Topic:
STATISTICAL INFORMATION; LEGISLATION; ADOPTION; COURT PROCEDURE; FOSTER CARE; HEALTH INSURANCE;
Location:
ADOPTION;

OLR Research Report


October 31, 2006

 

2006-R-0684

ADOPTION AND FOSTER CARE: STATISTICS AND RECENT LEGISLATION

By: Ryan F. O'Neil, Research Assistant

You asked about (1) statistics concerning adoptive and foster children and (2) recent legislation affecting those children.

This report supplements OLR Report 2006-R-0651

Where are Children under DCF supervision currently placed?

According to Josh Howroyd, the DCF Legislative Liaison, 6,404 children were in DCF's care on October 22, 2006. Table 1 shows where they were living on that day.

Table 1: Number of Children under each type of DCF care

Type of Care

Number of Children

DCF facilities

221

Foster care

3,289

Group home

385

Independent living

133

Medical care

35

Relative care

1,201

Residential facility

869

SAFE home

164

Shelter

107

Total

6,404

The following definitions apply to the types of care listed in Table 1.

“DCF facilities” include Riverview Psychiatric Hospital and High Meadows, treatment centers for emotionally disturbed children.

“Foster care” is the placement of children with families that have been licensed by DCF for long-term care.

A “group home” is a non-secure home licensed by DCF for children.

“Independent living” under DCF care is semi-supervised, subsidized, housing for youths who are independent from their parents.

Medical care refers to those children living in short-term residential programs “cooling off” from a particular crisis. The DCF Web site (http://www.ct.gov/dcf/cwp/ view.asp?a=2558&q=314618) describes the target population for crisis stabilization as children from 7- to 18-years old who have “a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) Axis I diagnosis, or who exhibit complex behavioral health service needs and are at imminent risk of requiring longer term, out of home levels of care.”

“Residential facilities” include DCF-licensed facilities operated by private entities under contract with the department.

SAFE Homes are temporary homes used by DCF to place children traumatized by abuse or neglect. Children spend up to 45 days there while DCF assesses their needs and searches for an appropriate placement.

How Many Children are Available for Adoption?

Jean Fiorito, Executive Director of the Connecticut Association of Foster and Adoptive Parents, stated the number of children awaiting adoption who are under DCF's care has consistently remained between 150 and 170 over the past several years.

What legislation affecting adoption and foster care has been enacted in the last five years?

We provide a breakdown by category of the significant legislation below.

INSURANCE AND PAYMENTS

Rate Increases (2001)

Foster care and subsidized adoption payments were raised by 4.05% and 2.3%, respectively, in 2001, and 1.5% in FY 03 under the biennial budget adopted in June 2001. (SA 01-1, JSS)

Insurance for Adopted Children (2002)

By law, individual and group health insurance policies for an insured adoptive parent must cover a child legally adopted by or placed for adoption with the insured. A law (1) requires these policies to cover the adopted child on the same basis as the parent's other dependents and (2) prohibits them from containing any preexisting condition, insurability, eligibility, or health underwriting exclusions for these adopters. (PA 02-96)

Health Insurance for Adoptive Parents (2004)

This law allowed those people who adopt children from DCF to purchase group health insurance for themselves and their dependents through the state. Parents who choose this option must pay the full premium cost. They remain eligible for coverage until their adopted child turns age 18 or, if he has not completed high school, until he turns age 21. The law already allows people who have been foster parents or parents in permanent family residence for more than six months to purchase this coverage. (PA 04-53)

Eligibility for Subsidized Guardianship (2005)

A law states that after caring for a child for six months, relative guardians become eligible for DCF's higher subsidized guardianship rate. Previously, relative caregivers had to care for a child for year before becoming eligible. (PA 05-254)

Family Leave for State Employees (2006)

State employees are now allowed by a new law to take up to 24 weeks of unpaid leave over a two-year period to care for seriously ill:

1. foster, adopted, and step-children;

2. children under their guardianship; and

3. children for whom they stand in loco parentis (in place of a parent).

Prior law did not authorize leave for ill nonbiological children.

The act also specifies that leave can be taken to care for a child (1) under age 18 or (2) over age 18 if he is incapable of caring for himself because of a mental or physical disability. (PA 06-102)

COURT HEARINGS

Permanency Planning (2001)

This enactment requires courts to review DCF permanency plans every 12 months beginning October 1, 2001. It also makes the child's health and safety the paramount concern in formulating a permanency plan and directs DCF to give priority in developing each permanency plan to one of the following existing goals: (1) return the child to his parents, (2) transfer guardianship, (3) adoption, or (4) long-term foster care. (PA 01-142)

Tracking Potential Adoptees and Serving Adoptive Parents (2001)

A new law requires the agencies caring for children awaiting adoption, primarily DCF, to file court reports every three, rather than every six, months; and authorizes court hearings whenever a report is filed. It also requires a hearing within a year of (1) the last permanency plan or (2) a year of parental rights' termination, whichever occurs first. It also requires DCF's adoption photo-listing service to check every three months, instead of twice a year, on the progress toward adoption of children on its list. (PA 01-159)

Permanency Placement (2003)

By law, when a child is placed in DCF custody, a court must hold a hearing within nine months to review the department's permanency plan for him. If the court finds that reunifying the child with his parents is inappropriate, DCF can take a variety of steps to assure the child's long-term security. This new law requires it to try to keep the child in the first location it placed him, if this is in the child's best interest, until he is adopted or DCF finds a permanent home for him. (PA 03-243)

Termination of Parental Rights Based on Consent (2004)

This law reduced, from 30 to 20 days, the period within which a court must hold a hearing on a petition to terminate parental rights when a parent has consented to the termination. It shortens to 20 days the time limit for appealing probate court orders granting such petitions. (PA 04-128)

Placement of Foster Children (2006)

A law requires DCF to make a reasonable effort to reunify parents and children unless a court has (1) approved a permanency plan with a different goal or (2) found, by clear and convincing evidence, that reunification efforts are not required. It allows motions for rulings on the necessity of providing further reunification services to be consolidated with termination of parental rights trials, in conformity with current practice.

