Pennsylvania Statutes Title 42 Pa.C.S.A. Judiciary and Judicial Procedure § 6351. Disposition of dependent child

(a) General rule.--If the child is found to be a dependent child the court may make any of the following orders of disposition best suited to the safety, protection and physical, mental, and moral welfare of the child:

(1) Permit the child to remain with his parents, guardian, or other custodian, subject to conditions and limitations as the court prescribes, including supervision as directed by the court for the protection of the child.

(2) Subject to conditions and limitations as the court prescribes transfer temporary legal custody to any of the following:

(i) Any individual resident within or without this Commonwealth, including any relative, who, after study by the probation officer or other person or agency designated by the court, is found by the court to be qualified to receive and care for the child.

(ii) An agency or other private organization licensed or otherwise authorized by law to receive and provide care for the child.

(iii) A public agency authorized by law to receive and provide care for the child.

(2.1) Subject to conditions and limitations as the court prescribes, transfer permanent legal custody to an individual resident in or outside this Commonwealth, including any relative, who, after study by the probation officer or other person or agency designated by the court, is found by the court to be qualified to receive and care for the child.  A court order under this paragraph may set forth the temporary visitation rights of the parents.  The court shall refer issues related to support and continuing visitation by the parent to the section of the court of common pleas that regularly determines support and visitation.

(3) Without making any of the foregoing orders transfer custody of the child to the juvenile court of another state if authorized by and in accordance with section 6363 (relating to ordering foreign supervision).

(b) Required preplacement findings.--Prior to entering any order of disposition under subsection (a) that would remove a dependent child from his home, the court shall enter findings on the record or in the order of court as follows:

(1) that continuation of the child in his home would be contrary to the welfare, safety or health of the child;  and

(2) whether reasonable efforts were made prior to the placement of the child to prevent or eliminate the need for removal of the child from his home, if the child has remained in his home pending such disposition;  or

(3) if preventive services were not offered due to the necessity for an emergency placement, whether such lack of services was reasonable under the circumstances;  or

(4) if the court has previously determined pursuant to section 6332 (relating to informal hearing) that reasonable efforts were not made to prevent the initial removal of the child from his home, whether reasonable efforts are under way to make it possible for the child to return home;  and

(5) if the child has a sibling who is subject to removal from his home, whether reasonable efforts were made prior to the placement of the child to place the siblings together or whether such joint placement is contrary to the safety or well-being of the child or sibling.

The court shall not enter findings under paragraph (2), (3) or (4) if the court previously determined that aggravated circumstances exist and no new or additional reasonable efforts to prevent or eliminate the need for removing the child from the home or to preserve and reunify the family are required.

(b.1) Visitation for child and sibling.--If a sibling of a child has been removed from his home and is in a different placement setting than the child, the court shall enter an order that ensures visitation between the child and the child's sibling no less than twice a month, unless a finding is made that visitation is contrary to the safety or well-being of the child or sibling.

(c) Limitation on confinement.--Unless a child found to be dependent is found also to be delinquent he shall not be committed to or confined in an institution or other facility designed or operated for the benefit of delinquent children.

(d) County programs.--Every county of this Commonwealth shall develop programs for children under paragraph (5) or (6) of the definition of “dependent child” in section 6302 (relating to definitions).

(e) Permanency hearings.--

(1) The court shall conduct a permanency hearing for the purpose of determining or reviewing the permanency plan of the child, the date by which the goal of permanency for the child might be achieved and whether placement continues to be best suited to the safety, protection and physical, mental and moral welfare of the child.  In any permanency hearing held with respect to the child, the court shall consult with the child regarding the child's permanency plan, including the child's desired permanency goal, in a manner appropriate to the child's age and maturity.  If the court does not consult personally with the child, the court shall ensure that the views of the child regarding the permanency plan have been ascertained to the fullest extent possible and communicated to the court by the guardian ad litem under section 6311 (relating to guardian ad litem for child in court proceedings) or, as appropriate to the circumstances of the case by the child's counsel, the court-appointed special advocate or other person as designated by the court.

