Substitute House Bill No. 6652

Public Act No. 01-142

AN ACT CONCERNING REVISIONS TO THE CHILD PROTECTION LAWS.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. Subsection (f) of section 17a-28 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(f) The commissioner or [his] the commissioner's designee shall, upon request, promptly provide copies of records, without the consent of a person, to (1) a law enforcement agency, (2) the Chief State's Attorney or [his] the Chief State's Attorney's designee or a state's attorney for the judicial district in which the child resides or in which the alleged abuse or neglect occurred or [his] the state's attorney's designee, for purposes of investigating or prosecuting an allegation of child abuse or neglect, (3) the attorney appointed to represent a child in any court in litigation affecting the best interests of the child, (4) a guardian ad litem appointed to represent a child in any court in litigation affecting the best interests of the child, (5) the Department of Public Health, which licenses any person to care for children for the purposes of determining suitability of such person for licensure, (6) any state agency which licenses such person to educate or care for children pursuant to section 10-145b or 17a-101j, (7) the Governor, when requested in writing, in the course of [his] the Governor's official functions or the Legislative Program Review and Investigations Committee, the committee of the General Assembly on judiciary and the committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters involving children when requested in the course of such committees' official functions in writing, and upon a majority vote of said committee, provided no names or other identifying information shall be disclosed unless it is essential to the legislative or gubernatorial purpose, [and] (8) a local or regional board of education, provided the records are limited to educational records created or obtained by the state or Connecticut-Unified School District #2, established pursuant to section 17a-37, and (9) a party in a custody proceeding under section 17a-112, or section 46b-129, as amended by this act, in the Superior Court where such records concern a child who is the subject of the proceeding or the parent of such child. A disclosure under this section shall be made of any part of a record, whether or not created by the department, provided no confidential record of the Superior Court shall be disclosed other than the petition and any affidavits filed therewith in the superior court for juvenile matters, except upon an order of a judge of the Superior Court for good cause shown. The commissioner shall also disclose the name of any individual who cooperates with an investigation of a report of child abuse or neglect to such law enforcement agency or state's attorney for purposes of investigating or prosecuting an allegation of child abuse or neglect. The commissioner or [his] the commissioner's designee shall, upon request, promptly provide copies of records, without the consent of the person, to (A) the Department of Public Health for the purpose of determining the suitability of a person to care for children in a facility licensed under sections 19a-77 to 19a-80, inclusive, 19a-82 to 19a-87, inclusive, and 19a-87b, and (B) the Department of Social Services for determining the suitability of a person for any payment from the department for providing child care.

Sec. 2. Subsection (a) of section 17a-101k of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) The Commissioner of Children and Families shall maintain a registry of the reports received pursuant to sections 17a-101a to 17a-101d, inclusive, and 17a-103, and shall adopt regulations to [permit] implement the provisions of this section, including the use of the registry on a twenty-four-hour daily basis to prevent or discover abuse of children and the establishment of a hearing process for any appeal by a person of the commissioner's determination that such person is responsible for the abuse or neglect of a child pursuant to subsection (b) of section 17a-101g. The information contained in the reports and any other information relative to child abuse, wherever located, shall be confidential subject to such statutes and regulations governing their use and access as shall conform to the requirements of federal law or regulations. Any violation of this section or the regulations adopted by the commissioner under this section shall be punishable by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars or imprisonment for not more than one year.

Sec. 3. Subsection (a) of section 17a-111b of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) The Commissioner of Children and Families or any other party may, at any time, petition the court for a determination on whether reasonable efforts to reunify the parent with the child are appropriate. The court shall hold an evidentiary hearing on the petition within thirty days of the filing of the petition. The court may determine that such efforts are not appropriate if the court finds upon clear and convincing evidence that: (1) The parent has subjected the child to the following aggravated circumstances: (A) The child has been abandoned as defined in subsection (j) of section 17a-112; or (B) the parent has inflicted sexual molestation or exploitation or severe physical abuse on the child or engaged in a pattern of abuse of the child; (2) the parent has killed, through deliberate, nonaccidental act, another child of the parent or a sibling of the child, or has required, commanded, importuned, attempted, conspired or solicited to commit the killing of the child, another child of the parent or sibling of the child, or has committed an assault, through deliberate, nonaccidental act, that resulted in serious bodily injury of the child, another child of the parent or a sibling of the child; (3) the parental rights of the parent to a sibling have been involuntarily terminated within three years of the filing of a petition pursuant to this section, provided the commissioner has made reasonable efforts to reunify the parent with the child during a period of at least ninety days; [or] (4) the parent was convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction of sexual assault, except a conviction of a violation of section 53a-71 or 53a-73a resulting in the conception of the child; or (5) the child was placed in the care and control of the commissioner pursuant to the provisions of sections 17a-57 to 17a-61, inclusive.

