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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

37-2-415. Foster parents' rights.

(a) To the extent not otherwise prohibited by state or federal statute, the department shall, through promulgation of rules in accordance with the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act, compiled in title 4, chapter 5, implement each of the following tenets. With respect to the placement of any foster child with a foster parent that is contracted directly with the department of children's services, or through an agency that contracts with the department to place children in foster care, pursuant to this part:

(1) The department shall treat the foster parent or parents with dignity, respect, trust and consideration as a primary provider of foster care and a member of the professional team caring for foster children;

(2) The department shall provide the foster parent or parents with a clear explanation and understanding of the role of the department and the role of the members of the child's birth family in a child's foster care;

(3) The foster parent or parents shall be permitted to continue their own family values and routines;

(4) The foster parent or parents shall be provided training and support for the purpose of improving skills in providing daily care and meeting the special needs of the child in foster care;

(5) Prior to the placement of a child in foster care, the department shall inform the foster parent or parents of issues relative to the child that may jeopardize the health and safety of the foster family or alter the manner in which foster care should be administered. The department shall fully disclose any information regarding past or pending charges of delinquency as a juvenile, criminal charges, if charged as an adult, and previous hospitalizations, whether due to mental or physical issues;

(6) The department shall provide a means by which the foster parent or parents can contact the department twenty-four (24) hours a day, seven (7) days a week for the purpose of receiving departmental assistance;

(7) The department shall provide the foster parent or parents timely, adequate financial reimbursement for the quality and knowledgeable care of a child in foster care, as specified in the plan; provided, that the amount of such financial reimbursement shall, each year, be subject to and restricted by the level of funding specifically allocated for such purpose by the provisions of the general appropriations act;

(8) (A) The department shall provide clear, written explanation of the plan concerning the placement of a child in the foster parent's home. For emergency placements where time does not allow prior preparation of such explanation, the department shall provide such explanation as it becomes available. This explanation shall include, but is not limited to, all information regarding the child's contact with such child's birth family and cultural heritage, if so outlined;

(B) During an emergency situation when a child must be placed in home-care due to the absence of parents or custodians, the department of children's services may request that a criminal justice agency perform a federal name-based criminal history record check of each adult residing in the home. The results of such check shall be provided to the department, which shall provide a complete set of each adult resident's fingerprints to the Tennessee bureau of investigation within ten (10) calendar days from the date the name search was conducted. The Tennessee bureau of investigation shall either positively identify the fingerprint subject or forward the fingerprints to the federal bureau of investigation within fifteen (15) calendar days from the date the name search was conducted. The child shall be removed from the home immediately if any adult resident fails to provide fingerprints or written permission to perform a federal criminal history check when requested;

(C) When placement of a child in a home is denied as a result of a name-based criminal history record check of a resident and the resident contests that denial, each such resident shall, within five (5) business days, submit to the Tennessee bureau of investigation a complete set of such resident's fingerprints to the Tennessee criminal history record repository for submission to the federal bureau of investigation;

(D) The Tennessee bureau of investigation may charge a reasonable fee, not to exceed seventy dollars ($70.00), for processing a fingerprint-based criminal history record check pursuant to this subdivision (a)(8);

(E) As used in this section, “emergency situation” refers to those limited instances when the department of children's services is placing a child in the home of private individuals, including neighbors, friends, or relatives, as a result of a sudden unavailability of the child's primary caregiver;

(9) Prior to placement, the department shall allow the foster parent or parents to review written information concerning the child and allow the foster parent or parents to assist in determining if such child would be a proper placement for the prospective foster family. For emergency placements where time does not allow prior review of such information, the department shall provide information as it becomes available;

(10) The department shall permit the foster parent or parents to refuse placement within their home, or to request, upon reasonable notice to the department, the removal of a child from their home for good reason, without threat of reprisal, unless otherwise stipulated by contract or policy;

