Court Hearings for the Permanent Placement of Children - Arkansas

Date:

Schedule of Hearings

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 9-27-337; 9-27-338; 9-27-359

The court shall review every case of dependency-neglect or families in need of services when the following apply:

  • A child is placed by the court in the custody of the Department of Human Services or in another out-of-home placement until there is a permanent order of custody, guardianship, or other permanent placement for the child.
  • A child is returned to the parent from whom the child was removed, another fit parent, guardian, or custodian, and the court has not discontinued orders for family services.

The first 6-month review shall be held no later than 6 months from the date of the original out-of-home placement of the child and shall be scheduled by the court following the adjudication and disposition hearing. The case shall be reviewed every 6 months thereafter until permanency is achieved. The court may require these cases to be reviewed prior to the 6-month review hearing, and the court shall announce the date, time, and place of the hearing.

A permanency planning hearing shall be held to finalize a permanency plan for the child, as follows:

  • No later than 12 months after the date the child enters an out-of-home placement
  • After a child has been in an out-of-home placement for 15 of the previous 22 months, excluding trial placements and time on runaway status
  • No later than 30 days after a hearing granting no reunification services

If a child remains in an out-of-home placement after the initial permanency planning hearing, a permanency planning hearing shall be held annually to reassess the permanency plan selected for the child.

A hearing shall be held to determine whether the department shall file a petition to terminate parental rights if the following apply:

  • A child has been in an out-of-home placement for 15 continuous months, excluding trial placements and time on runaway status.
  • The goal at the permanency planning hearing was either reunification or another planned permanent living arrangement (APPLA).

If the court determines the permanency goal to be adoption, the department shall file a petition to terminate parental rights no later than the fifteenth month of the child's entry into foster care.

If the court finds that the child should remain in an out-of-home placement, either long-term or otherwise, the child's case shall be reviewed every 6 months with an annual permanency planning hearing.

Persons Entitled to Attend Hearings

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 9-27-337; 9-27-338

The following persons may petition the court:

  • The Department of Human Services
  • The attorney ad litem
  • The parties and their counsel

Determinations Made at Hearings

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 9-27-337; 9-27-338

At each review hearing, the court shall determine the following:

  • Whether the case plan, services, and placement meet the special needs and best interests of the child, with the child's health, safety, and educational needs specifically addressed
  • Whether the State has made reasonable efforts to provide family services
  • Whether the parent has demonstrated progress toward the goals of the case plan and whether completion of the goals has helped the parent remedy the issues that prevent the safe return of the child
  • Whether the case plan is moving toward an appropriate permanency plan
  • Whether the visitation plan is appropriate for the child, the parent or parents, and any siblings, if separated

In making its findings, the court shall consider the following:

  • The extent of compliance with the case plan, including, without limitation, a review of the department's care for the health, safety, and education of the child while he or she has been in an out-of-home placement
  • The extent of progress that has been made toward alleviating or mitigating the causes of the out-of-home placement
  • Whether the child should be returned to his or her parent or parents and whether the child's health and safety can be protected by his or her parent or parents if returned home, either permanently or on a trial basis
  • An appropriate permanency plan for the child, including concurrent planning

At any time the court determines that the health and safety of the child can be adequately protected and it is in the best interests of the child, the court shall return the child to a parent or parents from whom custody was removed. Incompletion of the case plan is an insufficient reason by itself to deny the child's return to the family home.

At the permanency planning hearing on a child sixteen age 16 or older, the court shall ask the child his or her desired permanency outcome, or the attorney ad litem shall enter evidence concerning the child's wishes.

At every permanency planning hearing, the court shall make a finding on whether the department has made reasonable efforts and shall describe the efforts to finalize a permanency plan for the child.

Permanency Options

Citation: Ann. Code § 9-27-338

At the permanency planning hearing, based upon the facts of the case, the court shall enter one of the following permanency goals, listed in order of preference, in accordance with the best interests of the child:

  • Placing custody of the child with a fit parent
  • Returning the child to the guardian or custodian from whom the child was initially removed at the permanency planning hearing
  • Authorizing a plan to return the child to the parent only if the court finds that:
    • The parent is complying with the case plan, making significant measurable progress toward achieving the goals of the case plan, and diligently working toward reunification.
    • The parent is making significant and measurable progress toward remedying the conditions that caused the child's removal from the home.
    • The return of the child to the parent shall occur within a timeframe that is consistent with the child's developmental needs but no later than 3 months from the date of the permanency planning hearing.
  • Authorizing a plan to obtain a guardianship or adoption with a fit and willing relative
  • Authorizing a plan for adoption with the department filing a petition for termination of parental rights, unless any of the following apply:
    • The child is being cared for by a relative, including a minor foster child caring for his or her own child who is in foster care, and termination of parental rights is not in the best interests of the child.
    • The department has documented in the case plan a compelling reason why filing such a petition is not in the best interests of the child.
    • The department has not provided to the family of the child the services needed for the safe return of the child to the child's home.
  • Authorizing a plan to obtain a guardian for the child
  • Authorizing a plan to obtain a permanent custodian, including permanent custody with a fit and willing relative
  • Authorizing a plan for another planned permanent living arrangement that includes a permanent planned living arrangement and addresses the quality of services, including, but not limited to, independent living services and a plan for the supervision and nurturing the child will receive