Court Hearings for the Permanent Placement of Children - Delaware

Date: February 2020

Schedule of Hearings

Citation: Ann. Code Tit. 29, § 9003; DFS Pol. Man. # 4

The Division of Family Services must conduct a written review of the case plan for each child under its supervision or custody at least every 6 months.

In policy: When a child has not been reunited with his family within 9 months of entering foster care or has been in care for a total 9 out of 15 months, the case should be referred to the permanency planning committee (PPC) for review of the permanency options for that particular child and a recommendation for a change in goal. The recommendation will be presented to the family court at the next scheduled permanency hearing.

In addition to reviewing cases meeting the criteria above, the PPC should be reviewing a case any time there is a consideration of a goal change, regardless of the time that the child has been in care.

A permanency hearing must occur within 12 months of a child's placement and every 12 months thereafter as long as the child remains continuously in placement. The family court will hold the initial hearing in the 11th month but no later than the 12th month of the child's placement and yearly thereafter.

Persons Entitled to Attend Hearings

Citation: DFS Pol. Man. # 4, 5

The division caseworker will ensure that the child's caregivers (relative, nonrelative, or adoptive) are provided with a notice of the permanency hearing and the right to be heard. Until such time that the court terminates parental rights, both parents of a child must be invited to attend the permanency hearing. If age appropriate, the child should be invited to the permanency hearing.

Determinations Made at Hearings

Citation: Ann. Code Tit. 29, § 9003; DFS Pol. Man. # 4, 5

The division must conduct a written review of the case plan for each child under its supervision or custody at least every 6 months to determine whether the plan is appropriate.

In policy: The child plan addresses the child's needs while in placement and until permanency is achieved. The areas specifically addressed are medical needs, dental needs, educational/vocational needs, and social/emotional needs; behavior management; preparation for independent living; court requirements; visitation; and activities to locate a permanent home. A child plan review documents progress in all the areas addressed in the child plan. It should address goals/objectives that were met, progress or problems in meeting goals, any new goals set, and strategies to achieve the goals.

The permanency hearing shall determine the permanency plan for the child that includes whether and, if applicable, when the child will be returned to the parent; placed for adoption with the State filing a petition for termination of parental rights; referred for legal guardianship; or, in the case of a child who is age 16 or older, placed in another planned permanent living arrangement. If a youth is placed in another planned permanent living arrangement, the State must document to the court the compelling reasons why it would not be in the youth's best interest to return home, be referred for termination of parental rights and placed for adoption, or placed with a fit and willing relative or with a legal guardian.

At the permanency hearing, the court will consider both in-State and out-of-State options for placement that are in the child's best interests. The court's finding may include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Whether the child can be returned to the parent and when
  • Whether the child should remain in foster care for a specified time pending permanence
  • Whether the child should, because of the child's special need or circumstances, remain in foster care on a permanent basis
  • Whether the child should be considered for legal guardianship or permanent guardianship
  • Whether the child should be referred for termination of parental rights and placed for adoption
  • Whether the child who is age 14 or older has an appropriate independent living plan

When a child is removed for his or her home, the judicial determination as to whether reasonable efforts were made or were not required to prevent this removal is made no later than 60 days from the date the child is removed from the home. The judicial determinations regarding reasonable efforts to prevent removal and reasonable efforts to finalize the permanency plan in effect, including judicial determinations that reasonable efforts are not required, are explicitly documented and made on a case-by-case basis and so stated in the court order and included in all subsequent court orders until permanency has been established.

Permanency Options

Citation: DFS Pol. Man. #5

Permanency, as it relates to children, is the placement of a child with a family or caregiver in which it is believed that the child will remain until he or she reaches adulthood. It is a resource that can meet the child's needs physically, emotionally, educationally, medically, and psychologically. This resource is legally sanctioned by the court.

Permanency options that exist for children are as follows and are listed in order of preference:

  • Reunification with parents
  • Custody and guardianship with a relative/kinship caregiver
  • Termination of parental rights and adoption
  • Permanent guardianship
  • Guardianship with an approved nonrelative caregiver
  • An alternative planned permanent living arrangement (APPLA) with agreement

If APPLA with agreement is selected, the caseworker must discuss this with the child and the foster family prior to recommending a long-term foster care arrangement. If APPLA for a child age 16 or older is selected, the caseworker must discuss compelling reasons why other, more preferable options have been ruled out.