HOUSE BILL 284
56th legislature - STATE OF NEW MEXICO - first session, 2023
Stefani Lord and Jason C. Harper
RELATING TO CHILDREN; SPECIFYING SPECIFIC STEPS THE CHILDREN, YOUTH AND FAMILIES DEPARTMENT MUST TAKE IN ITS DILIGENT SEARCH FOR ADULT RELATIVES OR FICTIVE KIN OF A CHILD WHO HAS BEEN TAKEN INTO DEPARTMENT CUSTODY; PROVIDING FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A FAMILY-FINDING TEAM IN THE DEPARTMENT; PROVIDING DUTIES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO:
SECTION 1. Section 32A-4-17.1 NMSA 1978 (being Laws 2016, Chapter 54, Section 3) is repealed and a new Section 32A-4-17.1 NMSA 1978 is enacted to read:
"32A-4-17.1. [NEW MATERIAL] ADULT RELATIVE OR FICTIVE KIN SEARCH WHEN CHILD TAKEN INTO CUSTODY OF DEPARTMENT.--
A. Within thirty days after a child is taken into department custody, the department shall conduct a diligent search for adult relatives or fictive kin of the child. A diligent search includes, at a minimum:
(1) interviews with the child's parent during the course of an investigation, while child protective services are provided and while the child is in care;
(2) interviews with the child;
(3) interviews with identified adult relatives throughout the case;
(4) interviews with any other person who is likely to have information about the identity or location of an adult relative or fictive kin of the child;
(5) exhaustive searches of databases available to the department, the human services department or the department of health, including searches of employment, residence, utilities, vehicle registrations, child support enforcement, law enforcement, corrections records, social media and other records likely to result in identifying and locating an adult relative or fictive kin of the child;
(6) appropriate inquiry during the course of hearings in the case; and
(7) any other reasonable means likely to identify adult relatives or fictive kin of the child.
B. The department shall establish a "family-finding team" to identify one or more adult relatives or fictive kin for child placement as soon as possible after a child has been taken into department custody. The team shall develop and maintain kinship navigator programs that provide information, referral and follow-up services to grandparents and other relatives raising children to link them to critical benefits and services, including prevention services, for children diverted from foster care to an adult relative or fictive kin. The team shall:
(1) use family-finding tools to locate adult relatives or fictive kin;
(2) make initial contacts with potential adult relatives or fictive kin;
(3) establish plans and processes for staying in touch with adult relatives or fictive kin;
(4) continue searching for other adult relatives or fictive kin; and
(5) prioritize relative searches for children who are currently placed with non-relatives.
C. The department shall file with the children's court information regarding attempts made pursuant to Subsection A of this section within the time limit established in that subsection or as otherwise required by the court and at each periodic review hearing.
D. All adult relatives or fictive kin of the child identified in a diligent search required by this section, subject to exceptions due to family or domestic violence or other safety concerns, shall be provided with a notice:
(1) specifying that the child has been or is being removed from parental custody;
(2) explaining the options an adult relative or fictive kin has to participate in the care and placement of the child and any options that may be lost by failing to respond to the notice;
(3) describing the process for becoming a licensed foster family home and the additional services and supports available for children placed in approved foster homes; and
(4) describing any financial assistance for which an adult relative or fictive kin of the child may be eligible.
E. After the completion of the diligent search required by this section, the department has a continuing duty to search for adult relatives or fictive kin of the child with whom it may be appropriate to place the child until such relatives or fictive kin are found or until the child is placed for adoption, unless the court excuses the department from continuing the search.
F. Within six months from the date an adult relative or fictive kin of the child receives the notice required by this section, if the adult relative or fictive kin fails to demonstrate an interest in and willingness to provide a permanent home for the child, the court may excuse the department from considering the adult relative or fictive kin as a placement."
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