The law:

1. added a requirement that permanency plans calling for long-term foster care be limited to placements with licensed or certified relatives, and permits other “planned permanent living” arrangements to be permanency plan options;

2. required DCF to document a compelling reason why it would not be in a child's best interests to have a permanency plan calling for adoption, long-term relative foster care, or guardianship when it recommends another permanency goal; and

3. established a 60-day deadline for the DCF commissioner to petition for the termination of parental rights when a court approves a permanency plan calling for adoption.

4. eliminated a requirement that the court make a finding on whether to seek to reunify a family or maintain or revoke a child's DCF commitment at each permanency plan hearing, and makes revocation mandatory rather than discretionary when the commissioner, a parent, or a child's attorney shows that cause for the commitment no longer exists and revocation is in the child's best interests

5. required parties opposing DCF's permanency plans to include their reasons and a proposed alternative in their opposition motions but retains the agency's burden of proving that its permanency plan is in the child's best interests; and

6. required the court approving a permanency plan of reunification to determine the services DCF must provide to the parent and a timetable for providing them. (PA 06-102)

CAREGIVERS

Services Available to Adoptive Parents (2001)

A law spells out the kinds of post-adoptive services DCF can offer, including: mentoring, support groups, behavioral management counseling, therapeutic respite care, community referrals, a telephone help line, and offering training for mental health professionals in postadoption issues. (PA 01-159)

Relative Caregivers (2001)

People who agree to take a relative's abused or neglected child into their home for more than 90 days must now meet more stringent DCF foster care licensing requirements, unless DCF had previously certified them as that child's relative caregivers. This law allows the DCF commissioner, on a case-by-case basis, to waive any foster care requirement, other than one affecting a child's health or safety to enable these children to live with relatives. (PA 01-70)

Foster Care Placement and Visitation (2003)

This law seeks to mitigate the effects on continuing family connections caused by removing from home. It requires DCF to ensure that a child who is removed either temporarily or committed to DCF can visit as frequently as possible with parents and siblings, if this is in his best interests. (PA 03-243)

Kinship Care (2003)

When DCF removes a child from home, it may temporarily place the child with a relative who must then receive a foster parent license. This law requires DCF to tell the relative how to become licensed. (PA 03-42)

Special Study Foster Care (2004)

By law, DCF is allowed to place an abused or neglected child age 14 or older in the home of anyone who is age 21 or older even though the person is not a licensed foster parent. DCF can do so for up to 90 days under the same conditions that it can place a child with an unlicensed relative for this period. The law terms the people who accept children under these circumstances “special study foster parents.” Before placing a child with a special study foster parent, DCF must (1) determine it is in the child's best interest, (2) conduct a satisfactory home visit, and (3) complete a basic assessment of the family. In addition, the foster parent must attest that neither he nor any adult living in the household has been arrested or convicted of a felony against a person; risk of injury to, or impairing the morals of, a minor; or possessing, using, or selling any controlled substance. As with an unlicensed relative, if a special study foster parent accepts placement of a child for over 90 days, he must become licensed as a foster parent. (PA 04-88)

Regional Probate Court Services for Children's Matters (2004)

A regional pilot probate court for children's matters was created by this law. These matters involve guardianship, termination of parental rights, adoption, paternity, emancipation, and voluntary commitment of mentally ill children to DCF. The probate court administrator must use available resources, including the Probate Court Administration Fund (PCAF), to establish and fund the program in the New Haven area. He must appoint a regional administrative judge, locate an appropriate facility, and establish policies and procedures. He must submit a report to the Judiciary Committee by January 3, 2007 containing recommendations for expanding the program. (PA 04-159)

Kinship Navigator Program (2006)

DCF, is required by law, in consultation with the departments of Social Services (DSS), Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS), and Mental Retardation (DMR) to establish, within available appropriations, a kinship navigator program to help relative caregivers find services and become foster parents. By January 1, 2008 and annually thereafter, the act requires the DCF commissioner to report to the Human Services Committee on the new program.

Under prior law, DCF had to establish a kinship foster care program to inform relative caregivers how they could become foster parents if DCF believed it was in a child's best interest. Under the act, the new navigator program must ensure that DCF informs the caregivers. And it must ensure that grandparents and other relative caregivers get information on the array of state services and benefits for which they may qualify, including the subsidized guardianship program. The DCF commissioner must ensure, within available appropriations, that the information is available through the 2-1-1 Infoline. (PA 06-182)

Grandparent Notification When a Child Is Removed from the Home (2006)

The DCF commissioner is now required by a law to use her best efforts to identify and notify a child's grandparents no later than 15 days after she removes the child from a parent's custody. The act exempts this type of notice from the department's confidentiality law. The act also allows grandparents to give the commissioner their contact information in order to be notified about the removal of a child who is (1) the subject of a department abuse or neglect investigation or (2) currently, or has been, under the department's care or supervision. (PA 06-37)