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The Vermont Statutes Online

 

Title 33: Human Services

Chapter 053: CHILDREN IN NEED OF CARE OR SUPERVISION

  • § 5301. Taking into custody

    A child may be taken into custody:

    (1) pursuant to an order of the Family Division of the Superior Court under the provisions of this chapter;

    (2) by an officer when the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the child is in immediate danger from his or her surroundings and that removal from the child's current home is necessary for the child's protection;

    (3) by an officer when the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the child has run away from a custodial parent, a foster parent, a guardian, a custodian, a noncustodial parent lawfully exercising parent-child contact, or a care provider. (Added 2007, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. Jan. 1, 2009; amended 2009, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), § 238.)

  • § 5302. Request for emergency care order

    (a) If an officer takes a child into custody pursuant to section 5301 of this title, the officer shall immediately notify the child's custodial parent, guardian, or custodian and release the child to the care of the child's custodial parent, guardian, or custodian unless the officer determines that the child's immediate welfare requires the child's continued absence from the home.

    (b) If the officer determines that the child's immediate welfare requires the child's continued absence from the home:

    (1) The officer shall remove the child from the child's surroundings, contact the Department, and deliver the child to a location designated by the Department. The Department shall have the authority to make reasonable decisions concerning the child's immediate placement, safety, and welfare pending the issuance of an emergency care order.

    (2) The officer or a social worker employed by the Department for Children and Families shall prepare an affidavit in support of a request for an emergency care order and provide the affidavit to the State's Attorney. The affidavit shall include: the reasons for taking the child into custody; and to the degree known, potential placements with which the child is familiar; the names, addresses, and telephone number of the child's parents, guardian, custodian, or care provider; the name, address, and telephone number of any relative who has indicated an interest in taking temporary custody of the child. The officer or social worker shall contact the Department and the Department may prepare an affidavit as a supplement to the affidavit of the law enforcement officer or social worker if the Department has additional information with respect to the child or the family.

    (c) If the child is taken into custody during regular court hours, the State's Attorney shall immediately file a request for an emergency care order accompanied by the supporting affidavit or direct the immediate return of the child to the child's custodial parent, guardian, or custodian. If the child is taken into custody after regular court hours or on a weekend or holiday, the State's Attorney or officer shall contact a judge to request an emergency care order or return the child to the child's custodial parent, guardian, or custodian. If an order is granted, the State's Attorney shall file the supporting affidavit with the court on the next day that the court is open.

    (d) If the judge denies a request for an emergency care order, the State's Attorney shall direct the immediate return of the child to the child's custodial parent, guardian, or custodian. (Added 2007, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. Jan. 1, 2009; amended 2015, No. 60, § 7.)

  • § 5303. Procedure for runaway children

    (a) If an officer takes a child into custody pursuant to subdivision 5301(3) of this title, the officer shall deliver the child to:

    (1) the child's custodial parent, foster parent, guardian, custodian, or noncustodial parent lawfully exercising parent-child contact; or

    (2) a shelter designated by the Department pursuant to section 5304 of this title as qualified to assist children who have run away for the purpose of reuniting them with their parents, guardian, or legal custodian.

    (b) Upon delivery of a child to a shelter, the shelter program director or his or her designee shall notify the child's parents, guardian, or custodian that the child has been taken into custody and make reasonable efforts to mediate the differences between the parties.

    (c) A child may remain at a designated shelter for a period not to exceed 21 days.

    (d) Upon expiration of the 21-day period or sooner at the request of the child or the custodial parent:

    (1) the child shall be released to his or her custodial parent, foster parent, guardian, custodian, or noncustodial parent lawfully exercising parent-child contact; or

    (2) an officer shall seek an emergency care order pursuant to section 5302 of this title.

    (e) Unless otherwise ordered by the court, the custody status of the child shall remain the same during the period of time the child is at the shelter. (Added 2007, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. Jan. 1, 2009; amended 2017, No. 9, § 1, eff. April 25, 2017.)

  • § 5304. Designated shelters for runaway children

    The Commissioner shall designate shelters throughout the State where a child may be housed for a period not to exceed 21 days if he or she is:

    (1) taken into custody pursuant to subdivision 5301(3) of this title; or

    (2) referred by other means described in the policies of the Department for Children and Families. (Added 2007, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. Jan. 1, 2009; amended 2017, No. 9, § 2, eff. April 25, 2017.)

  • § 5305. Emergency care order; conditional custody order

    (a) Transfer of temporary custody. If the Court determines that the child's continued residence in the home is contrary to the child's welfare, the Court may issue an emergency care order transferring temporary custody of the child to the Department pending a temporary care hearing. The determination may be made ex parte, provided that it is reasonably supported by the affidavit prepared in accordance with section 5302 of this title.

