Substitute House Bill No. 5707

Public Act No. 00-137

An Act Concerning The Adoption Of Children From The Foster Care System.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. Section 17a-112 of the general statutes, as amended by section 4 of public act 99-166, is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) In respect to any child in the custody of the Commissioner of Children and Families in accordance with section 46b-129, either the commissioner, or the attorney who represented such child in a pending or prior proceeding, or an attorney appointed by the Superior Court on its own motion, or an attorney retained by such child after attaining the age of fourteen, may petition the court for the termination of parental rights with reference to such child. The petition shall be in the form and contain the information set forth in subsection (b) of section 45a-715, and be subject to the provisions of subsection (c) of said section. If a petition indicates that either or both parents consent to the termination of their parental rights, or if at any time following the filing of a petition and before the entry of a decree, a parent consents to the termination of the parent's parental rights, each consenting parent shall acknowledge such consent on a form promulgated by the Office of the Chief Court Administrator evidencing that the parent has voluntarily and knowingly consented to the termination of such parental rights. No consent to termination by a mother shall be executed within forty-eight hours immediately after the birth of such mother's child. A parent who is a minor shall have the right to consent to termination of parental rights and such consent shall not be voidable by reason of such minority. A guardian ad litem shall be appointed by the court to assure that such minor parent is giving an informed and voluntary consent.

(b) Either or both birth parents and an intended adoptive parent may enter into a cooperative postadoption agreement regarding communication or contact between either or both birth parents and the adopted child. Such an agreement may be entered into if: (1) The child is in the custody of the Department of Children and Families; (2) an order terminating parental rights has not yet been entered; and (3) either or both birth parents agree to a voluntary termination of parental rights, including an agreement in a case which began as an involuntary termination of parental rights. The postadoption agreement shall be applicable only to a birth parent who is a party to the agreement. Such agreement shall be in addition to those under common law. Counsel for the child and any guardian ad litem for the child may be heard on the proposed cooperative postadoption agreement. There shall be no presumption of communication or contact between the birth parents and an intended adoptive parent in the absence of a cooperative postadoption agreement.

(c) If the Superior Court determines that the child's best interests will be served by postadoption communication or contact with either or both birth parents, the court shall so order, stating the nature and frequency of the communication or contact. A court may grant postadoption communication or contact privileges if: (1) Each intended adoptive parent consents to the granting of communication or contact privileges; (2) the intended adoptive parent and either or both birth parents execute a cooperative agreement and file the agreement with the court; (3) consent to postadoption communication or contact is obtained from the child, if the child is at least twelve years of age; and (4) the cooperative postadoption agreement is approved by the court.

(d) A cooperative postadoption agreement shall contain the following: (1) An acknowledgement by either or both birth parents that the termination of parental rights and the adoption is irrevocable, even if the adoptive parents do not abide by the cooperative postadoption agreement; and (2) an acknowledgement by the adoptive parents that the agreement grants either or both birth parents the right to seek to enforce the cooperative postadoption agreement.

(e) The terms of a cooperative postadoption agreement may include the following: (1) Provision for communication between the child and either or both birth parents; (2) provision for future contact between either or both birth parents and the child or an adoptive parent; and (3) maintenance of medical history of either or both birth parents who is a party to the agreement.

(f) The order approving a cooperative postadoption agreement shall be made part of the final order terminating parental rights. The finality of the termination of parental rights and of the adoption shall not be affected by implementation of the provisions of the postadoption agreement. Such an agreement shall not affect the ability of the adoptive parents and the child to change their residence within or outside this state.

(g) A disagreement between the parties or litigation brought to enforce or modify the agreement shall not affect the validity of the termination of parental rights or the adoption and shall not serve as a basis for orders affecting the custody of the child. The court shall not act on a petition to change or enforce the agreement unless the petitioner had participated, or attempted to participate, in good faith in mediation or other appropriate dispute resolution proceedings to resolve the dispute and allocate any cost for such mediation or dispute resolution proceedings.

(h) An adoptive parent, guardian ad litem for the child or the court, on its own motion, may, at any time, petition for review of any order entered pursuant to subsection (c) of this section, if the petitioner alleges that such action would be in the best interests of the child. The court may modify or terminate such orders as the court deems to be in the best interest of the adopted child.

[(b)] (i) The Superior Court upon hearing and notice, as provided in sections 45a-716 and 45a-717, may grant a petition for termination of parental rights based on consent filed pursuant to this section if it finds that (1) upon clear and convincing evidence, the termination is in the best interest of the child, and (2) such parent has voluntarily and knowingly consented to termination of the parent's parental rights with respect to such child. If the court denies a petition for termination of parental rights based on consent, it may refer the matter to an agency to assess the needs of the child, the care the child is receiving and the plan of the parent for the child. Consent for the termination of the parental rights of one parent does not diminish the parental rights of the other parent of the child, nor does it relieve the other parent of the duty to support the child.

