As a general matter, in cases where a child (8 years of age or older) is in foster care or in the care of a noncustodial parent as part of a juvenile protection case, the court must commence proceedings to determine the permanent status of a child no later than 12 months after the child is placed in foster care or in the care of a noncustodial parent.
Permanency proceedings for children under the age of 8 need to be commenced within 6 months of the child being placed in foster care or the care of a noncustodial parent. However, the court may continue the matter for an additional 6 moths if the parent has maintained contact with the child and is complying with the court-ordered out-of-home placement plan, and if the child would benefit from reunification with the parent
In ordering a permanent placement of a child, the court must be governed by the best interests of the child, including a review of the relationship between the child and relatives and the child and other important persons with whom the child had resided or had significant contact.
When the court has determined that permanent placement of the child away from the parent is necessary, the court must consider permanent alternative homes that are available both inside and outside the state. However, according to DHS 80% of children who are the subject of a CHIPS petition are ultimately returned to their parents or placed with relatives.
If the child is not returned to the home of the custodial parent, the court must order one of the following dispositions. (The first three of which are “preferred permanency options”)
- Permanent legal and physical custody to a relative in the best interests of the child according to statutory conditions
- “Relative” includes those related to the child by blood or marriage, including a non-custodial parent
- Termination of parental rights according to statutory conditions
- Guardianship and legal custody to the commissioner of human services through a “consent to adopt” in accordance with the statutory procedures and conditions
- Foster care for a specified period of time according to the statutory conditions
- Long-term foster care according to statutory conditions.