    (b) Contents of emergency care order. The emergency care order shall contain:

    (1) a written finding that the child's continued residence in the home is contrary to the child's welfare and the factual allegations that support that finding;

    (2) the date, hour, and place of the temporary care hearing to be held pursuant to section 5307 of this title; and

    (3) notice of a parent's right to counsel at the temporary care hearing.

    (c) Conditional custody order. If the Court determines that the child may safely remain in the custody of the custodial parent, guardian, or custodian subject to such conditions and limitations necessary and sufficient to protect the child pending a temporary care hearing, the Court may deny the request for an emergency care order and issue an emergency conditional custody order. An emergency conditional custody order shall contain the date, hour, and place of the temporary care hearing and notice of a parent's right to counsel at the hearing. (Added 2007, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. Jan. 1, 2009.)

  • § 5306. Notice of emergency care order and temporary care hearing

    (a) Notice to custodial parent. An officer shall deliver a copy of the emergency care order or conditional custody order to the custodial parent, guardian, or custodian of the child. If delivery cannot be made in a timely manner, the officer shall otherwise notify or cause to be notified the custodial parent of the order, the date, the time, and place of the temporary care hearing, and the parent's right to counsel. If the custodial parent, guardian, or custodian cannot be located, the officer shall so certify to the Court in an affidavit describing the efforts made to locate such persons.

    (b) Notice to noncustodial parent. The Department shall make reasonable efforts to locate any noncustodial parent and provide the noncustodial parent with the emergency care order or conditional custody order, notice of the date, hour, and place of the temporary care hearing, and right to counsel. If the noncustodial parent cannot be located, the Department shall provide to the Court a summary of the efforts made to locate the parent.

    (c) Failure to locate. The hearing shall not be delayed by reason of not being able to locate either the custodial or noncustodial parent.

    (d) Notice to other parties. The Court shall notify the following persons of the date and time of the temporary care hearing:

    (1) The State's Attorney.

    (2) A representative of the Department.

    (3) An attorney to represent the child.

    (4) A guardian ad litem for the child.

    (5) An attorney to represent each parent. The attorney may be Court-appointed in the event the parent is eligible, or may be an attorney who has entered an appearance on behalf of a parent. (Added 2007, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. Jan. 1, 2009.)

  • § 5307. Temporary care hearing

    (a) A temporary care hearing shall be held within 72 hours of the issuance of an emergency care order or conditional custody order under section 5305 of this title. State holidays shall be excluded from the computation of 72 hours. If the custodial parent, guardian, or custodian has not been notified in accordance with section 5306 of this title and does not appear or waive appearance at the temporary care hearing and files thereafter with the Court an affidavit so showing, the Court shall hold another temporary care hearing within one business day of the filing of the affidavit as if no temporary care hearing had theretofore been held.

    (b) If the State's Attorney is seeking a temporary care order, he or she shall file a petition in accordance with section 5308 of this title prior to the temporary care hearing. If the State's Attorney elects not to file a petition, he or she shall so notify the Court, and the Court shall vacate any temporary order and order the return of the child to the custodial parent, guardian, or custodian.

    (c) The following persons shall be present at the temporary care hearing:

    (1) The child, unless the child is under 10 years of age and the presence of the child is waived by the child's attorney. For good cause shown, the Court may waive the presence of a child who is 10 years of age or older.

    (2) The child's custodial parent, guardian, or custodian, unless the custodial parent, guardian, or custodian cannot be located or fails to appear in response to notice.

    (3) The child's guardian ad litem.

    (4) An attorney for the child.

    (5) An attorney for the custodial parent, if requested.

    (6) The Department.

    (7) The State's Attorney.

    (d) A noncustodial parent and his or her attorney shall have the right to be present at the hearing; however, the hearing shall not be delayed by reason of the inability of the Department to locate the noncustodial parent.

    (e) The Department shall provide the following information to the Court at the hearing:

    (1) Any reasons for the child's removal which are not set forth in the affidavit required pursuant to subsection 5302(b) of this title.

    (2) Services, if any, provided to the child and the family in an effort to prevent removal.

    (3) The need, if any, for continued custody of the child with the Department, pending a hearing to adjudicate the merits of the petition.

    (4) Services which could facilitate the return of the child to the custodial parent, guardian, or custodian.

    (5)(A) The identity and location of a noncustodial parent, a relative, or person with a significant relationship with the child known to the Department who may be appropriate, capable, willing, and available to assume temporary legal custody of the child. If the noncustodial parent cannot be located, the Department shall provide to the Court a summary of the efforts made to locate the parent.

    (B) With respect to any person whom the Department identifies pursuant to this subdivision, the Department shall conduct an assessment of the suitability of the person to care for the child. The assessment shall include consideration of the person's ability to care for the child's needs, a criminal history record as defined in 20 V.S.A. § 2056a(a)(1) in accordance with subdivision (5)(C) of this subsection, and a check of allegations of prior child abuse or neglect by the person or by other adults in the person's home. The Court may continue the hearing if necessary to permit the Department to complete the assessment.

