Court Hearings for the Permanent Placement of Children - Tennessee

Date: February 2020

Schedule of Hearings

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 37-1-166; 37-2-404; 37-3-409

A review hearing shall be held within 90 days of placement and every 6 months thereafter.

A permanency hearing shall be held as follows:

  • Within 12 months of placement and every 12 months thereafter
  • Within 30 days of a finding that reasonable efforts to reunify are not required
  • For a child who is age 17 or older, 3 months prior to his or her planned release to independent living

Persons Entitled to Attend Hearings

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 37-2-404; 37-2-409

Notice of the review hearing and the right to attend and participate in the review shall be provided to the following:

  • The child's parent(s) whose rights have not been terminated or surrendered
  • The parent's attorney
  • The guardian ad litem and/or attorney for the child
  • Foster parents, prospective adoptive parents, or relative providing care for the child
  • The child who is a party to the proceeding

The child shall be present for the permanency hearing. The only exceptions to the child's mandatory attendance shall be a child who is either under a doctor's care preventing the child from attending or is placed outside the State. In such event, the court shall require the guardian ad litem, case manager for the Department of Children's Services, or other case manager of the child to attest that the child, if age appropriate, participated in the development of the permanency plan or has been counseled on the provisions of the permanency plan.

Determinations Made at Hearings

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 37-2-404; 37-3-409

At the review hearing, the court or board shall review the safety, permanency, and well-being of the child by assessing the necessity and appropriateness of continued foster care placement, the appropriateness of services for the child, the compliance of all parties to the statement of responsibilities, and the extent of progress in alleviating or mitigating the causes necessitating placement in foster care and in achieving the goals contained in the permanency plan. After this assessment, the court or board will project a likely date on which the goal of the plan will be achieved.

At the permanency hearing, the court shall confer with the child in an age-appropriate manner regarding the child's views on the provisions of the permanency plan. For all children, absent or present, evidence shall be presented as to the child's progress and needed services.

The purpose of the permanency hearings shall be to do the following:

  • Review the permanency plan and goals for the child
  • Address which goals continue to be appropriate for the child in order to achieve permanent placement and include a timeline for achieving each goal
  • Determine the extent of compliance of all parties with the terms of the permanency plan and the extent of progress in achieving the goals of the plan

In the case of a child who has reached age 16, the court shall review and ratify an independent living plan for the child. At the hearing for a child who has reached age 17, the court shall ensure that the child has notice of and understands the child's opportunity to receive, if eligible, all available voluntary postcustody services from the department by having the department present evidence regarding services that are available to the child beginning at age 18.

Permanency Options

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 37-2-403; 37-2-409

Possible permanency goals include the following:

  • Return of the child to his or her parent
  • Permanent placement with a fit and willing relative
  • Adoption
  • Permanent guardianship
  • Another planned permanent living arrangement

The permanency plan shall not require the parent to obtain employment if the parent has sufficient resources from other means to care for the child, and the plan shall not require the parent to provide the child with the child's own bedroom unless specific safety or medical reasons exist that would make bedroom placement of the child with another child unsafe.

Placement in another planned permanent living arrangement shall be appropriate only in cases in which the State agency has documented a compelling reason for determining that the other goals would not be in the best interests of the child because of the child's special needs or circumstances.