(11) The department shall inform the foster parent or parents of scheduled meetings and staffing, concerning the foster child, and the foster parent or parents shall be permitted to actively participate in the case planning and decision-making process regarding the child in foster care. This may include individual service planning meetings, foster care reviews, and individual educational planning meetings;

(12) The department shall inform a foster parent or parents of decisions made by the courts or the child care agency concerning the child;

(13) The department shall solicit the input of a foster parent or parents concerning the plan of services for the child; this input shall be considered in the department's ongoing development of the plan;

(14) The department shall permit, through written consent, the ability of the foster parent or parents to communicate with professionals who work with the foster child, including any therapists, physicians and teachers who work directly with the child;

(15) The department shall provide all information regarding the child and the child's family background and health history, in a timely manner to the foster parent or parents. The foster parent or parents shall receive additional or necessary information, that is relevant to the care of the child, on an ongoing basis; provided, that confidential information received by the foster parents shall be maintained as such by the foster parents, except as necessary to promote or protect the health and welfare of the child;

(16) The department shall provide timely, written notification of changes in the case plan or termination of the placement and the reasons for the changes or termination of placement to the foster parent or parents, except in the instances of immediate response for child protective services;

(17) The department shall notify the foster parent or parents, in a complete manner, of all court hearings. This notification may include, but is not limited to, notice of the date and time of the court hearing, the name of the judge or hearing officer hearing the case, the location of the hearing, and the court docket number of the case. Such notification shall be made upon the department's receipt of this information, or at the same time that notification is issued to birth parents. The foster parent or parents shall be permitted to attend such hearings at the discretion of the court;

(18) The department shall provide, upon request by the foster parent or parents, information regarding the child's progress after a child leaves foster care. Information provided pursuant to this subsection (a) shall only be provided from information already in possession of the department at the time of the request;

(19) The department shall provide the foster parent or parents the training for obtaining support and information concerning a better understanding of the rights and responsibilities of the foster parent or parents;

(20) The department shall consider the foster parent or parents as the possible first choice permanent parents for the child, who after being in the foster parent's home for twelve (12) months, becomes free for adoption or a planned permanent living arrangement;

(21) The department shall consider the former foster family as a placement option when a foster child who was formerly placed with the foster parent or parents is to be re-entered into foster care;

(22) The department shall permit the foster parent or parents a period of respite, free from placement of foster children in the family's home with follow-up contacts by the agency occurring a minimum of every two (2) months. The foster parent or parents shall provide reasonable notice, to be determined in the promulgation of rules, to the department for respite;

(23) Child abuse/neglect investigations involving the foster parent or parents shall be investigated pursuant to the department's child protective services policy and procedures. A child protective services case manager from another area shall be assigned investigative responsibility. Removal of a foster child will be conducted pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated and departmental policy and procedures. The department shall permit an individual selected by the membership of the Tennessee Foster Care Association to be educated concerning the procedures relevant to investigations of alleged abuse and neglect by the department and the rights of the accused foster parent or parents. Upon receiving such training, such individual shall be permitted to serve as advocate for the accused foster parent or parents. Such advocate shall be permitted to be present at all portions of investigations where the accused foster parent or parents are present, and all communication received by such advocate therein shall be strictly confidential. Nothing contained within this subdivision (23) shall be construed to abrogate the provisions of chapter 1 of this title, regarding procedures for investigations of child abuse and neglect and child sexual abuse by the department of children's services and law enforcement agencies;

(24) Upon request, the department shall provide the foster parent or parents copies of all information relative to their family and services contained in the personal foster home record; and

(25) The department shall advise the foster parent or parents of mediation efforts through publication in departmental policy manuals and the Foster Parent Handbook. The foster parent or parents may file for mediation efforts in response to any violations of the preceding tenets.

(b) In promulgation of rules pursuant to subsection (a), the department shall provide forty-five (45) days written notification of public hearings, held pursuant to the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act, compiled in title 4, chapter 5, to the president of the Tennessee Foster Care Association and the president's designee.