    (C) The Department shall request from the Vermont Crime Information Center criminal history record information for any person being considered to assume temporary legal custody of the child pursuant to this subdivision. The request shall be in writing and shall be accompanied by a release signed by the person. The Department through the Vermont Crime Information Center shall request criminal history record information from the appropriate state criminal repositories in all states in which it has reason to believe the person has resided or been employed. If no disqualifying record is identified at the state level, the Department through the Vermont Crime Information Center shall request from the Federal Bureau of Investigation a national criminal history record check of the person's criminal history. The request to the FBI shall be accompanied by a set of the person's fingerprints and a fee established by the Vermont Crime Information Center. The Vermont Crime Information Center shall send the Department the criminal history record from any state repository and the FBI of a person about whom a request is made under this subdivision or inform the Department that no record exists. The Department shall promptly provide a copy of the criminal history record, if any, to the person and shall inform the person that he or she has the right to appeal the accuracy and completeness of the record through the Vermont Crime Information Center. Upon completion of the process under this subdivision, the person's fingerprint card shall be destroyed.

    (6) Additional information as required by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act pursuant to 15 V.S.A. chapter 20 and the Indian Child Welfare Act pursuant to 25 U.S.C. § 1901 et seq.

    (f) All parties shall have the right to present evidence on their own behalf and examine witnesses. Hearsay, to the extent it is deemed relevant and reliable by the Court, shall be admissible. The Court may, in its discretion, limit testimony and evidence to only that which goes to the issues of removal of the child from the home and the child's temporary legal custody.

    (g) The temporary care hearing shall also be a preliminary hearing on the petition.

    (h) The Department shall provide information to relatives and others with a significant relationship with the child about options to take custody or participate in the care and placement of the child, about the advantages and disadvantages of the options, and about the range of available services and supports. (Added 2007, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. Jan. 1, 2009; amended 2009, No. 97 (Adj. Sess.), § 8; 2011, No. 29, § 4; 2013, No. 119 (Adj. Sess.), § 19.)

  • § 5308. Temporary care order

    (a) The court shall order that legal custody be returned to the child's custodial parent, guardian, or custodian unless the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that a return home would be contrary to the best interests of the child because any one of the following exists:

    (1) A return of legal custody could result in substantial danger to the physical health, mental health, welfare, or safety of the child.

    (2) The child or another child residing in the same household has been physically or sexually abused by a custodial parent, guardian, or custodian, or by a member of the child's household, or another person known to the custodial parent, guardian, or custodian.

    (3) The child or another child residing in the same household is at substantial risk of physical or sexual abuse by a custodial parent, guardian, or custodian, or by a member of the child's household, or another person known to the custodial parent, guardian, or custodian. It shall constitute prima facie evidence that a child is at substantial risk of being physically or sexually abused if:

    (A) a custodial parent, guardian, or custodian receives actual notice that a person has committed or is alleged to have committed physical or sexual abuse against a child; and

    (B) a custodial parent, guardian, or custodian knowingly or recklessly allows the child to be in the physical presence of the alleged abuser after receiving such notice.

    (4) The custodial parent, guardian, or custodian has abandoned the child.

    (5) The child or another child in the same household has been neglected and there is substantial risk of harm to the child who is the subject of the petition.

    (b) Upon a finding that a return home would be contrary to the best interests of the child, the court may issue such temporary orders related to the legal custody of the child as it deems necessary and sufficient to protect the welfare and safety of the child, including:

    (1) a conditional custody order returning or granting legal custody of the child to the custodial parent, guardian, custodian, noncustodial parent, relative, or a person with a significant relationship with the child, subject to such conditions and limitations as the court may deem necessary and sufficient;

    (2) an order transferring temporary legal custody of the child to a noncustodial parent or to a relative;

    (3) an order transferring temporary legal custody of the child to a person with a significant relationship with the child; or

    (4) an order transferring temporary legal custody of the child to the Commissioner.

    (c) The court shall consider orders and findings from other proceedings relating to the custody of the child, the child's siblings, or children of any adult in the same household as the child.

    (d) In considering an order under subsection (b) of this section, the court may order the Department to conduct an investigation of a person seeking custody of the child, and the suitability of that person's home, and file a written report of its findings with the court. The court may place the child in the temporary custody of the Commissioner, pending such investigation.

    (e) If the court transfers legal custody of the child, the court shall issue a written temporary care order.

    (1) The order shall include:

    (A) A finding that remaining in the home is contrary to the best interests of the child and the facts upon which that finding is based.

