Archive

Tag: department of social services
  • Transportation of High-Risk Juveniles in DSS Custody: The New G.S. 7B-905.2

    Children and teens who are in the custody of DSS are (or have been alleged to be) abused, neglected, and/or dependent. While in out-of-home placements, these children experience (1) ongoing separation from their families and communities (e.g., parents, siblings, school), (2) losses (relationships, pets, their home), (3) unpredictability (parent behavior at visits), and (4) uncertainty (placement transitions, caseworker turnover). Not surprisingly, these children have a significantly higher rate (up to 80%) of mental health issues than children who are not involved with child welfare (18-22%).[1] Compounding this situation is the lack of appropriate placements for children in DSS custody.[2] Concerns about DSS safely transporting children in its custody to placements when those children have significant mental health needs has arisen. Addressing transportation concerns, the NC General Assembly in the 2023 Appropriations Act enacted G.S. 7B-905.2: “Transportation of High-Risk Juveniles,” effective retroactively to July 1, 2023. See S.L. 2023-134, sec. 9J.13.

    G.S. 7B-905.2 is limited in scope and should not be relied upon 1) for any and all transportation issues for juveniles in DSS custody or 2) for transporting juveniles who are not in DSS custody but have behavioral issues. This post discusses when G.S. 7B-905.2 applies, what it allows, and what it does not. Continue Reading

  • When Child Abuse or Neglect Ends in a Fatality, What Does the Public Have a Right to Know?

    Every year, county departments of social services investigate thousands of reports of child abuse and neglect across North Carolina. Tragically, some of those cases of abuse or neglect end in the death of a child. After one of these fatalities occurs, concerned citizens, public officials, and members of the media often have questions about the circumstances leading up to the fatality.  The public often wants to understand whether a county department of social services (DSS) was involved with the child, and if so, whether more could have been done to prevent the child’s death. Though child protective services information is highly confidential, a North Carolina statute gives any member of the public a right to request and receive specific information after certain child fatalities and near fatalities. This blog post discusses the responsibilities of public agencies to disclose information under this statute, G.S. 7B-2902. Continue Reading

  • Change is Coming: The Consideration of Less Restrictive Alternatives in Adult Guardianship Proceedings Mandated by S.L. 2023-124

    Significant changes are on the way for individuals, legal practitioners, and public officials involved in North Carolina incompetency and adult guardianship proceedings. The recently enacted Session Law 2023-124 mandates the consideration of less restrictive alternatives (LRAs) to guardianship prior to an adjudication of incompetency. There is a lot to cover on this topic; more than can fit in a single blog post. As a result, this post will focus on (i) introducing the statutory changes brought about by this new law and (ii) highlighting some key things the parties and the court will need to do differently with respect to petitions filed on or after January 1, 2024. S.L. 2023-124, sec. 7.13.

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  • 2023 Child Welfare Legislative Changes

    As the 2023 Legislative Session continues, many session laws that amend child welfare statutes, including abuse, neglect, dependency; termination of parental rights (TPR); adoption of a minor; and foster care licensing became effective on various dates. Some of these changes are significant. Some session laws focus on specific statutory changes involving an individual juvenile or family; other session laws make changes to state systems. Continue Reading

  • S.L. 2023-106: Parents’ Rights, Who Is a Parent, and Juvenile Abuse, Neglect, and Dependency Cases

    This blog was updated on October 3, 2023 to incorporate amendments made by the 2023 Appropriations Act (S.L. 2023-134). The changes are in italics.

    On August 16th, the legislature used an override of the Governor’s veto to pass S.L. 2023-106 (S49), a law enumerating the rights of parents regarding their children’s education, health care, and mental health needs. But in addressing a parent’s rights, the law contains some exceptions when the child is alleged to be abused, neglected, or dependent. Notably, the new law defines “parent” as “any person with legal custody of a child, including a natural or adoptive parent or legal guardian.” In cases where a department of social services (DSS) has filed a petition alleging a juvenile is abused, neglected, or dependent, DSS may obtain custody of the juvenile, or the court may ultimately award legal custody or guardianship to a person who is not the juvenile’s parent. As a result, the new law impacts abuse, neglect, and dependency cases. This post discusses the new law as it relates to abuse, neglect, and dependency cases only and is not a comprehensive discussion of the new law generally. Continue Reading

  • UCCJEA: Transitioning from Temporary Emergency Jurisdiction to Home State Jurisdiction in A/N/D Cases

