Montana Code Annotated 2021



Part 1. General

Foster Care Review Committee -- Foster Care Reviews -- Permanency Hearings

41-3-115. Foster care review committee -- foster care reviews -- permanency hearings. (1) Except as provided in Title 41, chapter 3, part 10, in every judicial district the district court judge, in consultation with the department, shall appoint a foster care review committee. The foster care review committee shall conduct foster care reviews as provided in this section and may, at the discretion of the court and absent an objection by a party to the proceeding, conduct permanency hearings as provided in 41-3-445.

(2) (a) The members of the committee must be willing to act without compensation. The committee must be composed of not less than three or more than seven members. To the extent practicable, the members of the committee must be representatives of the various socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic groups of the area served.

(b) The members must include:

(i) one representative of the department who may not be responsible for the placement of the child or have any other direct conflict of interest;

(ii) a person who is knowledgeable in the needs of children in foster care placements and who is not employed by the department or the youth court; and

(iii) if the child whose care is under review is an Indian child, a person, preferably an Indian person, who is knowledgeable about Indian cultural and family matters and who is appointed effective only for and during that review.

(c) Members may also include but are not limited to: 

(i) a representative of the youth court;

(ii) a representative of a local school district;

(iii) a public health nurse;

(iv) an at-large community member with knowledge of child protective services.

(3) (a) When a child is in foster care under the supervision of the department or if payment for care is made pursuant to 52-2-611, the committee shall conduct a review of the foster care status of the child. The review must be conducted within the time limit established under the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, 42 U.S.C. 675(5).

(b) The committee shall hear the case of each child in foster care to review issues that are germane to the goals of permanency and to accessing appropriate services for parents and children. In evaluating the accessibility, availability, and appropriateness of services, the committee shall consider:

(i) the safety, history, and specific needs of the child;

(ii) whether an involved agency has selected services specifically relevant to the problems and needs of the child and family;

(iii) whether appropriate services have been available to the child and family on a timely basis; and

(iv) the results of intervention.

(c) If the department has placed a child in foster care in another state, the committee shall consider whether the placement is appropriate and in the best interests of the child. In the case of a child who will not be returned to the parent, the committee shall consider both in-state and out-of-state placement options.

(d) The committee may hear the case of a child who remains in or returns to the child's home and for whom the department retains legal custody.

(4) (a) Prior to the beginning of the review, reasonable notice of each review must be sent to the following:

(i) the parents of the child or their attorneys;

(ii) if applicable, the foster parents, a relative caring for the child, the preadoptive parents, or the surrogate parents;

(iii) the child who is the subject of the review if the child is 12 years of age or older;

(iv) the child's attorney, if any;

(v) the guardian ad litem;

(vi) the court-appointed attorney or special advocate of the child; and

(vii) the child's Indian tribe if the child is an Indian.

(b) When applicable, notice of each review may be sent to other interested persons who are authorized by the committee to receive notice.

(c) All persons receiving notice are subject to the confidentiality provisions of 41-3-205.

(d) If a foster care review is held in conjunction with a permanency hearing, notice of both proceedings must be provided.

(e) If a foster care review is held in conjunction with a permanency hearing, notice must be provided to the attorney who initiated the child abuse or neglect proceedings.

(5) The committee may elect to hold joint or separate reviews for groups of siblings, but findings and recommendations made by the committee must be specific to each child.

(6) After reviewing each case, the committee shall prepare written findings and recommendations with respect to:

(a) the continuing need for the placement and the appropriateness and safety of the placement;

(b) compliance with the case plan;

(c) the progress that has been made toward alleviating the need for placement;

(d) a likely date by which the child may be returned home or by which a permanent placement may be finalized.

(7) Following the permanency hearing, the committee shall send copies of its minutes and written findings and recommendations to the court and to the parties. If a party objects to the findings and recommendations, the party may within 10 days serve written objections upon the other party and file them with the court. A request for a hearing before the court upon the objections may be made by a party by motion. The court, after hearing the objections or upon its own motion and without objection, may adopt the findings and recommendations and shall issue an appropriate order.

(8) Because of the individual privacy involved, meetings of the committee, reports of the committee, and information on individuals' cases shared by committee members are confidential and subject to the confidentiality requirements of the department.

(9) The committee is subject to the call of the district court judge to meet and confer with the judge on all matters pertaining to the foster care of a child before the district court.

History: En. Sec. 2, Ch. 297, L. 1981; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 201, L. 1983; MCA 1981, 41-5-807; amd. and redes. 41-3-1115 by Sec. 31, Ch. 465, L. 1983; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 260, L. 1987; amd. Sec. 51, Ch. 609, L. 1987; amd. Sec. 16, Ch. 610, L. 1993; amd. Sec. 19, Ch. 311, L. 2001; amd. Sec. 13, Ch. 570, L. 2001; Sec. 41-3-1115, MCA 1999; redes. 41-3-115 by Sec. 17(3)(a), Ch. 281, L. 2001; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 382, L. 2005; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 166, L. 2007.