    (B) A finding as to whether reasonable efforts were made to prevent unnecessary removal of the child from the home. If the court lacks sufficient evidence to make findings on whether reasonable efforts were made to prevent the removal of the child from the home, that determination shall be made at the next scheduled hearing in the case but, in any event, no later than 60 days after the issuance of the initial order removing a child from the home.

    (2) The order may include other provisions as may be in the best interests of the child, including:

    (A) establishing parent-child contact and terms and conditions for that contact;

    (B) requiring the Department to provide the child with services, if legal custody of the child has been transferred to the Commissioner;

    (C) requiring the Department to refer a parent for appropriate assessments and services, including a consideration of the needs of children and parents with disabilities, provided that the child's needs are given primary consideration;

    (D) requiring genetic testing if parentage of the child is at issue;

    (E) requiring the Department to make diligent efforts to locate the noncustodial parent;

    (F) requiring the custodial parent to provide the Department with names of all potential noncustodial parents and relatives of the child; and

    (G) establishing protective supervision and requiring the Department to make appropriate service referrals for the child and the family, if legal custody is transferred to an individual other than the Commissioner.

    (3) In his or her discretion, the Commissioner may provide assistance and services to children and families to the extent that funds permit, notwithstanding subdivision (2)(B) of this subsection. (Added 2007, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. Jan. 1, 2009; amended 2015, No. 5, § 4, eff. April 9, 2015; 2015, No. 23, § 61; 2015, No. 60, § 8.)

  • § 5309. Filing of a petition

    (a) The State's Attorney having jurisdiction shall prepare and file a petition alleging that a child is in need of care or supervision upon the request of the Commissioner or, in the event the child is truant from school, upon the request of the superintendent of the school district in which the child is enrolled or resides. If the State's Attorney fails to file a petition within a reasonable amount of time, the Department or the superintendent of the school district may request that the Attorney General file a petition on behalf of the Department.

    (b) If the Court has issued an emergency care order placing the child who is the subject of the petition in the temporary legal custody of the Department or has issued a conditional custody order, the State's Attorney shall file the petition on or before the date of the temporary care hearing.

    (c) A petition may be withdrawn by the State's Attorney at any time prior to the hearing thereon, in which event the child shall be returned to the custodial parent, guardian, or custodian, the proceedings under this chapter terminated, and all files and documents relating thereto sealed under section 5119 of this title.

    (d) Upon the request of the Secretary of Human Services, the State's Attorney may file a petition pursuant to subsection (a) of this section alleging that a 16- to 17.5-year-old youth who is not in the custody of the State is a child in need of care or supervision under subdivision 5102(2)(B)(ii) of this title when the child meets the criteria set forth in subdivision 5102(2)(B)(ii) of this title. The petition shall be accompanied by a report from the Department which sets forth facts supporting the specific criteria of subdivision 5102(2)(B)(ii) of this title and that it is in the best interests of the child to be considered as a child in need of care or supervision. (Added 2007, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. Jan. 1, 2009.)

  • § 5310. Petition, contents

    (a) The petition shall be supported by an affidavit of an officer or the Department.

    (b) The petition shall contain the following:

    (1) A concise statement of the facts which support the conclusion that the child is a child in need of care or supervision together with a statement that it is in the best interests of the child that the proceedings be brought.

    (2) The name, date of birth, telephone number, and residence address, if known, of the child, the custodial and noncustodial parents, the guardian or custodian of the child if other than parent. If a parent is a participant in the Safe At Home Program pursuant to 15 V.S.A. § 1152, the petition shall so specify.

    (3) Jurisdictional information required pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, 15 V.S.A. chapter 20. (Added 2007, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. Jan. 1, 2009.)

  • § 5311. Service of summons and petition; no request for temporary care order

    (a) When the State's Attorney files a petition but does not request a temporary care order, the Court shall set a date for a preliminary hearing on the petition no later than 15 days from the date the petition is filed and issue a judicial summons addressed to the custodial parent, guardian, custodian, or care provider. A copy of the petition shall be attached to the summons. The Court shall make reasonably diligent efforts to serve a noncustodial parent with a copy of the summons and petition.

    (b) The summons shall contain:

    (1) the name and address of the person to whom the notice is directed;

    (2) the date, time, and place for the preliminary hearing on the petition;

    (3) the name of the minor on whose behalf the petition has been brought;

    (4) notice of a parent's right to counsel;

    (5) a statement that the parent, guardian, or custodian may be liable for the cost of the support of a child if the child is placed in the legal custody of the Department;

    (6) an order directing the parent, guardian, custodian, or care provider to appear at the hearing with the child.

    (c) The summons and petition may be served by mailing a copy by certified mail return receipt requested to the child and to the child's parent, guardian, custodian, or care provider. Service of the summons and petition may also be made by any sheriff, deputy, or constable. The Court shall provide a copy of the summons to the State's Attorney and a copy of the summons and petition to the Department and the attorney for the child.

