United States GAO GeneraIAccountingOfSCice Washbgton,D.C.20648 Health, Education and Human Services Division B-276000 January 30, 1997 The Honorable E. Clay Shaw, Jr. Chairman, Subcommittee on Human Resources Committee on Ways and Means House of Representatives Dear Mr. Chairman Prom fscal year 1984 through 1995, the US. foster care population grew from an estimated 276,000 children to 494,000.’ In 1995, about 261,000 of these children were supported by federal funds through title IV-E of the Social Security Act at a total cost of almost $3.1 billion. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the federal foster care caseload will increase almost 26 percent between fiscal years 1996 and 2001, with an annual federal cost in 2001 of almost $4.8 billion. To prevent children from remaining in foster care indefinitely, fedeial law requires that a permanency hearing, which determines the future status of the child, must be held within 18 months after a child enters foster care. Options for the child’s future status can include, but are not limited to, reunifying the child with his or her family, continuing foster care for a specified period, placing the child for adoption, or continuing foster care on a permanent or long-term basis because of the child’s special needs or circumstances. This hearing must be held by a family or juvenile court or another court of competent jurisdiction, or by an administrative body appointed or approved by the court. Although the hearing must be held, the law does not require that a final decision on the status of the child be made. If a final decision is not made, additional hearings must be held at least every 12 months. ‘The American Public Welfare Association estimated these numbers on the basis of data voluntarily reported by the states; it designated the 1995 number as preliminary. GAO/HEHS-97-55R. Permanency Hearings for Foster Children B-276000 As part of an ongoing review for you of state efforts to permanently place foster children more quickly, we have developed a summary of state laws regarding permanency hearings. You asked us to provide information on those states that have changed their statutes to require that permanency hearings be held earlier than required by federal law. To develop this information, we reviewed pertinent state legislation and policies of the 50 states and the District of Columbia and discussed those laws and state policies with state legal and child welfare officials. State laws vary widely in the terms they use for various hearings. In cases in which state law did not specifically identify a hearing as a permanency hearing, we asked for further clarification from state officials. If we determined that the state law was consistent with the federal requirement, we treated the hearing as a permanency hearing. We did our work between January 1996 and January 1997 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. In summary, our analysis shows that 23 states require a permanency hearing to be held earlier than the federal l&month requirement, with a majority of these states requiring it within 12 months. In 2 of the 23 states, the shorter time frame applies only to younger children. See the enclosure for information on each of the 23 states. We have verified this information with state officials. As agreed with your office, we will make this correspondence available to interested parties upon request. If you have any questions about this information, please call me on (202) 512-7215. Other major contributors included Gale Harris, David Bellis, SheUee Soliday, Julian Khrzkin, and Rathi Bose. Sincerely yours, Jane L. Ross Director, Income Security Issues Enclosure 2 GAO/HERS-97-55R' Permanency Hearimgs.for Foster Children ENCLOSURE ENCLOSURE STATES THAT REQUIRE A PERMANENCY HEARING EARLIER THAN THE FEDERAL REQUIREMENT OF 18 MONTHS (AS OF DECEMBER 31. 