Court Hearings for the Permanent Placement of Children - Maine

Date: February 2020

Schedule of Hearings

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 22, §§ 4038; 4038-B

Case reviews shall be held at least once every 6 months.

A permanency hearing shall be held as follows:

  • Within 12 months of the time the child has entered foster care and every 12 months thereafter while the child remains under court jurisdiction
  • Within 30 days if reunification efforts are ordered to cease

Persons Entitled to Attend Hearings

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 22, §§ 4033; 4038

Notice of hearing shall be provided to the following persons:

  • All parties to the initial proceeding including the child's parent or custodian and guardian ad litem
  • The foster parents
  • The preadoptive parents
  • Any relatives providing care for the child

The foster parent, preadoptive parent, and relative providing care are entitled to an opportunity to be heard, but they are not parties to the proceeding.

Determinations Made at Hearings

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 22, §§ 4038; 4038-B; 4041(1-A)(B)

After a hearing, the court shall make written findings that determine the following:

  • The safety of the child in the child's placement
  • The continuing necessity for and appropriateness of the child's placement
  • The effect of a change in custody on the child
  • The extent of the parties' compliance with the case plan and the extent of progress that has been made toward alleviating or mitigating the causes necessitating placement in foster care
  • A likely date by which the child may be returned home and safely maintained in the home or placed for adoption or legal guardianship
  • If the child is age 14 or older, whether the child is receiving instruction to aid the child in independent living arrangement

Before the court may enter an order returning the custody of the child to a parent, the parent must show that the parent has carried out the responsibilities set forth in § 4041(1-A)(B); that, to the court's satisfaction, the parent has rectified and resolved the problems that caused the removal of the child from home and any subsequent problems that would interfere with the parent's ability to care for the child and protect the child from jeopardy; and that the parent can protect the child from jeopardy.

In the case of a child placed outside the State in which the parents of the child live, the permanency plan must determine whether the out-of-State placement continues to be appropriate and in the best interests of the child. The permanency plan must ensure that all in-State and out-of-State placements are considered to provide the child with all possible permanency options.

As set forth in § 4041(1-A)(B), the responsibilities of the parent include, as appropriate to the child and family, that the parent do the following:

  • Rectify and resolve problems that prevent the return of the child to the home
  • Cooperate with the Department of Health and Human Services in the development of the case plan
  • Take part in a reasonable rehabilitation and reunification plan
  • Maintain meaningful contact with the child pursuant to the plan
  • Seek and utilize appropriate services to assist in rehabilitating and reunifying with the child
  • Pay reasonable sums toward the support of the child within the limits of the parent's ability to pay
  • Maintain contact with the department, including prompt written notification to the department of any change of address
  • Make good faith efforts to cooperate with the department in developing and pursuing the plan

Permanency Options

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 22, § 4038-B

The permanency plan must determine whether and when, if applicable, the child will be placed in one of the following:

  • Returned to a parent
  • Placed for adoption
  • Cared for by a permanency guardian
  • Placed with a fit and willing relative
  • Placed in another planned permanent living arrangement

The court may adopt another planned permanent living arrangement as the permanency plan for the child only after the department has documented to the court a compelling reason for determining that it would not be in the best interests of the child to be returned home, be referred for termination of parental rights or be placed for adoption, be cared for by a permanency guardian, or be placed with a fit and willing relative.

In the case of a child who is age 14 or older, the permanency plan must determine the services needed to assist the child to make the transition from foster care to independent living.

The court shall consider the wishes of a child, in a manner appropriate to the age of the child, in making a determination under this section.