    (d) Notice and a copy of the petition shall be served on all persons required to receive notice as soon as possible after the petition is filed and at least five days prior to the date set for the preliminary hearing.

    (e) A party may waive service of the petition and notice by written stipulation or by voluntary appearance at the hearing.

    (f) Once a parent, guardian, or custodian has been served, the Court shall provide notice of hearing either directly or by mail. The parent shall be responsible for providing the Court with information regarding any changes in address. (Added 2007, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. Jan. 1, 2009.)

  • § 5312. Failure to appear at preliminary hearing

    (a) If a parent, guardian, or custodian has been served by certified mail with the petition and notice of hearing and fails to appear at the preliminary hearing, the Court may order that the parent, guardian, or custodian be served with a judicial summons ordering the person to appear in Court with the child at a specified date and time.

    (b) If, after being summoned to appear, the parent, guardian, or custodian fails to appear or fails to bring the child to Court as ordered, the Court may issue a pick-up order or warrant pursuant to section 5108 of this title. (Added 2007, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. Jan. 1, 2009.)

  • § 5313. Timelines for pretrial and merits hearing

    (a) Pretrial hearing. At the time of the temporary care hearing or at the preliminary hearing on the petition if there is no request for temporary legal custody, the Court shall set a pretrial hearing on the petition. The hearing shall be held within 15 days of the temporary care hearing or the preliminary hearing. In the event that there is no admission or dismissal at or before the pretrial hearing, the Court shall set the matter for a hearing to adjudicate the merits of the petition.

    (b) Merits hearing. If the child who is the subject of the petition has been removed from the legal custody of the custodial parent, guardian, or custodian pursuant to a temporary care order, a merits hearing shall be held and merits adjudicated no later than 60 days from the date the temporary care order is issued, except for good cause shown. In all other cases, merits shall be adjudicated in a timely manner in the best interests of the child. (Added 2007, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. Jan. 1, 2009.)

  • § 5314. Filing of initial case plan

    (a) If a temporary care order is issued transferring legal custody of the child to the Commissioner, the Department shall prepare and file with the Court an initial case plan for the child and the family within 60 days of removal of a child from home. The Department shall provide a copy of the case plan to the parties, their attorneys, and the guardian ad litem.

    (b) The initial case plan shall not be used or referred to as evidence prior to a finding that a child is in need of care or supervision. (Added 2007, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. Jan. 1, 2009.)

  • § 5315. Merits adjudication

    (a) At a hearing on the merits of a petition, the State shall have the burden of establishing by a preponderance of the evidence that the child is in need of care and supervision. In its discretion, the court may make findings by clear and convincing evidence.

    (b) The parties may stipulate to the merits of the petition. Such stipulation shall include a stipulation as to the facts that support a finding that the child is in need of care and supervision.

    (c) If the merits are contested, all parties shall have the right to present evidence on their own behalf and to examine witnesses.

    (d) A merits hearing shall be conducted in accordance with the Vermont Rules of Evidence. A finding of fact made after a contested temporary care hearing based on nonhearsay evidence may be adopted by the court as a finding of fact at a contested merits hearing provided that a witness who testified at the temporary care hearing may be recalled by any party at a contested merits hearing to supplement his or her testimony.

    (e) If the merits are contested, the court after hearing the evidence shall make its findings on the record.

    (f) If the court finds that the allegations made in the petition have not been established, the court shall dismiss the petition and vacate any temporary orders in connection with this proceeding. A dismissal pursuant to this subsection is a final order subject to appeal.

    (g) If the court finds that the allegations made in the petition have been established based on the stipulation of the parties or on the evidence if the merits are contested, the court shall order the Department to prepare a disposition case plan not later than seven business days before a scheduled disposition hearing. An adjudication pursuant to this subsection is not a final order subject to appeal separate from the resulting disposition order.

    (h) The court in its discretion and with the agreement of the parties may waive the preparation of a disposition case plan and proceed directly to disposition based on the initial case plan filed with the court pursuant to section 5314 of this title. (Added 2007, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. Jan. 1, 2009; amended 2015, No. 153 (Adj. Sess.), § 28.)

  • § 5315a. Merits stipulation

    (a) At any time after the filing of the CHINS petition and prior to an order of adjudication on the merits, the court may approve a written stipulation to the merits of the petition and any or all elements of the disposition plan, including the permanency goal, placement, visitation, or services.

    (b) The court may approve a written stipulation if:

    (1) the parties to the petition, as defined in subdivision 5102(22) of this title, agree to the terms of the stipulation; and

    (2) the court determines that:

    (A) the agreement between the parties is voluntary;

    (B) the parties to the agreement understand the nature of the allegation; and

    (C) the parties to the agreement understand the rights waived if the court approves of and issues an order based upon the stipulation. (Added 2015, No. 153 (Adj. Sess.), § 29.)

