1997 Regular Session
To: Public Health and Welfare
By: Senator(s) Smith
Senate Bill 2849
(As Sent to Governor)
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 43-15-13, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE THAT THE POLICY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES SHALL BE TO RETURN A CHILD IN ITS CUSTODY TO THE NATURAL PARENT(S) OR PLACE THE CHILD FOR ADOPTION WITHIN SIX MONTHS OF THE CHILD'S ENTRY INTO FOSTER CARE AND TO PRESCRIBE A PROCEDURE TO BE FOLLOWED BY FOSTER CARE EMPLOYEES WITH RESPECT TO CONTACT WITH THE CHILD'S PARENT(S); TO AUTHORIZE THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES TO GIVE FIRST PRIORITY TO PLACING A CHILD IN A RELATIVE'S HOME WHEN CONSIDERING PLACEMENT OF THE CHILD IN A FOSTER HOME; TO AUTHORIZE THE DEPARTMENT TO WAIVE CERTAIN FOSTER CARE REGULATIONS AND POLICIES WHEN PLACING A CHILD IN A RELATIVE'S HOME; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 43-15-13, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
43-15-13. (1) The State Department of Human Services shall administer a system of individualized plans and * * * reviews once every six (6) months for each child under its custody within the State of Mississippi, each child who has been adjudged a neglected, abandoned or abused child and whose custody was changed by court order as a result of such adjudication, and each public or private facility licensed by the department. The review shall be completed on each child once every six (6) months for the child's entry into foster care * * *. Such system shall be for the purpose of enhancing potential family life for the child by the development of individual plans to return the child to its natural parent or parents, or to refer the child to the appropriate court for termination of parental rights and placement in a permanent relative's home, adoptive home or foster/adoptive home. The goal of the State Department of Human Services shall be * * * to return the child to its natural parent(s) or refer the child to the appropriate court for termination of parental rights and placement in a permanent relative's home, adoptive home or foster/adoptive home within six (6) months of the child's entry into foster care. In furthering this goal, the department shall establish policy and procedures designed to appropriately place children in permanent homes, such policy to include a system of reviews for all children in foster care, as follows: Foster care counselors in the department shall make all possible contact with the child's natural parent(s) and any interested relative for the first two (2) months following the child's entry into the foster care system, to include newspaper publication if necessary. The child's natural parent(s) will have a six-month period of time in which to meet the service agreement with the department for the benefit of the child. If this agreement has not been satisfactorily met, simultaneously the child will be referred to the appropriate court for termination of parental rights and placement in a permanent relative's home, adoptive home or a foster/adoptive home within six (6) months following the six-month time limitation. For children under the age of three (3) years, termination of parental rights shall be initiated within six (6) months and placement in a permanent relative's home, adoptive home or foster/adoptive home within two (2) months.
(2) The * * * review once every six (6) months shall be conducted by personnel within the State Department of Human Services or by a designee or designees of the department and may include others appointed by the department, and the review shall include at a minimum an evaluation of the child based on the following:
(a) The extent of the care and support provided by the parents or parent, while the child is in temporary custody;
(b) The extent of communication with the child by parents, parent or guardian;
(c) The degree of compliance by the agency and the parents with the social service plan established;
(d) The methods of achieving the goal and the plan establishing a permanent home for the child; and
(e) Social services offered and/or utilized to facilitate plans for establishing a permanent home for the child.
Each child's * * * review plan once every six (6) months shall be filed with the court which awarded custody and shall be made available to natural parents or foster parents upon approval of the court. In the interest of the child, the court shall, where appropriate, initiate proceedings on its own motion. The State Department of Human Services shall report to the Legislature as to the number of such children and their status in their annual report to the Legislature.
(3) The State Department of Human Services, with the cooperation and assistance of the State Department of * * * Health, shall develop and implement a training program for foster care parents to indoctrinate them as to their proper responsibilities upon a child's entry into their foster care. The program shall provide a minimum of twelve (12) clock hours of training. The foster care training program shall be satisfactorily completed by such foster care parents prior to, or within ninety (90) days after child placement with such parent. Record of such foster care parent's training program participation shall be filed with the court as part of a foster care child's * * * review plan once every six (6) months.
(4) When the Department of Human Services is considering placement of a child in a foster home and when the department deems it to be in the best interest of the child, the department shall give first priority to placing the child in the home of one (1) of the child's relatives within the third degree, as computed by the civil law rule. In placing the child in a relative's home, the department may waive any rule, regulation or policy applicable to placement in foster care that would otherwise require the child to have a separate bed or bedroom or have a bedroom of a certain size, if placing the child in a relative's home would be in the best interest of the child and such requirements cannot be met in the relative's home.
SECTION 2. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 1997.