety; and
270          (c) the onset is before the person reaches the age of 18 years.
271          (22) "Legal custody" means a relationship embodying the following rights and duties:
272          (a) the right to physical custody of the minor;
273          (b) the right and duty to protect, train, and discipline the minor;
274          (c) the duty to provide the minor with food, clothing, shelter, education, and ordinary
275     medical care;
276          (d) the right to determine where and with whom the minor shall live; and
277          (e) the right, in an emergency, to authorize surgery or other extraordinary care.
278          (23) "Mental disorder" means a serious emotional and mental disturbance that severely
279     limits a minor's development and welfare over a significant period of time.
280          (24) "Minor" means:
281          (a) a child; or

282          (b) a person who is:
283          (i) at least 18 years of age and younger than 21 years of age; and
284          (ii) under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court.
285          (25) "Molestation" means that a person, with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual
286     desire of any person:
287          (a) touches the anus or any part of the genitals of a child;
288          (b) takes indecent liberties with a child; or
289          (c) causes a child to take indecent liberties with the perpetrator or another.
290          (26) "Natural parent" means a minor's biological or adoptive parent, and includes the
291     minor's noncustodial parent.
292          (27) (a) "Neglect" means action or inaction causing:
293          (i) abandonment of a child, except as provided in Title 62A, Chapter 4a, Part 8, Safe
294     Relinquishment of a Newborn Child;
295          (ii) lack of proper parental care of a child by reason of the fault or habits of the parent,
296     guardian, or custodian;
297          (iii) failure or refusal of a parent, guardian, or custodian to provide proper or necessary
298     subsistence, education, or medical care, or any other care necessary for the child's health,
299     safety, morals, or well-being; [or]
300          (iv) a child to be at risk of being neglected or abused because another child in the same
301     home is neglected or abused[.]; or
302          (v) abandonment of a child through an unregulated custody transfer.
303          (b) The aspect of neglect relating to education, described in Subsection (27)(a)(iii),
304     means that, after receiving a notice of compulsory education violation under Section
305     53A-11-101.5, or notice that a parent or guardian has failed to cooperate with school
306     authorities in a reasonable manner as required under Subsection 53A-11-101.7(5)(a), the parent
307     or guardian fails to make a good faith effort to ensure that the child receives an appropriate
308     education.
309          (c) A parent or guardian legitimately practicing religious beliefs and who, for that

310     reason, does not provide specified medical treatment for a child, is not guilty of neglect.
311          (d) (i) Notwithstanding Subsection (27)(a), a health care decision made for a child by
312     the child's parent or guardian does not constitute neglect unless the state or other party to the
313     proceeding shows, by clear and convincing evidence, that the health care decision is not
314     reasonable and informed.
315          (ii) Nothing in Subsection (27)(d)(i) may prohibit a parent or guardian from exercising
316     the right to obtain a second health care opinion and from pursuing care and treatment pursuant
317     to the second health care opinion, as described in Section 78A-6-301.5.
318          (28) "Neglected child" means a child who has been subjected to neglect.
319          (29) "Nonjudicial adjustment" means closure of the case by the assigned probation
320     officer without judicial determination upon the consent in writing of:
321          (a) the assigned probation officer; and
322          (b) (i) the minor; or
323          (ii) the minor and the minor's parent, legal guardian, or custodian.
324          (30) "Not competent to proceed" means that a minor, due to a mental disorder,
325     intellectual disability, or related condition as defined, lacks the ability to:
326          (a) understand the nature of the proceedings against them or of the potential disposition
327     for the offense charged; or
328          (b) consult with counsel and participate in the proceedings against them with a
329     reasonable degree of rational understanding.
330          (31) "Physical abuse" means abuse that results in physical injury or damage to a child.
331          (32) "Probation" means a legal status created by court order following an adjudication
332     on the ground of a violation of law or under Section 78A-6-103, whereby the minor is
333     permitted to remain in the minor's home under prescribed conditions and under supervision by
334     the probation department or other agency designated by the court, subject to return to the court
335     for violation of any of the conditions prescribed.
336          (33) "Protective supervision" means a legal status created by court order following an
337     adjudication on the ground of abuse, neglect, or dependency, whereby the minor is permitted to