  • § 5316. Disposition case plan

    (a) Following a finding by the court that a child is in need of care or supervision, the Department shall file a disposition case plan ordered pursuant to subsection 5315(g) of this title not later than seven business days before the scheduled disposition hearing.

    (b) A disposition case plan shall include, as appropriate:

    (1) The long-term goal for a child found to be in need of care and supervision is a safe and permanent home. A disposition case plan shall include a permanency goal and an estimated date for achieving the permanency goal. The plan shall specify whether permanency will be achieved through reunification with a custodial parent, guardian, or custodian; adoption; permanent guardianship; or other permanent placement. In addition to a primary permanency goal, the plan may identify a concurrent permanency goal.

    (2) An assessment of the child's medical, psychological, social, educational, and vocational needs.

    (3) A description of the child's home, school, community, and current living situation.

    (4) An assessment of the family's strengths and risk factors, including a consideration of the needs of children and parents with disabilities, provided that the child's needs are given primary consideration.

    (5) A statement of family changes needed to correct the problems necessitating State intervention, with timetables for accomplishing the changes.

    (6) A recommendation with respect to legal custody for the child and a recommendation for parent-child contact and sibling contact, if appropriate.

    (7) A plan of services that shall describe the responsibilities of the child, the parents, guardian, or custodian, the Department, other family members, and treatment providers, including a description of the services required to achieve the permanency goal. The plan shall also address the minimum frequency of contact between the social worker assigned to the case and the family.

    (8) A request for child support.

    (9) Notice to the parents that failure to accomplish substantially the objectives stated in the plan within the time frames established may result in termination of parental rights. (Added 2007, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. Jan. 1, 2009; amended 2015, No. 23, § 62; 2015, No. 153 (Adj. Sess.), § 30.)

  • § 5317. Disposition hearing

    (a) Timeline. A disposition hearing shall be held no later than 35 days after a finding that a child is in need of care and supervision.

    (b) Hearing procedure. If disposition is contested, all parties shall have the right to present evidence and examine witnesses. Hearsay may be admitted and may be relied on to the extent of its probative value. If reports are admitted, the parties shall be afforded an opportunity to examine those making the reports, but sources of confidential information need not be disclosed.

    (c) Standard of proof. If the Court terminates the parental rights of one or both parents, the standard of proof on the issue of termination shall be clear and convincing evidence. On all other issues, the standard of proof shall be a preponderance of the evidence.

    (d) Termination of parental rights. If the Commissioner or the attorney for the child seeks an order at disposition terminating the parental rights of one or both parents and transfer of legal custody to the Commissioner without limitation as to adoption, the Court shall consider the best interests of the child in accordance with section 5114 of this title.

    (e) Further hearing. On its own motion or on the motion of a party, the Court may schedule a further hearing to obtain reports or other information necessary for the appropriate disposition of the case. The Court shall make an appropriate order for the temporary care of the child pending a final disposition order. The Court shall give scheduling priority to cases in which the child has been removed from home. (Added 2007, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. Jan. 1, 2009.)

  • § 5318. Disposition order

    (a) Custody. At disposition, the court shall make such orders related to legal custody for a child who has been found to be in need of care and supervision as the court determines are in the best interest of the child, including:

    (1) An order continuing or returning legal custody to the custodial parent, guardian, or custodian. The order may be subject to conditions and limitations.

    (2) When the goal is reunification with a custodial parent, guardian, or custodian an order transferring temporary custody to a noncustodial parent, a relative, or a person with a significant relationship with the child. The order may provide for parent-child contact.

    (3) An order transferring legal custody to a noncustodial parent and closing the juvenile proceeding. The order may provide for parent-child contact with the other parent. Any orders transferring legal custody to a noncustodial parent issued under this section shall not be confidential and shall be made a part of the record in any existing parentage or divorce proceeding involving the child. On the motion of a party or on the court's own motion, the court may order that a sealed copy of the disposition case plan be made part of the record in a divorce or parentage proceeding involving the child.

    (4) An order transferring legal custody to the Commissioner.

    (5) An order terminating all rights and responsibilities of a parent by transferring legal custody and all residual parental rights to the Commissioner without limitation as to adoption.

    (6) An order of permanent guardianship pursuant to 14 V.S.A. § 2664.

    (7) An order transferring legal custody to a relative or another person with a significant relationship with the child. The order may be subject to conditions and limitations and may provide for parent-child contact with one or both parents. The order shall be subject to review pursuant to subdivision 5320a(b) of this title.

    (b) Case plan. If the court orders the transfer of custody pursuant to subdivision (a)(2), (4), or (5) of this section, the court shall establish a permanency goal for the minor child and adopt a case plan prepared by the Department which is designed to achieve the permanency goal. If the court determines that the plan proposed by the Department does not adequately support the permanency goal for the child, the court may reject the plan proposed by the Department and order the Department to prepare and submit a revised plan for court approval.

