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TENNESSEE COMPILATION OF SELECTED LAWS ON CHILDREN, YOUTH AND FAMILIES, 2011 EDITION

TENNESSEE CODE ANNOTATED

Title 37 Juveniles

Chapter 2 Placement of Juveniles

Part 4 Foster Care

37-2-403. Contents of permanency plan - Statement of responsibilities - Collection of information on biological parents.

(a) (1) (A) Within thirty (30) days of the date of foster care placement, an agency shall prepare a plan for each child in its foster care. Such plan shall include a goal for each child of:

(i) Return of the child to parent;

(ii) Permanent placement of the child with a fit and willing relative or relatives of the child;

(iii) Adoption, giving appropriate consideration to § 36-1-115(g) when applicable;

(iv) Permanent guardianship; or

(v) A planned permanent living arrangement.

(B) Such plans are subject to modification and shall be reevaluated and updated at least annually, except when a long-term agreement has been made in accordance with this part.

(2) (A) The permanency plan for any child in foster care shall include a statement of responsibilities between the parents, the agency and the caseworker of such agency. Such statements shall include the responsibilities of each party in specific terms and shall be reasonably related to the achievement of the goal specified in subdivision (a)(1). The statement shall include the definitions of “abandonment” and “abandonment of an infant” contained in § 36-1-102 and the criteria and procedures for termination of parental rights. Each party shall sign the statement and be given a copy of it. The court must review the proposed plan, make any necessary modifications and ratify or approve the plan within sixty (60) days of the foster care placement. The department of children's services shall, by rules promulgated pursuant to the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act, compiled in title 4, chapter 5, part 2, determine the required elements or contents of the permanency plan.

(B) (i) The parents or legal guardians of the child shall receive notice to appear at the court review of the permanency plan and the court shall explain on the record the law relating to abandonment contained in § 36-1-102, and shall explain that the consequences of failure to visit or support the child will be termination of the parents' or guardians' rights to the child, and the court will further explain that the parents or guardians may seek an attorney to represent the parents or guardians in any termination proceeding. If the parents or legal guardians are not at the hearing to review the permanency plan, the court shall explain to the parents or guardians at any subsequent hearing regarding the child held thereafter, that the consequences of failure to visit or support the child will be termination of the parents' or guardians' rights to the child and that they may seek an attorney to represent the parents or guardians in a termination proceeding.

(ii) If the parents or guardians of the child cannot be given notice to appear at the court review of the permanency plan, or if they refuse or fail to appear at the court review of the permanency plan, or cannot be found to provide notice for the court review of the permanency plan, any agency that holds custody of the child in foster care or in any other type of care and that seeks to terminate parental or guardian rights based upon abandonment of that child under § 36-1-102, shall not be precluded from proceeding with the termination based upon the grounds of abandonment, if the agency demonstrates at the time of the termination proceeding:

(a) That the court record shows, or the petitioning party presents to the court a copy of the permanency plan that shows that the defendant parents or legal guardians, subsequent to the court review in subdivision (a)(2)(B)(i), has signed the portion of the permanency plan that describes the criteria for establishing abandonment under § 36-1-102, or that the court record shows that, at a subsequent hearing regarding the child, the court made the statements to the parents or legal guardians required by subdivision (a)(2)(B)(i);

(b) By an affidavit, that the child's permanency plan containing language that describes the criteria for establishing abandonment under § 36-1-102 was presented by the agency party to the parents or guardians at any time prior to filing the termination petition, or that there was an attempt at any time to present the plan that describes the criteria for establishing abandonment under § 36-1-102 to the parents or guardians at any time by the agency party, and that such attempt was refused by the parents or guardians; and

(c) That, if the court record does not contain a signed copy of the permanency plan, or if the petitioning agency cannot present evidence of a permanency plan showing evidence of such notice having been given or an affidavit showing that the plan was given or that the plan was attempted to be given to the parents or guardians by the agency and was refused by the parents or guardians, and, in this circumstance, if there is no other court record of the explanation by the court of the consequences of abandonment and the right to seek an attorney at any time, then the petitioning agency shall file with the court an affidavit in the termination proceeding that describes in detail the party's diligent efforts to bring such notice required by subdivision (a)(2)(B)(i) to such parent or guardian at any time prior to filing the agency's filing of the termination petition.

(C) Substantial noncompliance by the parent with the statement of responsibilities provides grounds for the termination of parental rights, notwithstanding other statutory provisions for termination of parental rights, and notwithstanding the failure of the parent to sign or to agree to such statement if the court finds the parent was informed of its contents, and that the requirements of the statement are reasonable and are related to remedying the conditions that necessitate foster care placement.