Sec. 4. Section 17a-76 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) Application for commitment of a mentally ill child to a hospital for mental illness shall be made to the court of probate in the district in which such child resides, or when his or her place of residence is out of state or unknown, the district in which he or she may be at the time of filing the application, except in cases where it is otherwise expressly provided by law. In any case in which the child is hospitalized under sections 17a-75 to 17a-83, inclusive, and an application for the commitment of such child is filed in accordance with the provisions of sections 17a-75 to 17a-83, inclusive, the jurisdiction shall be vested in the court of probate for the district in which the hospital where such child is a patient is located. In the event that an application has previously been filed in another court of probate with respect to the same confinement, no further action shall be taken on such previous application. Notwithstanding the provisions of section 45a-7, if the child is confined to a hospital outside the district of the court of probate in which the application for [his] the child's commitment was made, the judge of probate from the district where the application was filed shall have jurisdiction to hold the hearing on such commitment at the hospital where such child is hospitalized. The court shall exercise jurisdiction only upon written application alleging that such child suffers from a mental disorder and is in need of treatment. Such application may be made by any person, and shall include the name and address of the hospital for mental illness to which the child's commitment is being sought and shall include the name, address and telephone number of any attorney appointed for the child by the Superior Court pursuant to section 46b-129, as amended by this act.

(b) Any application for commitment of any child under sections 17a-75 to 17a-83, inclusive, shall be transferred from the court of probate where it has been filed to the superior court of appropriate venue upon motion of any legal party except the petitioner.

(c) The motion for such transfer shall be filed with the court of probate prior to the beginning of any hearing on the merits. The moving party shall send copies of such motion to all parties of record. The court shall grant such motion the next business day after its receipt by the court. Immediately upon granting the motion, the clerk of the court shall transmit by certified mail the original file and papers to the superior court having jurisdiction. All parties to the proceeding shall be notified of the date on which the file and papers were transferred.

(d) The court of probate shall appoint an attorney for such child from the panel of attorneys established by subsection (b) of section 17a-498 on the next business day after receipt of the application, and as soon as reasonably possible shall appoint physicians as required under section 17a-77, which appointments shall remain in full force and effect notwithstanding the fact that the matter has been transferred to the Superior Court.

(e) On any matter not transferred to the Superior Court in accordance with this section, upon the motion of the child for whom application has been made, or his or her counsel, or the judge of probate having jurisdiction over such application, filed not later than three days prior to any hearing scheduled on such application, the Probate Court Administrator shall appoint a three-judge court from among the several judges of probate to hear such application. Such three-judge court shall consist of at least one judge who is an attorney at law admitted to practice in this state. The judge of the court of probate having jurisdiction over such application under the provisions of this section shall be a member, provided such judge may disqualify himself or herself in which case all three members of such court shall be appointed by the Probate Court Administrator. Such three-judge court when convened shall have all the powers and duties set forth under sections 17a-75 to 17a-83, inclusive, and shall be subject to all of the provisions of law as if it were a single-judge court. No such child shall be involuntarily hospitalized without the vote of at least two of the three judges convened under the provisions of this section. The judges of such court shall designate a chief judge from among their members. All records for any case before the three-judge court shall be maintained in the court of probate having jurisdiction over the matter.