    (c) Sixteen- to 17.5-year-olds. In the event that custody of a 16- to 17.5-year-old is transferred to the Department pursuant to a petition filed under subsection 5309(d) of this title services to the child and to his or her family shall be provided through a coordinated effort by the Agencies of Human Services and of Education and community-based interagency teams.

    (d) Modification. A disposition order is a final order which may only be modified based on the stipulation of the parties or pursuant to a motion to modify brought under section 5113 of this title.

    (e) Findings. Whenever the court orders the transfer of legal custody to a noncustodial parent, a relative, or a person with a significant relationship with the child, such orders shall be supported by findings regarding the suitability of that person to assume legal custody of the child and the safety and appropriateness of the placement.

    (f) Conditions. Conditions shall include protective supervision with the Department if such a condition is not in place under the terms of an existing temporary care or conditional custody order. Protective supervision shall remain in effect for the duration of the order to allow the Department to take reasonable steps to monitor compliance with the terms of the conditional custody order. (Added 2007, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. Jan. 1, 2009; amended 2013, No. 92 (Adj. Sess.), § 301, eff. Feb. 14, 2014; 2015, No. 170 (Adj. Sess.), § 6, eff. Sept. 1, 2016.)

  • § 5319. Parent-child contact and contact with siblings and relatives

    (a) The Court shall order parent-child contact unless the Court finds that it is necessary to deny parent-child contact because the protection of the physical safety or emotional well-being of the child so requires. Except for good cause shown, the order shall be consistent with any existing parent-child contact order.

    (b) The Court may determine the reasonable frequency and duration of parent-child contact and may set such conditions for parent-child contact as are in the child's best interests including whether parent-child contact should be unsupervised or supervised. The Court may allocate the costs of supervised visitation.

    (c) Parent-child contact may be modified by stipulation or upon motion of a party or upon the Court's own motion pursuant to section 5113 of this title.

    (d) The Court may terminate a parent-child contact order in a juvenile proceeding upon a finding that:

    (1) a parent has without good cause failed to maintain a regular schedule of contact with the child and that the parent's failure to exercise regular contact has had a detrimental impact on the emotional well-being of the child; or

    (2) continued parent-child contact in accordance with the terms of the prior order will have a detrimental impact on the physical or emotional well-being of the child.

    (e) Upon motion of the child's attorney, the Court may also order contact between the child and the child's siblings, an adult relative with whom the child has a significant relationship, or an adult friend with whom the child has a significant relationship.

    (f) Failure to provide parent-child contact due to the child's illness or other good cause shall not constitute grounds for a contempt or enforcement proceeding against the Department. (Added 2007, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. Jan. 1, 2009.)

  • § 5320. Postdisposition review hearing

    The court shall hold a review hearing within 60 days of the date of the disposition order for the purpose of monitoring progress under the disposition case plan and reviewing parent-child contact. Notice of the review shall be provided to all parties. A foster parent, preadoptive parent, relative caregiver, or any custodian of the child shall be provided with notice of any post disposition review hearings and an opportunity to be heard at the hearings. Nothing in this section shall be construed as affording such person party status in the proceeding. This section shall not apply to cases where full custody has been returned to one or both parents unconditionally at disposition, or cases where the court has created a permanent guardianship at disposition. The Department shall, and any other party or caregiver may prepare a written report to the court regarding progress under the plan of services specified in the disposition case plan. (Added 2007, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. Jan. 1, 2009; amended 2015, No. 170 (Adj. Sess.), § 7, eff. Sept. 1, 2016.)

  • § 5320a. Duration of conditional custody orders postdisposition

    (a) Conditional custody orders to parents. Whenever the court issues a conditional custody order transferring custody to a parent either at or following disposition, the presumptive duration of the order shall be no more than six months from the date of the disposition order or the conditional custody order, whichever occurs later, unless otherwise extended by the court after hearing. At least 14 days prior to the termination of the order, any party may file a request to extend the order pursuant to subsection 5113(b) of this title. Upon such motion, the court may extend the order for an additional period of time not to exceed six months. Prior to vacating the conditional custody order, the court may schedule a hearing on its own motion to review the case prior to discharging the conditions. If a motion to extend is not filed, the court shall issue an order vacating the conditions and transferring full custody to the parent without conditions.

    (b) Custody orders to nonparents.

    (1) When the court at disposition issues an order continuing or transferring legal custody with a nonparent pursuant to subdivision 5318(a)(2) or (a)(7) of this title, the court shall set the matter for a hearing six months from the date of disposition or custody order, whichever occurs later. At the hearing, the court shall determine whether it is in the best interests of the child to:

    (A) transfer either full or conditional custody of the child to a parent;

    (B) establish a permanent guardianship pursuant to 14 V.S.A. § 2664 with the nonparent who has had custody of the child as the guardian; or

    (C) terminate residual parental rights and release the child for adoption.

