Court Hearings for the Permanent Placement of Children - California

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Schedule of Hearings

Citation: Welf. & Inst. Code § 366.21

A review hearing shall be held 6 months after the initial dispositional hearing, but no later than 12 months after the child has entered foster care.

A permanency hearing shall be held 12 months after the child has entered foster care. The court may continue the case for up to 6 months if the following apply:

  • The hearing shall occur within 18 months of the date that the child was originally taken from the physical custody of his or her parent or legal guardian.
  • The court finds that there is a substantial probability that the child will be returned to the physical custody of his or her parent or legal guardian and safely maintained in the home within the extended period of time or that reasonable services have not been provided to the parent or legal guardian.

A permanency hearing shall be held within 120 days if the following apply:

  • The child is younger than age 3 or part of a sibling group.
  • The whereabouts of the parents are unknown.
  • The court finds that the parent has failed to make substantive progress on a court-ordered treatment plan.
  • The parent has been convicted of a felony indicating parental unfitness.

Persons Entitled to Attend Hearings

Citation: Welf. & Inst. Code § 366.21

The following persosn shall be present at the hearings:

  • The social worker
  • Counsel for the child
  • A court-appointed child advocate
  • The parent or legal guardian

When a child has been in the physical custody of a foster parent, a relative caregiver, or a certified foster parent who has been approved for adoption, the foster parent, relative caregiver, or the certified foster parent may file a report containing his or her recommendation for disposition with the court. The court shall consider the report and recommendation prior to determining any disposition.

Determinations Made at Hearings

Citation: Welf. & Inst. Code § 366.21

At the hearing, the court shall consider the following:

  • The criminal history of the parent subsequent to the child's removal to the extent that the criminal record is substantially related to the welfare of the child or the parent's ability to exercise custody and control regarding his or her child
  • Whether reasonable services that were designed to aid the parent to overcome the problems that led to the initial removal and continued custody of the child have been provided or offered to the parent or legal guardian
  • Whether the child can be returned to the custody of his or her parent who is enrolled in a certified substance abuse treatment facility that allows a dependent child to reside with his or her parent
  • The efforts or progress, or both, demonstrated by the parent and the extent to which he or she availed himself or herself of services provided, taking into account the particular barriers to a minor; dependent nonminor; or incarcerated, institutionalized, detained, or deported parent's access to those court-mandated services and ability to maintain contact with his or her child

For each youth age 16 or older, the court shall determine whether services have been made available to assist him or her in making the transition from foster care to independent living.

If the court orders that a child who is age 10 or older remain in long-term foster care, the court shall determine whether the agency has made reasonable efforts to maintain the child's relationships with individuals other than the child's siblings who are important to the child, consistent with the child's best interests, and may make any appropriate order to ensure that those relationships are maintained.

If the child had been placed under court supervision with a previously noncustodial parent, the court shall determine whether supervision is still necessary. The court may terminate supervision and transfer permanent custody to that parent.

Permanency Options

Citation: Welf. & Inst. Code §§ 366.21; 366.26

At the permanency hearing, the court shall determine the permanent plan for the child, which shall include a determination of whether the child will be returned to the child's home and, if so, when. The court shall order the return of the child to the physical custody of his or her parent or legal guardian unless the court finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the return of the child to his or her parent or legal guardian would create a substantial risk of detriment to the safety, protection, or physical or emotional well-being of the child.

For each youth age 16 or older, the court shall also determine whether services have been made available to assist him or her in making the transition from foster care to independent living.

If the court determines that the child cannot be returned to his or her parent, a hearing will be held as directed by § 366.26. At this hearing, the court shall make findings and orders in the following order of preference:

  • Terminate the rights of the parent or parents, and order that the child be placed for adoption
  • Order, without termination of parental rights, the plan of Tribal customary adoption, as described in § 366.24, through Tribal custom, traditions, or law of the Indian child's Tribe
  • Appoint a relative or relatives with whom the child is currently residing as legal guardian or guardians for the child
  • Identify adoption or Tribal customary adoption as the permanent placement goal and order that efforts be made to locate an appropriate adoptive family for the child within 180 days
  • Appoint a nonrelative legal guardian for the child and order that letters of guardianship be issued
  • Order that the child remain in foster care, subject to the periodic review of the juvenile court