(2) If the county agency or the child's attorney alleges the existence of aggravated circumstances and the court determines that the child has been adjudicated dependent, the court shall then determine if aggravated circumstances exist.  If the court finds from clear and convincing evidence that aggravated circumstances exist, the court shall determine whether or not reasonable efforts to prevent or eliminate the need for removing the child from the child's parent, guardian or custodian or to preserve and reunify the family shall be made or continue to be made and schedule a hearing as provided in paragraph (3).

(3) The court shall conduct permanency hearings as follows:

(i) Within six months of:

(A) the date of the child's removal from the child's parent, guardian or custodian for placement under section 6324 (relating to taking into custody) or 6332 or pursuant to a transfer of temporary legal custody or other disposition under subsection (a)(2), whichever is the earliest;  or

(B) each previous permanency hearing until the child is returned to the child's parent, guardian or custodian or removed from the jurisdiction of the court.

(ii) Within 30 days of:

(A) an adjudication of dependency at which the court determined that aggravated circumstances exist and that reasonable efforts to prevent or eliminate the need to remove the child from the child's parent, guardian or custodian or to preserve and reunify the family need not be made or continue to be made;

(B) a permanency hearing at which the court determined that aggravated circumstances exist and that reasonable efforts to prevent or eliminate the need to remove the child from the child's parent, guardian or custodian or to preserve and reunify the family need not be made or continue to be made and the permanency plan for the child is incomplete or inconsistent with the court's determination;

(C) an allegation that aggravated circumstances exist regarding a child who has been adjudicated dependent, filed under section 6334(b) (relating to petition);  or

(D) a petition alleging that the hearing is necessary to protect the safety or physical, mental or moral welfare of a dependent child.

(iii) If the court resumes jurisdiction of the child pursuant to subsection (j), permanency hearings shall be scheduled in accordance with applicable law until court jurisdiction is terminated, but no later than when the child attains 21 years of age.

(f) Matters to be determined at permanency hearing.--  At each permanency hearing, a court shall determine all of the following:

(1) The continuing necessity for and appropriateness of the placement.

(2) The appropriateness, feasibility and extent of compliance with the permanency plan developed for the child.

(3) The extent of progress made toward alleviating the circumstances which necessitated the original placement.

(4) The appropriateness and feasibility of the current placement goal for the child.

(5) The likely date by which the placement goal for the child might be achieved.

(5.1) Whether reasonable efforts were made to finalize the permanency plan in effect.

(6) Whether the child is safe.

(7) If the child has been placed outside the Commonwealth, whether the placement continues to be best suited to the safety, protection and physical, mental and moral welfare of the child.

(8) The services needed to assist a child who is 14 years of age or older to make the transition to successful adulthood.

(8.1) Whether the child continues to meet the definition of “child” and has requested that the court continue jurisdiction pursuant to section 6302 if the child is between 18 and 21 years of age.

(8.2) That a transition plan has been presented in accordance with section 475 of the Social Security Act (49 Stat. 620, 42 U.S.C. § 675(5)(H) ).

(9) If the child has been in placement for at least 15 of the last 22 months or the court has determined that aggravated circumstances exist and that reasonable efforts to prevent or eliminate the need to remove the child from the child's parent, guardian or custodian or to preserve and reunify the family need not be made or continue to be made, whether the county agency has filed or sought to join a petition to terminate parental rights and to identify, recruit, process and approve a qualified family to adopt the child unless:

(i) the child is being cared for by a relative best suited to the physical, mental and moral welfare of the child;

(ii) the county agency has documented a compelling reason for determining that filing a petition to terminate parental rights would not serve the needs and welfare of the child;  or

(iii) the child's family has not been provided with necessary services to achieve the safe return to the child's parent, guardian or custodian within the time frames set forth in the permanency plan.

(10) If a sibling of a child has been removed from his home and is in a different placement setting than the child, whether reasonable efforts have been made to place the child and the sibling of the child together or whether such joint placement is contrary to the safety or well-being of the child or sibling.

(11) If the child has a sibling, whether visitation of the child with that sibling is occurring no less than twice a month, unless a finding is made that visitation is contrary to the safety or well-being of the child or sibling.