    (2) If, after hearing, the court determines that reasonable progress has been made toward reunification and that reunification is in the best interests of the child but will require additional time, the court may extend the current order for a period not to exceed six months and set the matter for further hearing. (Added 2015, No. 170 (Adj. Sess.), § 11, eff. Sept. 1, 2016.)

  • § 5321. Permanency hearing

    (a) Purpose. Unless otherwise specified therein, an order under the authority of this chapter transferring legal custody or residual parental rights and responsibilities of a child to the Department pursuant to subdivision 5318(a)(4) or (5) of this title shall be for an indeterminate period and shall be subject to periodic review at a permanency hearing. At the permanency hearing, the Court shall determine the permanency goal for the child and an estimated time for achieving that goal. The goal shall specify when:

    (1) legal custody of the child will be transferred to the parent, guardian, or custodian;

    (2) the child will be released for adoption;

    (3) a permanent guardianship will be established for the child;

    (4) a legal guardianship will be established for the child pursuant to an order under 14 V.S.A. chapter 111; or

    (5) the child will remain in the same living arrangement or be placed in another planned permanent living arrangement because the Commissioner has demonstrated to the satisfaction of the Court a compelling reason that it is not in the child's best interests to:

    (A) return home;

    (B) have residual parental rights terminated and be released for adoption; or

    (C) be placed with a fit and willing relative or legal guardian.

    (b) The Court shall adopt a case plan designed to achieve the permanency goal. At the permanency review, the Court shall review the permanency plan and determine whether the plan advances the permanency goal recommended by the Department. The Court may accept or reject the plan, but may not designate a particular placement for a child in the Department's legal custody.

    (c) A permanency review hearing shall be held no less than every 12 months with the first hearing to be held 12 months after the date the legal custody of the child was transferred, subject to the following exceptions:

    (1) If the child was three years of age or younger at the time of the initial transfer of legal custody, the Court may order that permanency review hearings be held as frequently as every three months.

    (2) If the child is between the ages of three and six at the time of the initial transfer of legal custody, the Court may order that permanency review hearings be held as frequently as every six months.

    (d) If the Court shortens the time for the permanency review hearing for a younger sibling, that shortened review interval shall be applied to all siblings in the family who are in the legal custody of the Department.

    (e)(1) The Department shall file with the Court a notice of permanency review together with a case plan and recommendation for a permanency goal. The Department shall provide notice to the State's Attorney having jurisdiction and to all parties to the proceeding in accordance with the rules for family proceedings. The Court shall hold a permanency review hearing within 30 days of the filing of notice by the Department. Failure to give such notice or to review an order shall not terminate the original order or limit the Court's jurisdiction.

    (2) A foster parent, preadoptive parent, or relative caregiver for the child shall be provided notice of and an opportunity to be heard at any permanency hearing held with respect to the child. Nothing in this subsection shall be construed as affording such person party status in the proceeding.

    (f) All evidence helpful in determining the questions presented, including hearsay, may be admitted and relied upon to the extent of its probative value even though not competent at an adjudication hearing.

    (g) The permanency hearing may be held by an administrative body appointed or approved by the Court. The administrative body may consist of one but not more than three persons. No person employed by the Department shall be a member of the administrative body. In the event that the administrative body determines that the existing order should be altered, it shall submit its recommendation to the Court for its consideration. In the event that the administrative body determines that the existing order should not be altered, its determination shall be binding unless any party requests review by the Court within 10 days of receipt of the determination. A copy of the determination shall be sent to each party and to the Court. The Court, on its own motion or on the request of any party, shall conduct a review de novo within 30 days of receipt of such request.

    (h) Upon the filing of a petition for a finding of reasonable efforts and a report or affidavit by the Department for Children and Families with notice to all parties, the Court shall hold a hearing within 30 days of the filing of the petition to determine, by a preponderance of the evidence, whether the Department for Children and Families has made reasonable efforts to finalize the permanency plan for the child that is in effect at the time of the hearing. The hearing may be consolidated with or separate from a permanency hearing. Reasonable efforts to finalize a permanency plan may consist of:

    (1) reasonable efforts to reunify the child and family following the child's removal from the home, where the permanency plan for the child is reunification; or

    (2) reasonable efforts to arrange and finalize an alternate permanent living arrangement for the child, in cases where the permanency plan for the child does not include reunification. (Added 2007, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. Jan. 1, 2009.)

  • § 5322. Placement of a child in a facility used for treatment of delinquent children

    A child found by the Court to be a child in need of care and supervision shall not be placed in or transferred to an institution used solely for the treatment or rehabilitation of delinquent children unless the child has been charged with or adjudicated as having committed a delinquent act. (Added 2007, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. Jan. 1, 2009.)