41-3-101. Declaration of policy. (1) It is the policy of the state of Montana to:
(a) provide for the protection of children whose health and welfare are or may be adversely affected and further threatened by the conduct of those responsible for the children's care and protection;
(b) achieve these purposes in a family environment and preserve the unity and welfare of the family whenever possible;
(c) ensure that there is no forced removal of a child from the family based solely on an allegation of abuse or neglect unless the department has reasonable cause to suspect that the child is at imminent risk of harm;
(d) recognize that a child is entitled to assert the child's constitutional rights;
(e) ensure that all children have a right to a healthy and safe childhood in a permanent placement; and
(f) ensure that whenever removal of a child from the home is necessary, the child is entitled to maintain ethnic, cultural, and religious heritage whenever appropriate.
(2) It is intended that the mandatory reporting of abuse or endangerment cases by professional people and other community members to the appropriate authority will cause the protective services of the state to seek to prevent further abuses, protect and enhance the welfare of these children, and preserve family life whenever appropriate.
(3) In implementing this chapter, whenever it is necessary to remove a child from the child's home, the department shall, when it is in the best interests of the child, place the child with the child's noncustodial birth parent or with the child's extended family, including adult siblings, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, and uncles, when placement with the extended family is approved by the department, prior to placing the child in an alternative protective or residential facility. Prior to approving a placement, the department shall investigate whether anyone living in the home has been convicted of a crime involving serious harm to children.
(4) (a) The department shall create a registry for voluntary registration by close relatives of a child for purposes of notifying those relatives when a child that is related has been removed from the child's home pursuant to this chapter.
(b) The registry must contain the names of the child and the child's parents and may contain the names of the child's grandparents, aunts, uncles, adult brothers, and adult sisters and must contain the contact information for the child and parents and any of the relatives whose names appear in the registry.
(5) The department shall consult the registry and notify the relatives on the registry on the first working day after placing the child in accordance with 41-3-301.
(6) The department may charge a fee commensurate with the cost of operating the registry. The fee may be charged only to those persons whose names are voluntarily entered in the registry.
(7) In implementing the policy of this section, the child's health and safety are of paramount concern.