Sec. 5. Subsection (b) of section 17a-101i of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(b) After an investigation has been completed and the Commissioner of Children and Families, based upon the results of the investigation, has reasonable cause to believe that a child has been abused by a staff member of a public or private institution or facility providing care for children or private school, the commissioner shall notify the executive director of such institution, school or facility and shall provide records, whether or not created by the department concerning such investigation to such executive director. Such institution, school or facility may suspend such staff person. Such suspension shall be with pay and shall not result in diminution or termination of benefits to such employee. Such suspension shall remain in effect until the incident of abuse has been satisfactorily resolved by the employer of the staff person. If such staff member has a professional license or certification issued by the state, the commissioner shall forthwith notify the state agency responsible for such license or certification of the staff member and provide records, whether or not created by the department, concerning such investigation.

Sec. 6. Subsection (j) of section 46b-129 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(j) Upon finding and adjudging that any child or youth is uncared-for, neglected or dependent, the court may commit [him] such child or youth to the Commissioner of Children and Families. [for a maximum period of twelve months, unless such period is extended in accordance with the provisions of subsection (k) of this section] Such commitment shall remain in effect until further order of the court pursuant to the provisions of subsection (k) of this section, as amended by this act, provided such commitment [or any extension thereof] may be revoked or parental rights terminated at any time by the court, or the court may vest such child's or youth's care and personal custody in any private or public agency which is permitted by law to care for neglected, uncared-for or dependent children or youth or with any person or persons found to be suitable and worthy of such responsibility by the court. The court shall order specific steps which the parent must take to facilitate the return of the child or youth to the custody of such parent. The commissioner shall be the guardian of such child or youth for the duration of the commitment, provided the child or youth has not reached the age of eighteen years or, in the case of a child or youth in full-time attendance in a secondary school, a technical school, a college or a state-accredited job training program, provided such child or youth has not reached the age of twenty-one, by consent of such youth, or until another guardian has been legally appointed, and in like manner, upon such vesting of [his] the care of such child or youth, such other public or private agency or individual shall be the guardian of such child or youth until [he] such child or youth has reached the age of eighteen years or, in the case of a child or youth in full-time attendance in a secondary school, a technical school, a college or a state-accredited job training program, until such child or youth has reached the age of twenty-one years or until another guardian has been legally appointed. Said commissioner may place any child or youth so committed to [him] the commissioner in a suitable foster home or in the home of a person related by blood to such child or youth or in a licensed child-caring institution or in the care and custody of any accredited, licensed or approved child-caring agency, within or without the state, provided a child shall not be placed outside the state except for good cause and unless the parents of such child are notified in advance of such placement and given an opportunity to be heard, or in a receiving home maintained and operated by the Commissioner of Children and Families. In placing such child or youth, said commissioner shall, if possible, select a home, agency, institution or person of like religious faith to that of a parent of such child or youth, if such faith is known or may be ascertained by reasonable inquiry, provided such home conforms to the standards of said commissioner and the commissioner shall, when placing siblings, if possible, place such children together. As an alternative to commitment, the court may place the child in the custody of the parent or guardian with protective supervision by the Commissioner of Children and Families subject to conditions established by the court.

Sec. 7. Subsection (k) of section 46b-129 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

[(k) (1) Ten months after the adjudication of neglect of the child or youth or twelve months after the vesting of temporary care and custody pursuant to subsection (b) of this section]

(k) (1) Nine months after placement of the child or youth in the care and custody of the commissioner pursuant to a voluntary placement agreement, or removal of a child or youth pursuant to section 17a-101g or an order issued by a court of competent jurisdiction, whichever is earlier, the commissioner shall file a motion for review of a permanency plan and to [extend] maintain or revoke the commitment. [Ten] Nine months after a permanency plan has been approved by the court pursuant to this subsection, [unless the court has approved placement in long-term foster care with an identified person or an independent living program, or the commissioner has filed a petition for termination of parental rights or motion to transfer guardianship,] the commissioner shall file a motion for review of the permanency plan and to [extend] maintain or revoke the commitment. Any party seeking to oppose the commissioner's permanency plan or the maintaining or revocation of commitment shall file a motion in opposition within thirty days after the filing of the commissioner's motion for review of the permanency plan and to maintain or revoke commitment. A permanency hearing on any [such] motion for review of the permanency plan and to maintain or revoke commitment shall be held within [sixty] ninety days of the filing of such motion. The court shall hold evidentiary hearings in connection with any contested motion for review of the permanency plan and to maintain or revoke commitment. The burden of proof shall be upon the commissioner to establish that the commitment should be maintained. After the initial permanency hearing, subsequent permanency hearings shall be held not less frequently than every twelve months while the child or youth remains in the custody of the Commissioner of Children and Families. The court shall provide notice to the child or youth, and [his] the parent or guardian of such child or youth of the time and place of the court hearing on any such motion not less than fourteen days prior to such hearing.