1996) itate State law citation I12 months I1995 IAriz. Rev. Stat. Ann., Section 8-515-C. (West Supp. 1996) Colorado 6and18 1994 Colo. Rev. Stat., Section 19-3-702(l) (Supp. monthsb 1996) >onnecticut 12 months 1995 Corm. Gen. Stat. Ann. Section 46b-129(d),(e) (West 1995) seorgia 12 months 1996 Ga. Code Ann. Section 15-11-419(j),(k) (1996 Uinois 16 months 1993 705 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 405/2-22(5), (West Supp. 1996) - ndiana 12 months 1996 Ind. Code Ann Section 31-6419(c)(Michie Supp. 1996) owa 12 months 1987 Ipwa Code Ann. Section 232.104 (West 1994: :ansas 12 months 1994” Kan. Stat. Ann. Section 3&1565(b),(c) (1995) 112 months 11991 b Ch. Code Ann. arts. 702,710 (West 1995) fichigan louisiana 1988 Stat. Ann. Section 27.3178(598.19a) Coop. Supp. 1996) !linnesota 12 months 1993 Minn. Stat. Ann. Section 260.191 Subd. 3b I I I(West Supp. 1997) lississippi 112 months j198Se IMiss. Code Ann. Section 43-21-613 (3) (1993: Tew York I12 months 11989 lN.Y. Jud. Law Section 1055(b) (McKinney Isupp. 1997) Phi0 12 months 1989 Ohio Rev. Code Ann. Sections 2151.353(F), 2151.415(A) (Anderson 1994) ‘ennsylvania 6 months 1986 42 Pa Cons. Stat Ann. Section 6351(e-g) l(West Supp. 1996) !hode Island 112months 11985 1R.I. Gen. Laws. Section 40-11-12.1 11990) 3 GAO/REHS-97-j5R. Permanency Hearings for Foster Children ENCLOSURE EtiCLOSURE , South Carolina 12 months 1983 S.C. Code Ann. Section 20-7-766 (Law. Coop Supp. 1996) Utah 16 months 1995 Utah Code Ann. Section 783a-312(1996) Virginia 12 months’ 1994 Va. Code Ann., Section 16.1-282 (Michie 1996) Washington 12 and 18 1994 Wash. Rev. Code Ann. Section monthsg 13.34.145(3),(4) (West Supp. 1997) West Virginia 12 months 1984h W.Va. Code, Sections 49-6-5,49-6-8 (1996) Wisconsin 12 months 1981’ Wis. Stat. Ann. Sections: 48.355 (4); 48.365 (5), 48.38 (West 1987) Wyoming 12 months 1995 Wyo. Stat. Ann. Section 146-229 (k) (Michie Supp. 1996) “Generally, a permanency hearing must be held within the indicated number of months after the child enters foster care. bColorado law requires that for children under age 6, the permanency hearing must be held within 6 months of the dispositional hearing. The time frame to hold the permanency hearing was calculated by adding the days needed to conduct the adjudicatory, dispositional, and permanency planning hearings. This expedited procedures program will be implemented on a county-by-county basis and will be fully implemented in the state by June 30,2004. For children aged 6 and older, the permanency hearing is held within. 18 months of placement. The year the law was enacted was provided by the Kansas Foster Care Manager, Children and Family Services. dMichigan’s time frame to hold the permanency hearing was calculated by adding the days needed to conduct the preliminary hearing, trial, dispositional hearing, and permanency hearing. The year the law was enacted was provided by Mississippi’s Program Administiator, Foster Care Review Unit, Division of Family and Children Services. fvirginia’s time frame to hold the permanency hearing was calculated by adding the number of months required to file the petiqon to hold the permanency hearing plus the number of days within which the court is required to schedule the hearing. . 4 GAO/HEHS-97-55R. Permanency Hearings for Foster Children ENCLOSURE ENCLOSURE gWashington’s law requires the permanency hearing to be held no later than 12 months after a child is placed in foster care for children 10 years old and under. For children over 10, the permanency hearing must be held no later than 18 months after a child is placed in foster care. the year the law was enacted was provided by West Virginia’s Assistant Attorney General assigned to Health and Human Services. ‘The year the law was enacted was provided by Wisconsin’s Foster Care Specialist, Bureau for Children, Youth and Families. (106714) 5 GAOIHEHS-97-&R. Permanency Hearings for Foster Children .: .i ; : -- i Ordering Information The first copy of each GAO report and testimony is free. AdditionaI copies are $2 each. Orders should be sent to the following address, accompanied by a check or money order made out to the Superintendent of Documents, when necessary. VISA and Mastercard credit cards are accepted, also. Orders for 100 or more copies to be mailed to a single address are discounted 25 percent. Orders by mail: U.S. General Accounting Office P.O. 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Permanency Hearings for Foster Children
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-01-30.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)