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THE COURTS

PART I. RULES

[ 237 PA. CODE CH. 16 ]

Proposed Amendment of Pa.R.J.C.P. 1601 and 1608

[47 Pa.B. 3970]
[Saturday, July 22, 2017]

 The Juvenile Court Procedural Rules Committee is republishing the proposed amendment of Rule 1601 to require notice of the intention to seek a goal change discontinuing reunification and Rule 1608 to prohibit such a goal change if notice was not provided, for the reasons set forth in the accompanying explanatory report. Pursuant to Pa.R.J.A. No. 103(a)(1), the proposal is being published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin for comments, suggestions, or objections prior to submission to the Supreme Court.

 Any reports, notes, or comments in the proposal have been inserted by the Committee for the convenience of those using the rules. They neither will constitute a part of the rules nor will be officially adopted by the Supreme Court.

 Additions to the text of the proposal are bolded; deletions to the text are bolded and bracketed.

 The Committee invites all interested persons to submit comments, suggestions, or objections in writing to:

 Daniel A. Durst, Chief Counsel
Juvenile Court Procedural Rules Committee
Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Judicial Center
PO Box 62635
Harrisburg, PA 17106-2635
FAX: 717-231-9541
juvenilerules@pacourts.us

 All communications in reference to the proposal should be received by September 7, 2017. E-mail is the preferred method for submitting comments, suggestions, or objections; any e-mailed submission need not be reproduced and resubmitted via mail. The Committee will acknowledge receipt of all submissions.

By the Juvenile Court
Procedural Rules Committee

KELLY L. McNANEY, Esq., 
Chair

Annex A

TITLE 237. JUVENILE RULES

PART I. RULES

Subpart B. DEPENDENCY MATTERS

CHAPTER 16. POST-DISPOSITIONAL PROCEDURES

PART A. SUMMONS, NOTICE, AND REPORTS

Rule 1601. Permanency Hearing Notice.

A. At least fifteen days prior to the hearing, the court or its designee shall give notice of the permanency hearing to:

 1) all parties;

 2) the attorney for the county agency;

 3) the child's attorney

 4) the guardian's attorney;

 5) the parents, child's foster parent, preadoptive parent, or relative providing care for the child;

 6) the court appointed special advocate, if assigned;

 7) the educational decision maker, if applicable; and

 8) any other persons as directed by the court.

B. If a party intends to request a goal change from reunification, then either the notice shall state this purpose or the party shall give separate notice of the intended goal change in accordance with paragraph (A).

Comment

Given the significance of discontinuing the goal of reunification, the requirement of paragraph (B) is to ensure that parties, counsel, and interested persons have notice of the purpose of the hearing and are able to prepare for and attend the hearing.

Official Note: Rule 1601 adopted August 21, 2006, effective February 1, 2007. Amended April 29, 2011, effective July 1, 2011. Amended  , 2017, effective  , 2017.

Committee Explanatory Reports:

 Final Report explaining the provisions of Rule 1601 published with the Court's Order at 36 Pa.B. 5571 (September 2, 2006).

 Final Report explaining the amendments to Rule 1601 published with the Court's Order at 41 Pa.B. 2413 (May 14, 2011).

Final Report explaining the amendments to Rule 1601 published with the Court's Order at  Pa.B.  (  , 2017).

PART B(2). PERMANENCY HEARING

Rule 1608. Permanency Hearing.

*  *  *  *  *

 D. Court's [findings] Finding.

 1) Findings at all [six-month hearings] Six-Month Hearings. At each permanency hearing, the court shall enter its findings and conclusions of law into the record and enter an order pursuant to Rule 1609. On the record in open court, the court shall state:

*  *  *  *  *

 c) the appropriateness and feasibility of the current placement goal for the child provided that at no time may a goal be changed from reunification unless notice has been provided in accordance with Rule 1601(B);

*  *  *  *  *

Comment

*  *  *  *  *

 Every child should have a concurrent plan, which is a secondary plan to be pursued if the primary permanency plan for the child cannot be achieved. See Comment to Rule 1512. For example, the primary plan may be reunification with the guardian. If the guardian does not substantially comply with the requirements of the court-ordered services, subsidized legal guardianship may be utilized as the concurrent plan. Because of time requirements, the concurrent plan is to be in place so that permanency may be achieved in a timely manner.

Paragraph (D)(1)(c) is intended to provide adequate notice and the opportunity to be heard when a goal is being changed from reunification. If the court intends to change the child's goal from reunification without a prior notice provided by a party pursuant to Rule 1601(B), then the court shall direct the county agency to provide such notice in accordance with Rule 1601(B).

 Pursuant to paragraph (D)(1)(h), the court is to determine whether the county agency has reasonably satisfied the requirements of Rule 1149 regarding family finding, including the location and engagement of relatives and kin at least every six months, prior to each permanency hearing. If the county agency has failed to meet the diligent family finding efforts requirements of Rule 1149, the court is to utilize its powers to enforce this legislative mandate. See 62 P.S. § 1301 et seq.; see also Rules 1210(D)(8), 1242(E)(3), 1409(C), 1609(D), and 1611(C) and Comments to Rules 1242, 1408, 1409, 1512, 1514, 1515, 1609, and 1611.

