Court Hearings for the Permanent Placement of Children - Utah

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Schedule of Hearings

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 78A-6-312; 78A-6-313; 78A-6-314; 78A-6-311.5

If reunification efforts have been ordered by the court, a hearing shall be held no more than 6 months after initial removal of a child from his or her home.

A permanency hearing shall be held as follows:

  • No later than 12 months after the original removal of the minor when reunification services have been ordered
  • Within 30 days from the date of the dispositional hearing if reunification services were not ordered at the dispositional hearing

For a child who is placed in a qualified residential treatment program, the court shall conduct a review within 60 days of the placement. As long as a child remains placed in a qualified residential treatment program, the court shall review the placement decision at each subsequent hearing held with respect to the child.

Persons Entitled to Attend Hearings

Citation: Ann. Code § 78A-6-317

The following persons are entitled to notice of, and to be present at, each hearing and proceeding held under this part, including administrative and citizen reviews, and have a right to be heard at each hearing and proceeding:

  • The child who is the subject of the hearing
  • Both parents and any guardian of the child
  • Any person entitled to notice under §§ 78A-6-306 or 78A-6-310, including:
    • The caseworker from the Division of Child and Family Services
    • The attorney from the Attorney General's Office representing the division
  • Preadoptive parents
  • Foster parents
  • Any relative providing care for the child

A child shall be represented at each hearing by the guardian ad litem appointed to the child's case by the court. The child has a right to be present at each hearing, subject to the discretion of the guardian ad litem or the court regarding any possible detriment to the child.

The parent or guardian of a child who is the subject of a petition under this part has the right to be represented by counsel and to present evidence at each hearing.

Determinations Made at Hearings

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 78A-6-313; 78A-6-314; 78A-6-311.5

At the review hearing, the court shall determine whether the following are true:

  • The division has provided and is providing reasonable efforts to reunify a family in accordance with the child and family plan.
  • The parent has fulfilled or is fulfilling identified duties and responsibilities in order to comply with the requirements of the child and family plan.

At the permanency hearing the court shall determine whether the child may safely be returned to the custody of his or her parents. If the court finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that return of the child would create a substantial risk of detriment to his or her physical or emotional well-being, the child may not be returned to the custody of his or her parents.

The court shall review and consider the following:

  • The report prepared by the division
  • Any admissible evidence offered by the minor's guardian ad litem
  • Any report submitted by the division under § 78A-6-315(3)(a)(i)
  • Any evidence regarding the efforts or progress demonstrated by the parent
  • The extent to which the parent cooperated and used the services provided

If the child is not returned to his or her parent or guardian at the permanency hearing, the court shall do the following:

  • Order termination of reunification services to the parent
  • Make a final determination regarding whether termination of parental rights, adoption, or permanent custody and guardianship is the most appropriate final plan for the child, taking into account the child's primary permanency goal
  • Establish a concurrent plan that identifies the second most appropriate final plan for the child

At the initial review of a child's placement in a qualified residential treatment program (QRTP), the court shall do the following:

  • Review the assessment, determination, and documentation made by a qualified individual regarding the child
  • Determine whether the needs of the child can be met through placement in a foster home
  • If the child's needs cannot be met through placement in a foster home, determine whether the following are true:
    • Placement of the child in a QRTP provides the most effective and appropriate level of care for the child in the least restrictive environment.
    • Placement in a QRTP is consistent with the short-term and long-term goals for the child, as specified in the permanency plan for the child.
  • Approve or disapprove of the child's placement in a QRTP

In subsequent reviews, the court shall review evidence submitted by the custodial division that address the following:

  • Demonstrate an ongoing assessment of the strengths and needs of the child such that the child's needs cannot be met through placement in a foster home
  • Demonstrate that placement in a QRTP provides the most effective and appropriate level of care for the child in the least restrictive environment
  • Demonstrate that placement in the QRTP is consistent with the short-term and long-term goals for the child, as specified by the permanency plan for the child
  • Document the specific treatment or service needs that will be met for the child in the placement
  • Document the length of time the child is expected to need the treatment or services
  • Document the efforts made by the custodial division to prepare the child to return home or transition to another setting, such as with a relative, a friend of the child, a legal guardian, an adoptive parent, a foster home, or independent living

Permanency Options

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 78A-6-312; 78A-6-314

In addition to a primary permanency plan, the court shall establish a concurrent permanency plan that shall include the following:

  • A representative list of the conditions under which the primary permanency plan will be abandoned in favor of the concurrent permanency plan
  • An explanation of the effect of abandoning or modifying the primary permanency plan

In determining the primary permanency plan and concurrent permanency plan, the court shall consider the following:

  • The preference for kinship placement over nonkinship placement
  • The potential for a guardianship placement if the parent-child relationship is legally terminated and no appropriate adoption placement is available
  • The use of an individualized permanency plan only as a last resort

Permanency options include the following:

  • Reunification
  • Adoption
  • Permanent custody and guardianship
  • Kinship placement
  • Another planned permanent living arrangement

The court may order another planned permanent living arrangement for a minor age 16 or older upon entering the following findings:

  • The division has documented intensive, ongoing, and unsuccessful efforts to reunify the minor with the minor's parent or parents or to secure a placement for the minor with a guardian, an adoptive parent, or a relative of the minor or friend of the minor's parents.
  • The division has demonstrated that the division has made efforts to normalize the life of the minor while in the division's custody.
  • The minor prefers another planned permanent living arrangement.
  • There is a compelling reason why reunification or other permanent placement is not in the minor's best interests.