338     remain in the minor's home, and supervision and assistance to correct the abuse, neglect, or
339     dependency is provided by the probation department or other agency designated by the court.
340          (34) "Related condition" means a condition closely related to intellectual disability in
341     accordance with 42 C.F.R. Part 435.1010 and further defined in Rule R539-1-3, Utah
342     Administrative Code.
343          (35) (a) "Residual parental rights and duties" means those rights and duties remaining
344     with the parent after legal custody or guardianship, or both, have been vested in another person
345     or agency, including:
346          (i) the responsibility for support;
347          (ii) the right to consent to adoption;
348          (iii) the right to determine the child's religious affiliation; and
349          (iv) the right to reasonable parent-time unless restricted by the court.
350          (b) If no guardian has been appointed, "residual parental rights and duties" also include
351     the right to consent to:
352          (i) marriage;
353          (ii) enlistment; and
354          (iii) major medical, surgical, or psychiatric treatment.
355          (36) "Secure facility" means any facility operated by or under contract with the
356     Division of Juvenile Justice Services, that provides 24-hour supervision and confinement for
357     youth offenders committed to the division for custody and rehabilitation.
358          (37) "Severe abuse" means abuse that causes or threatens to cause serious harm to a
359     child.
360          (38) "Severe neglect" means neglect that causes or threatens to cause serious harm to a
361     child.
362          (39) "Sexual abuse" means:
363          (a) an act or attempted act of sexual intercourse, sodomy, incest, or molestation by an
364     adult directed towards a child;
365          (b) an act or attempted act of sexual intercourse, sodomy, incest, or molestation

366     committed by a child towards another child if:
367          (i) there is an indication of force or coercion;
368          (ii) the children are related, as defined in Subsections (20)(a) and (20)(b);
369          (iii) there have been repeated incidents of sexual contact between the two children,
370     unless the children are 14 years of age or older; or
371          (iv) there is a disparity in chronological age of four or more years between the two
372     children; or
373          (c) engaging in any conduct with a child that would constitute an offense under any of
374     the following, regardless of whether the person who engages in the conduct is actually charged
375     with, or convicted of, the offense:
376          (i) Title 76, Chapter 5, Part 4, Sexual Offenses, except for Section 76-5-401, if the
377     alleged perpetrator of an offense described in Section 76-5-401 is a minor;
378          (ii) child bigamy, Section 76-7-101.5;
379          (iii) incest, Section 76-7-102;
380          (iv) lewdness, Section 76-9-702;
381          (v) sexual battery, Section 76-9-702.1;
382          (vi) lewdness involving a child, Section 76-9-702.5; or
383          (vii) voyeurism, Section 76-9-702.7.
384          (40) "Sexual exploitation" means knowingly:
385          (a) employing, using, persuading, inducing, enticing, or coercing any child to:
386          (i) pose in the nude for the purpose of sexual arousal of any person; or
387          (ii) engage in any sexual or simulated sexual conduct for the purpose of photographing,
388     filming, recording, or displaying in any way the sexual or simulated sexual conduct;
389          (b) displaying, distributing, possessing for the purpose of distribution, or selling
390     material depicting a child:
391          (i) in the nude, for the purpose of sexual arousal of any person; or
392          (ii) engaging in sexual or simulated sexual conduct; or
393          (c) engaging in any conduct that would constitute an offense under Section 76-5b-201,

394     sexual exploitation of a minor, regardless of whether the person who engages in the conduct is
395     actually charged with, or convicted of, the offense.
396          (41) "Shelter" means the temporary care of a child in a physically unrestricted facility
397     pending court disposition or transfer to another jurisdiction.
398          (42) "State supervision" means a disposition that provides a more intensive level of
399     intervention than standard probation but is less intensive or restrictive than a community
400     placement with the Division of Juvenile Justice Services.
401          (43) "Substance abuse" means the misuse or excessive use of alcohol or other drugs or
402     substances.
403          (44) "Substantiated" means the same as that term is defined in Section 62A-4a-101.
404          (45) "Supported" means the same as that term is defined in Section 62A-4a-101.
405          (46) "Termination of parental rights" means the permanent elimination of all parental
406     rights and duties, including residual parental rights and duties, by court order.
407          (47) "Therapist" means:
408          (a) a person employed by a state division or agency for the purpose of conducting
409     psychological treatment and counseling of a minor in its custody; or
410          (b) any other person licensed or approved by the state for the purpose of conducting
411     psychological treatment and counseling.
412          (48) "Unregulated custody transfer" means the placement of a child:
413          (a) with a person who is not the child's parent, step-parent, grandparent, adult sibling,
414     adult uncle or aunt, or legal guardian, or a friend of the family who is an adult and with whom
415     the child is familiar, or a member of the child's federally recognized tribe;
416          (b) with the intent of severing the child's existing parent-child or guardian-child
417     relationship; and
418          (c) without taking:
419          (i) reasonable steps to ensure the safety of the child and permanency of the placement;
420     and
421          (ii) the necessary steps to transfer the legal rights and responsibilities of parenthood or

422     guardianship to the person taking custody of the child.
423          [(48)] (49) "Unsubstantiated" means the same as that term is defined in Section
424     62A-4a-101.
425          [(49)] (50) "Without merit" means the same as that term is defined in Section
426     62A-4a-101.