(2) At [such] a permanency hearing held in accordance with the provisions of subdivision (1) of this subsection, the court shall determine whether it is appropriate to continue to make reasonable efforts to reunify the child or youth with the parent, unless the court has previously determined that such efforts are not appropriate pursuant to this subdivision or section 17a-111b. In making this determination, the court shall consider the best interests of the child, including the child's need for permanency. If the court finds upon clear and convincing evidence that further efforts are not appropriate, the commissioner has no duty to make further efforts to reunify the child or youth with the parent. If the court finds that further efforts are appropriate, such efforts shall ensure that the child or youth's health and safety are protected and such efforts shall be specified by the court, including the services to be provided to the parent, what steps the parent may take to address the problem that prevents the child or youth from safely reuniting with the parent and a time period, not longer than six months, for such steps to be accomplished.

(3) At [such] a permanency hearing held in accordance with the provisions of subdivision (1) of this subsection, the court shall approve a permanency plan that is in the best interests of the child or youth and takes into consideration the [child] child's or youth's need for permanency. The child's or youth's health and safety shall be of paramount concern in formulating such plan. Such permanency plan may include the goal of (A) revocation of commitment and placement of the child or youth with the parent or guardian, with or without protective supervision; [(B) placing the child or youth in an independent living program; (C)] (B) transfer of guardianship; [(D) approval of] (C) long-term foster care with [an identified foster parent; (E)] a relative licensed as a foster parent or certified as a relative caregiver; (D) adoption and filing of termination of parental rights; [(F) if the permanency plan identifies adoption as an option, a thorough adoption assessment and child specific recruitment. As used in this subdivision, "thorough adoption assessment" means conducting and documenting face-to-face interviews with the child, foster care providers, and other significant parties and "child specific recruitment" means recruiting an adoptive placement targeted to meet the individual needs of the specific child, including, but not limited to, use of the media, use of photo-listing services and any other in-state or out-of-state resources that may be used to meet the specific needs of the child, unless there are extenuating circumstances that indicate that these efforts are not in the best interest of the child; or (G)] or (E) such other [appropriate action] planned permanent living arrangement ordered by the court, provided the Commissioner of Children and Families has documented a compelling reason why it would not be in the best interest of the child or youth for the permanency plan to include the goals in subparagraphs (A) to (D), inclusive, of this subdivision. Such other planned permanent living arrangement may include, but not be limited to, placement of a child or youth in an independent living program or long term foster care with an identified foster parent.

(4) At [the] a permanency [plan] hearing held in accordance with the provisions of subdivision (1) of this subsection, the court shall review the status of the child, the progress being made to implement the permanency plan, [and] determine a timetable for attaining the permanency [prescribed by the] plan and determine whether the commissioner has made reasonable efforts to achieve the permanency plan. The court shall [extend] maintain commitment if [extension] it is in the best interests of the child or youth. [for a period of twelve months.] The court shall revoke commitment if a cause for commitment no longer exists and it is in the best interests of the child or youth.

Sec. 8. Subsection (o) of section 46b-129 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(o) A foster parent shall have [standing] the right to be heard for the purposes of this section in Superior Court in matters concerning the placement or revocation of commitment of a foster child living with such parent. A foster parent shall receive notice of any motion to revoke commitment or any hearing on such motion. A foster parent who has cared for a child or youth for not less than six months shall have [standing to] the right to be heard and comment on the best interests of such child or youth in any matter under this section which is brought not more than one year after the last day the foster parent provided such care.

