The Vermont Statutes Online
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Subchapter 014 : VULNERABLE NONCITIZEN CHILDREN(Cite as: 14 V.S.A. § 3098)
§ 3098. Vulnerable noncitizen children
(a) Definitions. As used in this subchapter:
(1) “Child” or “children” means an unmarried individual or individuals who have not yet attained 21 years of age and who are not a U.S. citizen or citizens.
(2) “Court” means any court that has jurisdiction over an unmarried individual or individuals who have not yet attained 21 years of age and who are not a U.S. citizen or citizens, including the Probate Division and the Family Division of the Superior Court.
(3) “Dependent on the court” means subject to the jurisdiction of a court competent to make decisions concerning the protection, well-being, care and custody of a child for findings, orders, or referrals to support the health, safety, and welfare of a child or to remedy the effects on a child of abuse, abandonment, or other similar circumstances.
(4) “Noncitizen” means any person who is not a U.S. citizen.
(5) “Similar circumstances” means a condition or conditions that have an effect on a child comparable to abuse, neglect, or abandonment, including the death of a parent.
(6) “Vulnerable” means there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child’s health, safety, or welfare is in jeopardy due to abuse, neglect, abandonment, or similar circumstances and that return to the child’s or the child’s parent’s country of origin or country of last habitual residence would not be in the best interests of the child.
(b) Jurisdiction. A court reviewing a petition under this section shall have jurisdiction under Vermont law to make judicial determinations regarding the custody and care of children.
(c)(1) Procedure for petition. A vulnerable noncitizen child, or a person interested in the welfare of a vulnerable noncitizen child, may petition the court for special findings to protect the child and obtain relief from the underlying abandonment, abuse, neglect, or similar circumstances. The court shall review the petition, including any supporting affidavits and other evidence presented, and issue findings of fact that determine whether the vulnerable noncitizen child:
(A) Is a dependent of the court or legally committed to or placed under the custody of a State agency or department or an individual or entity appointed by the court. The court shall indicate the date on which the dependency, commitment, or custody was ordered.
(B) Has suffered from abuse, neglect, abandonment, or similar circumstances.
(C) May not be viably reunified with one or both parents due to abuse, neglect, abandonment, or a similar circumstance.
(D) That it is not in the best interests of the child to be returned to the child’s or his or her parent’s previous country of nationality or country of last habitual residence.
(2) Additional findings. If requested by a party, the court may make additional findings that are supported by evidence and Vermont law.
(3) Health, safety, and welfare considerations. The health, safety, and welfare of the child must be of paramount concern when the court considers the best interests of the child. In making the determination whether it is in the best interests of the child to be returned to the child’s or child’s parent’s previous country of nationality or country of last habitual residence, the court shall consider whether present or past living conditions will adversely affect the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health.
(4) Guardianships. For purposes of this section, the term child or minor shall include a person who is less than 21 years of age and who consents to the appointment or continuation of a guardian after 18 years of age.
(d) Notice. If the identity or location of the vulnerable noncitizen child’s parents is unknown or if the parents reside outside the United States, the court may serve notice using any alternative method of service the court determines is appropriate or waive service.
(e) Expeditious adjudication. When it is in the best interests of the vulnerable noncitizen child, a court shall hear, adjudicate, and issue findings of fact on any petition for special findings under this section as soon as it is administratively feasible and prior to the vulnerable noncitizen child attaining 21 years of age.
(f) Referral for services or protection. A vulnerable noncitizen child who is the subject of a petition for special findings under this section may be referred for psychiatric, psychological, educational, occupational, medical, dental, or social services or for protection against human trafficking or domestic violence; provided, however, that a child’s participation in any referred service is voluntary.
(g) Additional available remedies under Vermont law; similar findings of fact.
(1) This section shall not limit a vulnerable noncitizen child from petitioning for special findings for a petition under any other provision of law or from any other rights and remedies available to the child under any other provision of law.
(2) This section shall not limit the court from issuing similar findings of fact to those described in this section in any other proceeding concerning the vulnerable noncitizen child.
(h) Construction. This section shall be liberally construed to its legislative purpose.
(i) In any judicial proceedings in response to a request that the court make the findings necessary to support a petition for classification as a special immigrant juvenile, information regarding the child’s immigration status, nationality, or place of birth that is not otherwise protected by State laws shall remain confidential. This information shall also be exempt from public inspection and copying under the Public Records Act and shall be kept confidential, except that the information shall be available for inspection by the court, the child who is the subject of the proceeding, the parties, the attorneys for the parties, the child’s counsel, and the child’s guardian. (Added 2019, No. 167 (Adj. Sess.), § 29, eff. October 7, 2020; amended 2021, No. 98 (Adj. Sess.), § 1, eff. July 1, 2022.)