    The Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) governs a state’s subject matter jurisdiction to hear child custody cases, including abuse, neglect, dependency (A/N/D), and termination of parent rights (TPR). See G.S. 50A-102(4); 50A-106. Without following the jurisdictional requirements of the UCCJEA, the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Any orders entered when a court lacks subject matter jurisdiction are void ab initio. In re T.R.P., 360 N.C. 588 (2006). I receive numerous inquiries about the UCCJEA in A/N/D cases. A common question involves North Carolina’s use of temporary emergency jurisdiction and whether it ever becomes initial custody jurisdiction when North Carolina becomes the juvenile’s “home state” after the A/N/D petition has been filed in district court. Earlier this month, the court of appeals answered this question when it published In re N.B., ___ N.C. App. ___ (July 5, 2023). This blog serves as a follow up to my previous blog post about temporary emergency jurisdiction under the UCCJEA. Continue Reading

  • The Relationship Between Juvenile Abuse, Neglect, and Dependency, and the Responsible Individual’s List

    Imagine a Department of Social Services (DSS) receives a report alleging a juvenile was abused by her father. Following an investigation, DSS substantiates the report. At this point, does placing the father on the Responsible Individual’s List (RIL) have anything to do with the decision to file (or not) a juvenile abuse, neglect, dependency (AND) petition? Let’s explore the interplay between these two actions.

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  • The State of Post-Petition Evidence in A/N/D Adjudicatory Hearings

    An adjudicatory hearing in an abuse, neglect, or dependency action is “a judicial process designed to adjudicate the existence or nonexistence of any of the conditions alleged in the petition.” G.S. 7B-802. The conditions refer to whether the juvenile is abused, neglected, or dependent. Because of the statutory language of G.S. 7B-802, the general rule created by the appellate courts is that post-petition evidence is not considered at an adjudicatory hearing. However, the court of appeals has stated this rule is “not absolute.” In re V.B., 239 N.C. App. 340, 344 (2015). In the last several years, the court of appeals has carved out 3 exceptions to the rule that allow for post-petition evidence: (1) a neglect adjudication when there is a long period of separation between the child and parent before the petition is filed, (2) dependency adjudications, and (3) evidence of fixed and ongoing circumstances, such as paternity and mental illness. In November 2022, the North Carolina Supreme Court in In re L.N.H., 382 N.C. 536 (2022) addressed one of those exceptions, the dependency adjudication exception, and determined the court of appeals exception was error. So, what is the rule regarding post-petition evidence? It’s a little murky now. Continue Reading

  • Proposed Federal Rule Change Seeks to Increase Support for Relative and Nonrelative Kinship Foster Placements

    **UPDATED 11/10/2023** The rule changes discussed in this post were finalized and adopted on September 28, 2023 and are effective November 27, 2023. As my colleague Sara DePasquale noted in her post summarizing 2023 child welfare legislative updates, 88 Federal Register 66700 (September 28, 2023) “amends the definition of ‘foster family home’ at 45 C.F.R. 1355.20(a) for the purposes of Title IV-E eligibility to allow for states to establish a set of licensing requirements and approval standards for relative foster family homes that are different from the standards that are used to license and approve non-relative foster family homes. A relative foster home licensed with the lower standards must receive the same payment as a licensed non-relative foster home (amended 45 C.F.R. 1356.21(m)(1)). This provision will only apply if North Carolina DHHS chooses to participate.”

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    The federal Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is proposing regulatory changes that could have a significant impact on the placement of children removed from their parents due to suspected abuse, neglect, or dependency. This post discusses the proposed changes and the reasons supporting them and highlights the importance of relatives and nonrelative kin in juvenile abuse, neglect, dependency (A/N/D) proceedings.

    (Note that while the proposal refers generally to Title IV-E agencies, this post refers specifically to the Department of Social Services (DSS), the petitioner in North Carolina A/N/D matters. Additionally, this post cites to the ACF’s proposal but omits internal citations within the proposal. See the proposal if you are interested in the research and other sources cited to by the ACF.)

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  • Human Trafficking: New SOG Resource Explaining Your Obligation to Make a Report and How the Agency Responds

    January recognizes the importance of knowing about human trafficking. The President has declared January Human Trafficking Prevention Month (see the proclamation here). The North Carolina Governor and the Chief Justice have both declared January Human Trafficking Awareness Month (see the Governor’s proclamation here and the Chief Justice’s proclamation here). The purpose of these declarations is both a recognition that human trafficking in the United States and North Carolina exists and to educate our citizens about this issue. Partnerships are required for a successful response to combat the crime of human trafficking, which involves both sex and labor trafficking. The national, state, and local responses involve the prevention of human trafficking, protection for victims and survivors, and the prosecution of traffickers.

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