Code Section

Welfare and Institutions Code - WIC

DIVISION 9. PUBLIC SOCIAL SERVICES [10000 - 18999.8]

  ( Division 9 added by Stats. 1965, Ch. 1784. )
  

PART 4. SERVICES FOR THE CARE OF CHILDREN [16000 - 16545]

  ( Heading of Part 4 amended by Stats. 1978, Ch. 429. )
  

CHAPTER 1. Foster Care Placement [16000 - 16014]
  ( Chapter 1 added by Stats. 1990, Ch. 1370, Sec. 1. )

  
16002.  

(a) (1) It is the intent of the Legislature to maintain the continuity of the family unit, and ensure the preservation and strengthening of the child’s family ties by ensuring that when siblings have been removed from their home, either as a group on one occurrence or individually on separate occurrences, the siblings will be placed in foster care together, unless it has been determined that placement together is contrary to the safety or well-being of any sibling. The Legislature recognizes that in order to ensure the placement of a sibling group in the same foster care placement, placement resources need to be expanded.

(2) It is also the intent of the Legislature to preserve and strengthen a child’s sibling relationship so that when a child has been removed from his or her home and he or she has a sibling or siblings who remain in the custody of a mutual parent subject to the court’s jurisdiction, the court has the authority to develop a visitation plan for the siblings, unless it has been determined that visitation is contrary to the safety or well-being of any sibling.

(b) The responsible local agency shall make a diligent effort in all out-of-home placements of dependent children and wards in foster care, including those with relatives, to place siblings together in the same placement, and to develop and maintain sibling relationships. If siblings are not placed together in the same home, the social worker or probation officer shall explain why the siblings are not placed together and what efforts he or she is making to place the siblings together or why making those efforts would be contrary to the safety and well-being of any of the siblings. When placement of siblings together in the same home is not possible, a diligent effort shall be made, and a case plan prepared, to provide for ongoing and frequent interaction among siblings until family reunification is achieved, or, if parental rights are terminated, as part of developing the permanent plan for the child. If the court determines by clear and convincing evidence that sibling interaction is contrary to the safety and well-being of any of the siblings, the reasons for the determination shall be noted in the court order, and interaction shall be suspended.

(c) When there has been a judicial suspension of sibling interaction, the reasons for the suspension shall be reviewed at each periodic review hearing pursuant to Section 366 or 727.3. In order for the suspension to continue, the court shall make a renewed finding that sibling interaction is contrary to the safety or well-being of either child. When the court determines that sibling interaction can be safely resumed, that determination shall be noted in the court order and the case plan shall be revised to provide for sibling interaction.

(d) If the case plan for the child has provisions for sibling interaction, the child, or his or her parent or legal guardian, shall have the right to comment on those provisions. If a person wishes to assert a sibling relationship with a dependent child or ward, he or she may file a petition in the juvenile court having jurisdiction over the dependent child pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 388 or the ward in foster care pursuant to Section 778.

(e) If parental rights are terminated and the court orders a dependent child or ward to be placed for adoption, the county adoption agency or the State Department of Social Services shall take all of the following steps to facilitate ongoing sibling contact, except in those cases provided in subdivision (b) where the court determines by clear and convincing evidence that sibling interaction is contrary to the safety or well-being of the child:

(1) Include in training provided to prospective adoptive parents information about the importance of sibling relationships to the adopted child and counseling on methods for maintaining sibling relationships.

(2) Provide prospective adoptive parents with information about siblings of the child, except the address where the siblings of the children reside. However, this address may be disclosed by court order for good cause shown.

(3) (A) To the extent practicable, the county placing agency shall convene a meeting with the child, the sibling or siblings of the child, the prospective adoptive parent or parents, and a facilitator for the purpose of deciding whether to voluntarily execute a postadoption sibling contact agreement pursuant to Section 8616.5 of the Family Code on a date after termination of parental rights and prior to finalization of the adoption. The county placing agency may comply with the requirements of this paragraph by allowing a nonprofit organization authorized to provide permanency placement and postadoption mediation for adoptive and birth families to facilitate the meeting and develop the agreement.

(B) The county placing agency is not required to convene a meeting to decide whether to voluntarily execute a postadoption sibling contact agreement pursuant to Section 8616.5 of the Family Code in either of the following circumstances:

(i) The county placing agency determines that such a meeting or postadoption sibling contact agreement would be contrary to the safety and well-being of the child.

(ii) The child requests that a meeting shall not occur.

(C) The child may petition the court for an order requiring the county placing agency to convene a meeting to decide whether to voluntarily execute a postadoption sibling contact agreement pursuant to Section 8616.5 of the Family Code. If the court determines by a preponderance of the evidence that a postadoption sibling contact agreement or a meeting for the purpose of deciding whether to voluntarily execute such an agreement is contrary to the safety and well-being of the child, the reasons for the determination shall be noted in the court order, and the meeting is not required to occur.

(D) Counsel to the child and counsel to the siblings who are dependents of the court shall be notified of, and may attend, both the meeting and the hearing described in this paragraph.

(E) This paragraph shall not require attendance by a child, sibling, or other party at a meeting to decide whether to voluntarily execute a postadoption sibling contact agreement pursuant to Section 8616.5 of the Family Code if the child, sibling, or other party cannot be located or does not wish to attend the meeting. This paragraph shall not prohibit a county placing agency from convening a meeting if not all of the parties are secured to attend.

(f) Information regarding sibling interaction, contact, or visitation that has been authorized or ordered by the court shall be provided to the foster parent, relative caretaker, or legal guardian of the child as soon as possible after the court order is made, in order to facilitate the interaction, contact, or visitation.

(g) As used in this section, “sibling” means a person related to the identified child by blood, adoption, or affinity through a common legal or biological parent.

(h) The court documentation on sibling placements required under this section shall not require the modification of existing court order forms until the Child Welfare Services/Case Management System (CWS/CMS) is implemented on a statewide basis.

(Amended by Stats. 2016, Ch. 719, Sec. 4. (SB 1060) Effective January 1, 2017.)