The Vermont Statutes Online
§ 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) Case plan. 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) Frequency. 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) Siblings. 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.
(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) Evidence. 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) Administrative body. 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) Best efforts of Department. 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; amended 2021, No. 105 (Adj. Sess.), § 624, eff. July 1, 2022.)