(12) If the child has been placed with a caregiver, whether the child is being provided with regular, ongoing opportunities to participate in age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate activities.  In order to make the determination under this paragraph, the county agency shall document the steps it has taken to ensure that:

(i) the caregiver is following the reasonable and prudent parent standard;  and

(ii) the child has regular, ongoing opportunities to engage in age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate activities.  The county agency shall consult with the child regarding opportunities to engage in such activities.

For children placed in foster care on or before November 19, 1997, the county agency shall file or join a petition for termination of parental rights under this subsection in accordance with section 103(c)(2) of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 ( Public Law 105-89, 111 Stat. 2119 ).

(f.1) Additional determination.--Based upon the determinations made under subsection (f) and all relevant evidence presented at the hearing, the court shall determine one of the following:

(1) If and when the child will be returned to the child's parent, guardian or custodian in cases where the return of the child is best suited to the safety, protection and physical, mental and moral welfare of the child.

(2) If and when the child will be placed for adoption, and the county agency will file for termination of parental rights in cases where return to the child's parent, guardian or custodian is not best suited to the safety, protection and physical, mental and moral welfare of the child.

(3) If and when the child will be placed with a legal custodian in cases where the return to the child's parent, guardian or custodian or being placed for adoption is not best suited to the safety, protection and physical, mental and moral welfare of the child.

(4) If and when the child will be placed with a fit and willing relative in cases where return to the child's parent, guardian or custodian, being placed for adoption or being placed with a legal custodian is not best suited to the safety, protection and physical, mental and moral welfare of the child.

(5) If and when the child will be placed in another planned permanent living arrangement which is approved by the court, the following shall apply:

(i) The child must be 16 years of age or older.

(ii) The county agency shall identify at least one significant connection with a supportive adult willing to be involved in the child's life as the child transitions to adulthood, or document that efforts have been made to identify a supportive adult.

(iii) The county agency shall document:

(A) A compelling reason that it would not be best suited to the safety, protection and physical, mental and moral welfare of the child to be returned to the child's parent, guardian or custodian, to be placed for adoption, to be placed with a legal custodian or to be placed with a fit and willing relative.

(B) Its intensive, ongoing and, as of the date of the hearing, unsuccessful efforts to return the child to the child's parent, guardian or custodian or to be placed for adoption, to be placed with a legal custodian or to be placed with a fit and willing relative.

(C) Its efforts to utilize search technology to find biological family members for the child.

(iv) The court shall:

(A) Ask the child about the desired permanency goal for the child.

(B) Make a judicial determination explaining why, as of the date of the hearing, another planned permanent living arrangement is the best permanency plan for the child.

(C) Provide compelling reasons why it continues not to be in the best interests of the child to return to the child's parent, guardian or custodian, be placed for adoption, be placed with a legal custodian or be placed with a fit and willing relative.

(D) Make findings that the significant connection is identified in the permanency plan or that efforts have been made to identify a supportive adult, if no one is currently identified.

(f.2) Evidence.--Evidence of conduct by the parent that places the health, safety or welfare of the child at risk, including evidence of the use of alcohol or a controlled substance that places the health, safety or welfare of the child at risk, shall be presented to the court by the county agency or any other party at any disposition or permanency hearing whether or not the conduct was the basis for the determination of dependency.

(g) Court order.--On the basis of the determination made under subsection (f.1), the court shall order the continuation, modification or termination of placement or other disposition which is best suited to the safety, protection and physical, mental and moral welfare of the child.

(h) Deleted by 2002, Dec. 9, P.L. 1705, No. 215, § 3 , effective in 60 days.

(i) Assignment to orphans' court.--A judge who adjudicated the child dependent or who has conducted permanency hearings or other dependency proceedings involving the child may be assigned to the orphans' court division for the purpose of hearing proceedings relating to any of the following:

(1) Involuntary termination of parental rights of a parent of the dependent child under 23 Pa.C.S. Ch. 25 Subch. B (relating to involuntary termination).

(2) A petition to adopt the dependent child.

(j) Resumption of jurisdiction.--At any time prior to a child reaching 21 years of age, a child may request the court to resume dependency jurisdiction if:

(1) the child continues to meet the definition of “child” pursuant to section 6302;  and

(2) dependency jurisdiction was terminated:

(i) within 90 days prior to the child's 18th birthday;  or

(ii) on or after the child's 18th birthday, but before the child turns 21 years of age.


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