Permanency plan of care.
(1) Whenever a child is ordered removed from the home, a permanency plan shall be developed no later than sixty days from the time the supervising agency assumes responsibility for providing services, including placing the child, or at the time of a hearing under RCW 13.34.130, whichever occurs first. The permanency planning process continues until a permanency planning goal is achieved or dependency is dismissed. The planning process shall include reasonable efforts to return the child to the parent's home.
(2) The agency supervising the dependency shall submit a written permanency plan to all parties and the court not less than fourteen days prior to the scheduled hearing. Responsive reports of parties not in agreement with the department's or supervising agency's proposed permanency plan must be provided to the department or supervising agency, all other parties, and the court at least seven days prior to the hearing.
The permanency plan shall include:
(a) A permanency plan of care that shall identify one of the following outcomes as a primary goal and may identify additional outcomes as alternative goals: Return of the child to the home of the child's parent, guardian, or legal custodian; adoption, including a tribal customary adoption as defined in RCW 13.38.040; guardianship; permanent legal custody; long-term relative or foster care, until the child is age eighteen, with a written agreement between the parties and the care provider; successful completion of a responsible living skills program; or independent living, if appropriate and if the child is age sixteen or older. The department or supervising agency shall not discharge a child to an independent living situation before the child is eighteen years of age unless the child becomes emancipated pursuant to chapter 13.64 RCW;
(b) Unless the court has ordered, pursuant to RCW 13.34.130(8), that a termination petition be filed, a specific plan as to where the child will be placed, what steps will be taken to return the child home, what steps the supervising agency or the department will take to promote existing appropriate sibling relationships and/or facilitate placement together or contact in accordance with the best interests of each child, and what actions the department or supervising agency will take to maintain parent-child ties. All aspects of the plan shall include the goal of achieving permanence for the child.
(i) The department's or supervising agency's plan shall specify what services the parents will be offered to enable them to resume custody, what requirements the parents must meet to resume custody, and a time limit for each service plan and parental requirement. If the parent is incarcerated, the plan must address how the parent will participate in the case conference and permanency planning meetings and, where possible, must include treatment that reflects the resources available at the facility where the parent is confined. The plan must provide for visitation opportunities, unless visitation is not in the best interests of the child.
(ii)(A) Visitation is the right of the family, including the child and the parent, in cases in which visitation is in the best interest of the child. Early, consistent, and frequent visitation is crucial for maintaining parent-child relationships and making it possible for parents and children to safely reunify. The supervising agency or department shall encourage the maximum parent and child and sibling contact possible, when it is in the best interest of the child, including regular visitation and participation by the parents in the care of the child while the child is in placement.
(B) Visitation shall not be limited as a sanction for a parent's failure to comply with court orders or services where the health, safety, or welfare of the child is not at risk as a result of the visitation.
(C) Visitation may be limited or denied only if the court determines that such limitation or denial is necessary to protect the child's health, safety, or welfare. When a parent or sibling has been identified as a suspect in an active criminal investigation for a violent crime that, if the allegations are true, would impact the safety of the child, the department shall make a concerted effort to consult with the assigned law enforcement officer in the criminal case before recommending any changes in parent/child or child/sibling contact. In the event that the law enforcement officer has information pertaining to the criminal case that may have serious implications for child safety or well-being, the law enforcement officer shall provide this information to the department during the consultation. The department may only use the information provided by law enforcement during the consultation to inform family visitation plans and may not share or otherwise distribute the information to any person or entity. Any information provided to the department by law enforcement during the consultation is considered investigative information and is exempt from public inspection pursuant to RCW 42.56.240. The results of the consultation shall be communicated to the court.
(D) The court and the department or supervising agency should rely upon community resources, relatives, foster parents, and other appropriate persons to provide transportation and supervision for visitation to the extent that such resources are available, and appropriate, and the child's safety would not be compromised.
(iii)(A) The department, court, or caregiver in the out-of-home placement may not limit visitation or contact between a child and sibling as a sanction for a child's behavior or as an incentive to the child to change his or her behavior.
(B) Any exceptions, limitation, or denial of contacts or visitation must be approved by the supervisor of the department caseworker and documented. The child, parent, department, guardian ad litem, or court-appointed special advocate may challenge the denial of visits in court.
(iv) A child shall be placed as close to the child's home as possible, preferably in the child's own neighborhood, unless the court finds that placement at a greater distance is necessary to promote the child's or parents' well-being.
(v) The plan shall state whether both in-state and, where appropriate, out-of-state placement options have been considered by the department or supervising agency.
(vi) Unless it is not in the best interests of the child, whenever practical, the plan should ensure the child remains enrolled in the school the child was attending at the time the child entered foster care.