(c) (1) At the time of placement of a child in a foster home, and no later than at the time the foster care placement contract is signed, the foster parent shall be informed, in writing, through a succinct checklist form, of all information that is available to the department regarding the child's:

(A) Pending petitions, or adjudications of delinquency when the conduct constituting the delinquent act, if committed by an adult, would constitute first degree murder, second degree murder, rape, aggravated rape, rape of a child, aggravated robbery, especially aggravated robbery, kidnapping, aggravated kidnapping or especially aggravated kidnapping;

(B) Behavioral issues that may affect the care and supervision of the child;

(C) History of physical or sexual abuse;

(D) Special medical or psychological needs of the child; and

(E) Current infectious diseases.

(2) All information shall remain confidential and not subject to disclosure to any person by the foster parent.

(d) (1) (A) (i) If a foster parent believes that the department, an employee of the department, an agency under contract with the department or an employee of an agency under contract with the department, has failed to follow the tenets listed in subsection (a), and that the failure has harmed or could harm a child who is or was in the custody of the department or that the failure has inhibited the foster parent's ability to meet the needs of a child as written in the permanency plan, then the foster parent may inform the child's case manager, who shall make every attempt to resolve the dispute.

(ii) If the foster parent believes that the dispute has not been adequately resolved by the case manager, the foster parent may contact the case manager's supervisor. The foster parent is encouraged to make such contact in writing and to forward any written communication between the foster parent and the department's employees to the employees' regional administrator and to the commissioner or the commissioner's designee within the department's central office. The department's central office shall maintain a record of any such communication that is received.

(B) If the foster parent believes that the dispute has not been adequately resolved by the case manager's supervisor or supervisors, the foster parent may contact the regional administrator or the regional administrator's designee. This review shall include an in-person interview.

(C) If the foster parent believes that the dispute has not been adequately resolved by the regional administrator or the regional administrator's designee, the foster parent may request, in writing via certified mail, that the department's central office review the actions of the department or the department's employee.

(D) If a review is requested pursuant to subdivision (d)(1)(B), the department shall conduct the review and respond in writing to the foster parent no later than thirty (30) days from the postmarked date of the foster parent's written mailed request. The review shall include, but not be limited to, a review of any previous communication mailed in by the foster parent and an in-person interview with the foster parent.

(2) The department shall transmit to the Tennessee commission on children and youth copies of the written request made pursuant to subdivision (d)(1)(B) no later than ten (10) days from the date the request was received. The department shall also transmit copies of the written response made pursuant to subdivision (d)(1)(C). The copies shall be transmitted no later than ten (10) days from the date the response was sent pursuant to subdivision (d)(1)(C).

(3) If the foster parent believes that the dispute has not been adequately resolved by the department's central office, the foster parent may request in writing via certified mail that the Tennessee commission on children and youth review the actions of the department. The department shall fully comply with the commission in the review, including providing any records requested.

(4) This subsection (d) shall not be construed to limit any rights otherwise granted to foster parents by law.

(e) The department shall train all employees of the department who come in contact with foster parents regarding this section and § 37-2-416. All current employees shall receive such training no later than February 1, 2010, and new employees shall be trained within thirty (30) days from the date of their employment.

Acts 1997, ch. 549, §§ 2, 3; 1999, ch. 493, §§ 1, 2; 1999, ch. 508, §§ 4, 10, 11; 2000, ch. 981, § 51; 2002, ch. 629, § 7; 2004, ch. 877, § 1; 2005, ch. 265, § 6; 2008, ch. 796, § 1; 2009, ch. 270, § 1; 2011, ch. 410, § 3(i).

Compiler's Notes. Acts 1997, ch. 549, § 1 provided that this section may be cited as the “Foster Parent Rights Act.”

For the Preamble to the act concerning the prohibition against establishment of a special committee if there is a standing committee on the same subject, please refer to Acts 2011, ch. 410.

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