Sec. 9. Section 17a-42 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) There is established within the Department of Children and Families a photo-listing service which shall include, but need not be limited to, a book and an electronic format containing a photograph and description of each child to be photo-listed. Such book and its electronic format shall be distributed to all child care and child-placing agencies, as such terms are defined in section 45a-707, and to other organizations concerned with adoption. Such photo-listing service shall recruit adoptive families for children who are legally free for adoption under section 45a-725, and have remained in foster care or institutions for a period of thirty days or more, such thirty days to include any period of foster or institutional care immediately preceding the date on which such child was legally free for adoption. Such photo-listing service may recruit prospective adoptive families for children who are not yet legally free for adoption under section 45a-725, provided the court has approved a permanency plan for adoption pursuant to subdivision (3) of subsection (k) of section 46b-129, as amended by this act. The Commissioner of Children and Families shall employ under [his] the commissioner's direction and control such persons as [he] the commissioner deems necessary for the effective performance of such photo-listing service.

(b) Under sections 17a-112 and 45a-717, the court may order that a child be photo-listed within thirty days of the termination of parental rights as a condition of granting an order of termination of parental rights if the court determines that it is in the best interests of the child. Under subdivision (3) of subsection (k) of section 46b-129, as amended by this act, the court may order that a child be photo-listed within thirty days of the approval of a permanency plan for adoption if the court determines that it is in the best interest of the child. The court shall not order that a child twelve years of age or older be photo-listed unless such child consents to such photo-listing.

(c) Said commissioner shall adopt regulations, in accordance with the provisions of chapter 54, to implement and maintain a photo-listing service. Such regulations shall include, but not be limited to, procedures for registration of children with the photo-listing service and format and media selection for presenting photo-listed children to the public. The commissioner shall, within available appropriations, establish, maintain and distribute a photo-listing service book. The commissioner, within available appropriations, shall contract with a nonprofit agency to establish and maintain the photo-listing service in its electronic format.

Sec. 10. Subsection (d) of section 17a-10 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(d) If the Superior Court requests a report on any committed child, the commissioner shall be responsible for preparing and transmitting such report to the requesting court. Not more than sixty days nor less than thirty days prior to the expiration of the original commitment of any child to the department, the commissioner may [petition the court] file a motion for an extension of commitment pursuant to the provisions of section 46b-141, as amended by this act. If the commissioner, or the board of review pursuant to the provisions of section 17a-15, at any time during the commitment of any child, determines that termination of commitment of a child is in the best interest of such child, the commissioner or the board may terminate the commitment and such termination shall be effective without further action by the court.

Sec. 11. Section 17a-114 of the general statutes, as amended by section 4 of public act 01-159, is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) No child in the custody of the Commissioner of Children and Families shall be placed with any person, unless such person is licensed by the department for that purpose. Any person licensed by the department to accept placement of a child is deemed to be licensed to accept placement as a foster family or prospective adoptive family. The commissioner shall adopt regulations, in accordance with the provisions of chapter 54, to establish the licensing procedures and standards.

(b) Notwithstanding the requirements of subsection (a) of this section, the commissioner may place a child with a relative who is not licensed for a period of up to ninety days when such placement is in the best interests of the child, provided a satisfactory home visit is conducted, a basic assessment of the family is completed and such relative attests that such relative and any adult living within the household have not been convicted of a crime or arrested for a felony against a person, for injury or risk of injury to or impairing the morals of a child, or for the possession, use or sale of a controlled substance. Any such relative who accepts placement of a child in excess of such ninety-day period shall be subject to licensure by the commissioner, except that any such relative who, prior to July 1, 2001, had been certified by the commissioner to provide care for a related child may continue to maintain such certification if such relative continues to meet the regulatory requirements and the child remains in such relative's care. The commissioner may grant a waiver, for a child placed with a relative, on a case-by-case basis, from such procedure or standard, except any safety standard, based on the home of the relative and the needs and best interests of such child. The reason for any waiver granted shall be documented. The commissioner shall adopt regulations, in accordance with the provisions of chapter 54, to establish certification procedures and standards for a caretaker who is a relative of such child.

[(b)] (c) The Commissioner of Children and Families, when conducting any criminal history records check, shall arrange for the fingerprinting or for the conducting of any other method of positive identification required by the State Police Bureau of Identification or the Federal Bureau of Identification. The fingerprints and other positive identifying information shall be forwarded to the State Police Bureau of Identification, which shall conduct a state criminal history records check and submit the fingerprints or other identifying information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for a national criminal history records check. The commissioner shall also check the state child abuse registry established pursuant to section 17a-101k for the name of such applicant or licensee.

Approved July 6, 2001