(vii) The supervising agency or department shall provide all reasonable services that are available within the department or supervising agency, or within the community, or those services which the department has existing contracts to purchase. It shall report to the court if it is unable to provide such services; and
(c) If the court has ordered, pursuant to RCW 13.34.130(8), that a termination petition be filed, a specific plan as to where the child will be placed, what steps will be taken to achieve permanency for the child, services to be offered or provided to the child, and, if visitation would be in the best interests of the child, a recommendation to the court regarding visitation between parent and child pending a fact-finding hearing on the termination petition. The department or supervising agency shall not be required to develop a plan of services for the parents or provide services to the parents if the court orders a termination petition be filed. However, reasonable efforts to ensure visitation and contact between siblings shall be made unless there is reasonable cause to believe the best interests of the child or siblings would be jeopardized.
(3) Permanency planning goals should be achieved at the earliest possible date. If the child has been in out-of-home care for fifteen of the most recent twenty-two months, and the court has not made a good cause exception, the court shall require the department or supervising agency to file a petition seeking termination of parental rights in accordance with *RCW 13.34.145(3)(b)(vi). In cases where parental rights have been terminated, the child is legally free for adoption, and adoption has been identified as the primary permanency planning goal, it shall be a goal to complete the adoption within six months following entry of the termination order.
(4) If the court determines that the continuation of reasonable efforts to prevent or eliminate the need to remove the child from his or her home or to safely return the child home should not be part of the permanency plan of care for the child, reasonable efforts shall be made to place the child in a timely manner and to complete whatever steps are necessary to finalize the permanent placement of the child.
(5) The identified outcomes and goals of the permanency plan may change over time based upon the circumstances of the particular case.
(6) The court shall consider the child's relationships with the child's siblings in accordance with RCW 13.34.130(6). Whenever the permanency plan for a child is adoption, the court shall encourage the prospective adoptive parents, birth parents, foster parents, kinship caregivers, and the department or other supervising agency to seriously consider the long-term benefits to the child adoptee and his or her siblings of providing for and facilitating continuing postadoption contact between the siblings. To the extent that it is feasible, and when it is in the best interests of the child adoptee and his or her siblings, contact between the siblings should be frequent and of a similar nature as that which existed prior to the adoption. If the child adoptee or his or her siblings are represented by an attorney or guardian ad litem in a proceeding under this chapter or in any other child custody proceeding, the court shall inquire of each attorney and guardian ad litem regarding the potential benefits of continuing contact between the siblings and the potential detriments of severing contact. This section does not require the department of social and health services or other supervising agency to agree to any specific provisions in an open adoption agreement and does not create a new obligation for the department to provide supervision or transportation for visits between siblings separated by adoption from foster care.
(7) For purposes related to permanency planning:
(a) "Guardianship" means a dependency guardianship or a legal guardianship pursuant to chapter 11.88 RCW or equivalent laws of another state or a federally recognized Indian tribe.
(b) "Permanent custody order" means a custody order entered pursuant to chapter 26.10 RCW.
(c) "Permanent legal custody" means legal custody pursuant to chapter 26.10 RCW or equivalent laws of another state or a federally recognized Indian tribe.
[2013 c 316 § 2; 2013 c 254 § 2; 2013 c 173 § 2; 2011 c 309 § 29. Prior: 2009 c 520 § 28; 2009 c 234 § 5; prior: 2008 c 267 § 3; 2008 c 152 § 2; 2007 c 413 § 7; 2004 c 146 § 1; 2003 c 227 § 4; 2002 c 52 § 6; 2000 c 122 § 18.]
| Reviser's note: *(1) RCW 13.34.145 was amended by 2013 c 332 § 3, changing subsection (3)(b)(vi) to subsection (4)(b)(vi).|
(2) This section was amended by 2013 c 173 § 2, 2013 c 254 § 2, and by 2013 c 316 § 2, each without reference to the other. All amendments are incorporated in the publication of this section under RCW 1.12.025(2). For rule of construction, see RCW 1.12.025(1).
Intent -- 2013 c 316: "The Washington state legislature recognizes the importance of frequent and meaningful contact for siblings separated due to involvement in the foster care system. The legislature also recognizes that children and youth in foster care have not always been provided adequate opportunities for visitation with their siblings. It is the intent of the legislature to encourage appropriate facilitation of sibling visits." [2013 c 316 § 1.]
Findings -- Intent -- 2008 c 152: "The legislature finds that meeting the needs of vulnerable children who enter the child welfare system includes protecting the child's right to a safe, stable, and permanent home where the child receives basic nurturing. The legislature also finds that according to measures of timely dependency case processing, many children's cases are not meeting the federal and state standards intended to promote child-centered decision making in dependency cases. The legislature intends to encourage a greater focus on children's developmental needs and to promote closer adherence to timeliness standards in the resolution of dependency cases." [2008 c 152 § 1.]
Severability -- 2007 c 413: See note following RCW 13.34.215.
Intent -- 2003 c 227: See note following RCW 13.34.130.
Intent -- 2002 c 52: See note following RCW 13.34.025.