(3) At any hearing in which a court orders a child to be placed in foster care, the judge shall determine whether a permanency plan has been prepared and whether the statement of responsibilities has been agreed upon by the parties. If a statement has been agreed upon by the parties, the court shall review it and approve it if the court finds it to be in the best interest of the child. If a plan had not been prepared or parties have not agreed to a statement of responsibilities, the court may continue the hearing for such time, not to exceed thirty (30) days, as may be necessary to give the parties an opportunity to attempt to agree on a suitable plan, which may then be approved by the court without a further hearing if the court finds the plan to be in the best interest of the child, but no longer than sixty (60) days after the foster care placement, except as provided in § 37-1-166.

(4) (A) If the parties are unable to agree on a statement of responsibilities during this period of time, the court shall hold a further informal hearing to decide on a statement of responsibilities. At such hearing, all relevant evidence, including oral and written reports, may be received by the court and relied upon to the extent of its probative value. The parties or their counsel shall be afforded an opportunity to examine and controvert written reports so received and to cross-examine individuals making the reports.

(B) In determining the terms of the statement, the court shall, insofar as possible, in accordance with the best interest of the child, seek to:

(i) Return the child to the parent;

(ii) Permanently place the child with a fit and willing relative or relatives of the child;

(iii) Pursue adoptive placement;

(iv) Pursue permanent guardianship; or

(v) Provide a planned permanent living arrangement for the child.

(C) The court shall take such action as may be necessary to develop and approve a plan that it finds to be in the best interest of the child. The plan shall be approved within sixty (60) days of the foster care placement, except as provided in § 37-1-166.

(5) In cases involving child abuse or child neglect, with such child being placed in foster care, the statement of responsibilities shall stipulate that the abusing or neglecting parent shall receive appropriate rehabilitative assistance through mental health consultation if so ordered by the court.

(6) The plan for a child who remains in foster care for one (1) year may be modified to a long-term agreement between a foster parent and the agency charged with the caring and custody of the child. Such agreements with foster parents shall include:

(A) Appropriate arrangements for the child; and

(B) Procedures for the termination of the agreement by either party when in the best interests of the child. When the department of children's services is a party to the agreement, such agreement must include provisions permitting variation in monetary allowances from fiscal year to fiscal year depending upon appropriations by the general assembly.

(b) (1) In lieu of the provisions of subsection (a), in the event a child is in foster care as a result of a surrender or termination of parental rights, the agency having guardianship of the child shall prepare and submit to the foster care advisory review board or court in the county in which the child is in foster care a plan for each such child.

(2) Such plan shall include a goal for each child of:

(A) Permanent placement of the child with a fit and willing relative or relatives of the child;

(B) Adoption, giving appropriate consideration to § 36-1-115(g) when applicable;

(C) Permanent guardianship; or

(D) A planned permanent living arrangement.

(3) Specific reasons must be included in the plan for any goal other than placement of the child with a relative of the child or adoption. Such plan shall also include a statement of specific responsibilities of the agency and the caseworker of such agency designed to achieve the stated goal.

(c) The statement of responsibilities on a permanency plan that is ordered by the court shall empower the state agency to select any specific residential or treatment placement or programs for the child according to the determination made by that state agency, its employees, agents or contractors.

(d) Whenever a child is removed from such child's home and placed in the department's custody, the department shall seek to place the child with a fit and willing relative if such placement provides for the safety and is in the best interest of the child. Notwithstanding any provision of this section or any other law to the contrary, whenever return of a child to such child's parent is determined not to be in the best interest of the child, then such relative with whom the child has been placed shall be given priority for permanent placement or adoption of the child prior to pursuing adoptive placement of such child with a non-relative.

(e) In addition to completing the permanency plan, within thirty (30) days of the date of foster care placement, the placement agency shall collect as much information as possible in order to complete a medical and social history on the child and the child's biological family on the form promulgated by the department pursuant to § 36-1-111(k).

Acts 1976, ch. 731, § 2; 1978, ch. 804, §§ 1, 2; 1979, ch. 272, § 1; 1982, ch. 811, § 2; 1983, ch. 438, §§ 7-12; T.C.A., § 37-1502; Acts 1988, ch. 560, §§ 1-6; 1995, ch. 532, § 15; 1996, ch. 1054, §§ 102, 125; 1996, ch. 1079, §§ 73, 111, 113; 1998, ch. 1097, §§ 15-17, 30; 2002, ch. 629, §§ 1-4; 2007, ch. 372, §§ 7-9; 2010, ch. 842, § 4; 2010, ch. 881, § 1.

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