Court Hearings for the Permanent Placement of Children - Vermont

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Schedule of Hearings

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 33, §§ 5320; 5321

If the permanency goal of the disposition case plan is reunification with a parent, guardian, or custodian, the court shall hold a review hearing within 60 days of the date of the disposition order.

A permanency review hearing shall be held no less than every 12 months, with the first hearing to be held 12 months after the date the legal custody of the child was transferred, subject to the following exceptions:

  • If the child was age 3 or younger at the time of the initial transfer of legal custody, the court may order that permanency review hearings be held as frequently as every 3 months.
  • If the child is between age 3 and 6 at the time of the initial transfer of legal custody, the court may order that permanency review hearings be held as frequently as every 6 months.

If the court shortens the time for the permanency review hearing for a younger sibling, that shortened review interval shall be applied to all siblings in the family who are in the legal custody of the Department for Children and Families.

Upon the filing of a petition for a finding of reasonable efforts, the court shall hold a hearing within 30 days to determine, by a preponderance of the evidence, whether the department has made reasonable efforts to finalize the permanency plan for the child that is in effect at the time of the hearing. The hearing may be consolidated with or separate from a permanency hearing. Reasonable efforts to finalize a permanency plan may consist of the following:

  • Reasonable efforts to reunify the child and family when the permanency plan for the child is reunification
  • Reasonable efforts to arrange and finalize an alternate permanent living arrangement for the child when the permanency plan for the child does not include reunification

Persons Entitled to Attend Hearings

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 33, § 5321

The department shall provide notice of the permanency review to the following:

  • The State's attorney having jurisdiction
  • All parties to the proceeding in accordance with the rules for family proceedings

A foster parent, preadoptive parent, or relative caregiver for the child shall be provided notice of and an opportunity to be heard at any permanency hearing held with respect to the child. This notice shall not be construed as giving such person party status in the proceeding.

Determinations Made at Hearings

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 33, §§ 5320; 5321

At the postdisposition review hearing, the court shall monitor progress under the disposition case plan and review parent-child contact.

At the permanency review, the court shall review the permanency plan and determine whether the plan advances the permanency goal recommended by the department. The court may accept or reject the plan but may not designate a particular placement for a child in the department's legal custody.

The permanency hearing may be held by an administrative body appointed or approved by the court. In the event that the administrative body determines that the existing order should be altered, it shall submit its recommendation to the court for its consideration. In the event that the administrative body determines that the existing order should not be altered, its determination shall be binding unless any party requests review by the court within 10 days of receipt of the determination.

Permanency Options

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 33, § 5321

At the permanency hearing, the court shall determine the permanency goal for the child and an estimated time for achieving that goal. The goal shall specify when one of the following will occur:

  • Legal custody of the child will be transferred to the parent, guardian, or custodian.
  • The child will be released for adoption.
  • A permanent guardianship will be established for the child.
  • A legal guardianship will be established for the child pursuant to an order under title 14, chapter 111.
  • The child will remain in the same living arrangement or be placed in another planned permanent living arrangement because the commissioner has demonstrated to the satisfaction of the court a compelling reason that it is not in the child's best interests to return home, be released for adoption, or be placed with a fit and willing relative or legal guardian.