Court Hearings for the Permanent Placement of Children - Massachusetts

Date:

Schedule of Hearings

Citation: Ann. Laws Ch. 119, § 29B; Code of Regs. Tit. 110, § 6.10

The court shall conduct a permanency hearing as follows:

  • Within 12 months of the original commitment and every 12 months thereafter while the child remains in care
  • Within 30 days of a determination that reasonable efforts are not required

In regulation: The Department of Children and Families shall conduct a foster care review (FCR) within 6 months after a child is placed out of the home and every 6 months thereafter for a child who remains out of the home.

Persons Entitled to Attend Hearings

Citation: Ann. Laws Ch. 119, § 29D; Code of Regs. Tit. 110, § 6.10

The department shall provide notice of hearings to the following persons:

  • The parent or guardian
  • A foster parent
  • A preadoptive parent
  • Any relative providing care for the child

The notice shall inform the foster parent, preadoptive parent, or relative of his or her right to attend the hearing and to be heard. Nothing in this provision shall be construed to provide that such foster parent, preadoptive parent, or relative shall be made a party to the proceeding.

In regulation: The FCR shall at a minimum invite the following people, who shall be notified in writing to attend the case review prior to its scheduled date:

  • The parents of the child in placement, unless parental rights have been terminated or surrendered or the parent has a documented history of violent or assaultive behavior that is not mitigated by treatment and changes in behavior by the parent
  • A putative or unwed father, unless his parental rights have been surrendered or terminated, if he meets any of the following criteria:
    • He is named on any legal papers (i.e. petitions, birth certificate, or other judicial decree).
    • He has formally acknowledged paternity.
    • He has been named as the father by the mother.
  • The child if he or she is age 14 or older
  • The social worker assigned to the case
  • The social worker's supervisor
  • The foster parents or substitute care provider
  • The child's attorney or guardian ad litem, if any
  • Staff of other public or private agencies and other individuals important to the child or family

Determinations Made at Hearings

Citation: Ann. Laws Ch. 119, §§ 29B; 29C; Code of Regs. Tit. 110, § 6.10

At the permanency hearing, the court shall do the following:

  • Determine and periodically review thereafter the permanency plan for the child
  • Consider in-State and out-of-State placement options for a child who is not to be returned to his or her parents
  • If the child is placed in foster care outside the State, determine whether the out-of-State placement continues to be appropriate and in the best interests of the child
  • In the case of a child who has reached age 14, determine the services needed to assist the child in making the transition from foster care to successful adulthood
  • Determine whether the Department of Children and Families has made reasonable efforts to place the child in a timely manner in accordance with the permanency plan

In regulation: The FCR shall include consideration of the following:

  • The necessity and appropriateness of the services to the family
  • A review of the purpose of the service plan
  • A review of the past 6 months' activities, including the following:
    • The department's fulfillment of the tasks identified in the service plan
    • The parents' fulfillment of the tasks identified in the service plan, including the visitation schedule
    • The provider's fulfillment of the tasks identified in the service plan
    • Where appropriate, the child's fulfillment of the tasks identified in the service plan
    • The progress made toward resolving the problems identified in the assessment or previous case review
  • A review of the safety of the child and the necessity and appropriateness of the child's continued placement
  • A review of the extent of progress made toward alleviating or mitigating the causes necessitating the child's placement
  • A review of the goal and the projected date by which the child will achieve permanency
  • A review of the proposed direction of service planning for the next 6 months, including:
    • The steps necessary to achieve permanency for the child
    • The visitation schedule for the parents and the means by which the schedule will be implemented
  • A review of the child's medical and dental checkups, consistent with the well-child schedule

Permanency Options

Citation: Ann. Laws Ch. 119, § 29B

The permanency plan shall address whether and, if applicable, when the child will be placed according to one of the following options:

  • Returned to the parent
  • Placed for adoption
  • Referred for legal guardianship
  • Placed in permanent care with relatives
  • Placed in another planned permanent living arrangement

No child under age 16 shall have a permanency plan for another permanent planned living arrangement. The court shall consult with the child in an age-appropriate manner about the permanency plan developed for the child, including for children and young adults whose permanency plan is another planned permanent living arrangement, asking the child or young adult their desired permanency plan. At each hearing where the court determines that a permanency plan for a child is another planned permanent living arrangement, the court shall specify why this plan is in the child's best interests and the compelling reasons why it is not in the child's best interests to (i) return home; (ii) be placed for adoption; (iii) be placed with a legal guardian; or (iv) be placed in a planned permanent living arrangement with other relatives.