Court Hearings for the Permanent Placement of Children - Texas

Date: February 2020

Schedule of Hearings

Citation: Fam. Code §§ 263.201; 263.304; 263.305;

A status hearing shall be held no later than 60 days after the child is placed to review the child's status and service plan.

A permanency hearing shall be held as follows:

  • No later than 180 days after the child is placed with the Department of Family and Protective Services and subsequent hearings no later than 120 days thereafter
  • Within 30 days of a finding that reasonable efforts are not required

Persons Entitled to Attend Hearings

Citation: Fam. Code §§ 263.0021; 263.302

The following persons are entitled to receive notice of a hearing and are entitled to present evidence and be heard at the hearing:

  • The department
  • The foster parent, preadoptive parent, relative of the child providing care, or the director of the group home or general residential operation where the child resides
  • Each parent of the child
  • The managing conservator or guardian of the child
  • An attorney ad litem, guardian ad litem, or volunteer advocate appointed for the child
  • The child, if the child is age 10 or older or the court determines it is appropriate for the child to receive notice
  • Any other person or agency named by the court to have an interest in the child's welfare

The child shall attend each permanency hearing, unless the court specifically excuses the child's attendance.

Determinations Made at Hearings

Citation: Fam. Code §§ 263.202; 263.306

A status hearing shall be limited to matters related to the contents and execution of the service plan filed with the court by the department. The court shall review the service plan for reasonableness, accuracy, and compliance with requirements of court orders and make findings as to whether the following are true:

  • A plan that has the goal of returning the child to the child's parents adequately ensures that reasonable efforts are made to enable the child's parents to provide a safe environment for the child.
  • The child's parents have reviewed and understood the plan and have been advised that unless the parents are willing and able to provide the child with a safe environment, even with the assistance of a service plan, within the reasonable period of time specified in the plan, the parents' parental and custodial duties and rights may be subject to restriction or to termination or the child may not be returned to the parents.
  • The plan is reasonably tailored to address any specific issues identified by the department.

At each permanency hearing, the court shall determine the following:

  • The extent of the parties' compliance with temporary orders and the service plan and the extent to which progress has been made toward alleviating or mitigating the causes necessitating the placement of the child in foster care
  • The safety and well-being of the child and whether the child's needs, including any medical or special needs, are being adequately addressed
  • The continuing necessity and appropriateness of the placement of the child, including with respect to a child who has been placed outside of this State, whether the placement continues to be in the best interests of the child
  • The appropriateness of the child's primary and alternative permanency goals
  • Whether the child has been provided the opportunity, in a developmentally appropriate manner, to identify any adults, particularly an adult residing in the child's community, who could be a relative or designated caregiver for the child
  • Whether an education decision-maker for the child has been identified
  • For a child age 14 or older, whether services that are needed to assist the child in transitioning from substitute care to independent living are available in the child's community
  • For a child whose permanency goal is another planned permanent living arrangement:
    • The desired permanency outcome for the child, by asking the child
    • Whether another planned permanent living arrangement is the best permanency plan for the child and, if so, provide compelling reasons why another permanency option is not in the child's best interests
  • Whether to return the child to the child's parents if the child's parents are willing and able to provide the child with a safe environment and the return of the child is in the child's best interests
  • A likely date by which the child may be returned to and safely maintained in the child's home, placed for adoption, or placed in permanent managing conservatorship

Permanency Options

Citation: Fam. Code § 263.3026

The department's permanency plan for a child may include as a goal one of the following:

  • The reunification of the child with a parent or other individual from whom the child was removed
  • The termination of parental rights and adoption of the child by a relative or other suitable individual
  • The award of permanent managing conservatorship of the child to a relative or other suitable individual
  • Another planned, permanent living arrangement for the child

If the goal of the department's permanency plan for a child is to find another planned, permanent living arrangement for the child, the department shall document that there is a compelling reason why the other permanency goals identified in above are not in the child's best interests.