Placement of Children With Relatives - Utah

Date: September 2022

Relative Placement for Foster Care and Guardianship

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 80-3-302; 80-3-102

When the court orders that a child be removed from the custody of the child's parent, the court shall first determine whether there is another natural parent with whom the child is not residing who desires to assume custody of the child. If that parent requests custody, the court shall place the child with that parent unless it finds that the placement would be unsafe or otherwise detrimental to the child.

If a child is removed from the custody of their parent and is not placed in the custody of their other parent, the court shall determine whether there is a relative or a friend who is able and willing to care for the child. This may include asking a child who is of sufficient maturity to articulate their wishes in relation to a placement if there is a relative or friend with whom the child would prefer to reside.

Provided that the person is willing and able to care for the child, the following order of preference shall be applied when determining the person with whom a child will be placed:

  • A noncustodial parent of the child
  • A relative of the child
  • A friend if the friend is a licensed foster parent
  • Other placements that are consistent with the requirements of law

A 'friend' is an adult who has an established relationship with the child or a family member of the child but is not the natural parent of the child.

A 'relative' is an adult who is any of the following:

  • The child's grandparent, great grandparent, the parent's or grandparent's sibling, sibling-in-law, stepparent, first cousin, stepsibling, or sibling
  • A first cousin of the child's parent
  • A permanent guardian or natural parent of the child's sibling
  • In the case of an Indian child, an extended family member as defined in the Indian Child Welfare Act (25 U.S.C. § 1903)

Requirements for Placement with Relatives

Citation: Ann. Code § 80-3-302

The court shall make a specific finding regarding the fitness of the noncustodial parent to assume custody and the safety and appropriateness of the placement. The court shall, at a minimum, order the Division of Child and Family Services to visit the parent's home, perform criminal background checks, and check for any previous reports of abuse or neglect received by the division regarding the parent at issue.

If a relative or friend who is willing to cooperate with the child's permanency goal is identified, the court shall make a specific finding regarding the fitness of that relative or friend as a placement for the child and the safety and appropriateness of the placement.

The court shall, at a minimum, order the division to conduct criminal background checks, visit the relative's or friend's home, and check for any previous reports of abuse or neglect regarding the relative or friend at issue. The division must report its findings to the court so that the court may determine whether the following apply:

  • The relative or friend has any history of abusive or neglectful behavior toward other children that may indicate or present a danger to this child.
  • The child is comfortable with the relative or friend.
  • The relative or friend recognizes the parent's history of abuse and is committed to protect the child.
  • The relative or friend is strong enough to resist inappropriate requests by the parent for access to the child, in accordance with court orders.
  • The relative or friend is committed to caring for the child as long as necessary.
  • The relative or friend can provide a secure and stable environment for the child.

Requirements for Placement of Siblings

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 80-2-102; 80-3-406; Admin. Code R512-300-4

'Sibling' means a child who shares or has shared at least one parent in common, either by blood or adoption. 'Sibling visitation' means services provided by the division to facilitate the interaction between a child in division custody with the child's sibling.

When a minor is under the custody of the division and has been separated from a sibling due to foster care or adoptive placement, a juvenile court may order sibling visitation, subject to the division obtaining consent from the sibling's guardian, according to the court's determination of the best interests of the child.

In regulation: The child and family plan shall include a visiting plan for the child, parents, and siblings, unless prohibited by court order.

Placement decisions are based upon the child's needs, strengths, and best interests. The following factors are considered in determining placement:

  • The age, special needs, and circumstances of the child
  • The least restrictive placement consistent with the child's needs
  • Placement of siblings together
  • Placement with relatives or other kin
  • Proximity to the child's home and school
  • Sensitivity to cultural heritage and individual equity and support needs of a child, including consideration of the child's race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, language, ethnicity, medical or mental health needs, or disability
  • The potential for adoption

The child has a right to purposeful and frequent visits with a parent or guardian and siblings unless the court orders otherwise. The right to visits is not a privilege to be earned or denied based on behavior of the child or the parent or guardian. Visits may be supplemented with telephone calls and written correspondence.

Relatives Who May Adopt

Citation: Ann. Code § 78B-6-128

The following relatives may adopt the child:

  • A stepparent
  • A sibling or half-sibling by birth or adoption
  • A grandparent, parent's sibling, or first cousin

Requirements for Adoption by Relatives

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 78B-6-118; 78B-6-128; 78B-6-129

A person adopting a child must be at least 10 years older than the child.

The requirement for a preplacement or postplacement adoptive evaluation does not apply if a preexisting parent has legal custody of the child to be adopted and the prospective adoptive parent is related to that child or the preexisting parent as a stepparent, sibling by half-blood or whole-blood or by adoption, grandparent, parent's sibling, or first cousin, unless the court otherwise requests the preplacement adoptive evaluation.

The prospective adoptive parent shall obtain the following information:

  • A criminal history background check regarding each prospective adoptive parent and any other adult living in the home
  • A report containing all information regarding reports and investigations of child abuse, neglect, and dependency, with respect to each prospective adoptive parent and any other adult living in the home

A home study that is conducted by an adoption service provider is not required.