*  *  *  *  *

Official Note: Rule 1608 adopted August 21, 2006, effective February 1, 2007. Amended December 18, 2009, effective immediately. Amended April 21, 2011, effective July 1, 2011. Amended April 29, 2011, effective July 1, 2011. Amended October 21, 2013, effective December 1, 2013. Amended July 13, 2015, effective October 1, 2015. Amended December 9, 2015, effective January 1, 2016. Amended June 14, 2016, effective August 1, 2016. Amended  , 2017, effective  , 2017.

Committee Explanatory Reports:

 Final Report explaining the provisions of Rule 1608 published with the Court's Order at 36 Pa.B. 5571 (September 2, 2006).

 Final Report explaining the amendments to Rule 1608 published with the Court's Order at 40 Pa.B. 21 (January 2, 2010).

 Final Report explaining the amendments to Rule 1608 published with the Court's Order at 41 Pa.B. 2319 (May 7, 2011).

 Final Report explaining the amendments to Rule 1608 published with the Court's Order at 41 Pa.B. 2430 (May 14, 2011).

 Final Report explaining the amendments to Rule 1608 published with the Court's Order at 43 Pa.B. 6658 (November 9, 2013).

 Final Report explaining the amendments to Rule 1608 published with the Court's Order at 45 Pa.B. 3987 (July 25, 2015).

 Final Report explaining the amendments to Rule 1608 published with the Court's Order at 45 Pa.B. 7289 (December 26, 2015).

 Final Report explaining the amendments to Rule 1608 published with the Court's Order at 46 Pa.B. 3416 (July 2, 2016).

Final Report explaining the amendments to Rule 1608 published with the Court's Order at  Pa.B.  (  , 2017).

REPORT

Proposed Amendment of Pa.R.J.C.P. 1601 and 1608

 The Juvenile Court Procedural Rules Committee proposes the amendment of Rule 1601 to require notice of the intention to seek a goal change discontinuing reunification and Rule 1608 to require notice before a goal can be changed from reunification.

 The Committee was informed of circumstances wherein permanency review hearings were resulting in goal changes discontinuing reunification without prior notice that such a goal change was to be decided at the hearing. The Committee notes that ''goal change hearings'' may be emotional for both the child and the parents. Further, it is best practice to provide notice of an upcoming goal change hearing. See Pennsylvania Children's Roundtable Initiative. Pennsylvania Dependency Benchbook at p. 119. Harrisburg, PA: Office of Children and Families in the Courts, 2010.

 Previously, the Committee proposed amendments to Rule 1601 and 1609 to require the county agency to give notice that a goal change is being sought in a permanency review hearing. See 47 Pa.B. 947 (February 18, 2017). To provide timely notice and the opportunity to prepare for and attend the hearing, the Committee proposed to amend Rule 1601 to add paragraph (B) to require either the permanency hearing notice to indicate whether the county agency seeks to discontinue a goal of reunification or for the county agency to provide separate notice consistent with paragraph (A) in terms of recipients and timeliness.

 The Committee also proposed to amend Rule 1609 to provide for a discretionary rehearing if notice was not given in accordance with Rule 1601(B). The language of the amendment was based, in part, upon Rule 1243(B) providing for a discretionary rehearing for shelter care hearings. The proposal was not intended to encourage noncompliance with Rule 1601(B); rather, it rejected a categorical mandate for a rehearing in every instance and invested the judge with the discretion to determine whether a rehearing is warranted.

 After reviewing comments and deliberating further on the proposal, the Committee has made several revisions. First, proposed Rule 1601(B) is expanded to include all parties rather than solely the county agency. Second, the provision for a discretionary rehearing was eliminated. The Committee was persuaded that the effect of a goal change from reunification was so significant that notions of due process require timely notice of the possibility of a goal change from reunifications in all instances. The Committee disagreed with the suggestion that an intention to seek a goal change from reunification does not change the dynamic of the permanency review hearing in terms of preparation, witnesses, and significance. A commenter suggested that parties should be prepared for goal change from reunification at every hearing, negating the need for notice. However, the Committee recognized that this was not practical in the environment in which these cases are heard. Hearings to determine if a goal should be changed from reunification are often populated by witnesses beyond those required at a typical permanency review hearing. To expect parties to be prepared for a goal change from reunification at every permanency review hearing would obligate the party to bring every witness that could be required if the county agency seeks to change the goal from reunification with notice or the court does so unilaterally. Further, the Committee considered the common practice in many counties of the Judge to inform the party at their permanency review hearing that if progress does not improve or circumstances do not change, the goal may very well be changed at the next permanency review hearing. This may qualify as adequate notice under Rule 1601(B) provided it is done in writing and within the time frame established by the Rule.

 Given the gravity of a permanency review hearing that may result in a goal change from reunification, the Committee proposes to amend Rule 1608(d)(1)(c) to require that notice in accordance with proposed Rule 1601(B) be given before a court can order a goal change from reunification. As indicated in the revised Comment to Rule 1608, the court should direct the county agency to give notice to all other parties when the court seeks to change the goal in the absence of such notice.

 In light of these changes, the Committee is republishing this proposal and all comments, concerns, and suggestions.

[Pa.B. Doc. No. 17-1203. Filed for public inspection July 21, 2017, 9:00 a.m.]



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