[(c)] (j) The Superior Court, upon hearing and notice as provided in sections 45a-716 and 45a-717, may grant a petition filed pursuant to this section if it finds by clear and convincing evidence (1) that the Department of Children and Families has made reasonable efforts to locate the parent and to reunify the child with the parent, unless the court finds in this proceeding that the parent is unable or unwilling to benefit from reunification efforts provided such finding is not required if the court has determined at a hearing pursuant to subsection (b) of section 17a-110 or section 17a-111b that such efforts are not appropriate, (2) that termination is in the best interest of the child, and (3) that: (A) The child has been abandoned by the parent in the sense that the parent has failed to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern or responsibility as to the welfare of the child; (B) the parent of a child who [(1)] (i) has been found by the Superior Court to have been neglected or uncared for in a prior proceeding, or [(2)] (ii) is found to be neglected or uncared for and has been in the custody of the commissioner for at least fifteen months and such parent has been provided specific steps to take to facilitate the return of the child to the parent pursuant to section 46b-129 and has failed to achieve such degree of personal rehabilitation as would encourage the belief that within a reasonable time, considering the age and needs of the child, such parent could assume a responsible position in the life of the child; (C) the child has been denied, by reason of an act or acts of parental commission or omission including, but not limited to, sexual molestation or exploitation, severe physical abuse or a pattern of abuse, the care, guidance or control necessary for [such] the child's physical, educational, moral or emotional well-being. Nonaccidental or inadequately explained serious physical injury to a child shall constitute prima facie evidence of acts of parental commission or omission sufficient for the termination of parental rights; (D) there is no ongoing parent-child relationship, which means the relationship that ordinarily develops as a result of a parent having met on a day to day basis the physical, emotional, moral and educational needs of the child and to allow further time for the establishment or reestablishment of such parent-child relationship would be detrimental to the best interest of the child; (E) the parent of a child under the age of seven years who is neglected or uncared for, has failed, is unable or is unwilling to achieve such degree of personal rehabilitation as would encourage the belief that within a reasonable period of time, considering the age and needs of the child, such parent could assume a responsible position in the life of the child and such parent's parental rights of another child were previously terminated pursuant to a petition filed by the Commissioner of Children and Families; (F) the parent has killed through deliberate, nonaccidental act another child of the parent or has requested, commanded, importuned, attempted, conspired or solicited such killing or has committed an assault, through deliberate, nonaccidental act that resulted in serious bodily injury of another child of the parent; or (G) the parent was convicted as an adult or a delinquent by a court of competent jurisdiction of a sexual assault resulting in the conception of the child, except a conviction for a violation of section 53a-71 or 53a-73a, provided the court may terminate such parent's parental rights to such child at any time after such conviction.

[(d)] (k) Except in the case where termination is based on consent, in determining whether to terminate parental rights under this section, the court shall consider and shall make written findings regarding: (1) The timeliness, nature and extent of services offered, provided and made available to the parent and the child by an agency to facilitate the reunion of the child with the parent; (2) whether the Department of Children and Families has made reasonable efforts to reunite the family pursuant to the federal Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, as amended; (3) the terms of any applicable court order entered into and agreed upon by any individual or agency and the parent, and the extent to which all parties have fulfilled their obligations under such order; (4) the feelings and emotional ties of the child with respect to the child's parents, any guardian of such child's person and any person who has exercised physical care, custody or control of the child for at least one year and with whom the child has developed significant emotional ties; (5) the age of the child; (6) the efforts the parent has made to adjust such parent's circumstances, conduct, or conditions to make it in the best interest of the child to return such child home in the foreseeable future, including, but not limited to, (A) the extent to which the parent has maintained contact with the child as part of an effort to reunite the child with the parent, provided the court may give weight to incidental visitations, communications or contributions, and (B) the maintenance of regular contact or communication with the guardian or other custodian of the child; and (7) the extent to which a parent has been prevented from maintaining a meaningful relationship with the child by the unreasonable act or conduct of the other parent of the child, or the unreasonable act of any other person or by the economic circumstances of the parent.

[(e)] (l) Any petition brought by the Commissioner of Children and Families to the Superior Court, pursuant to subsection (a) of section 46b-129, may be accompanied by or, upon motion by the petitioner, consolidated with a petition for termination of parental rights filed in accordance with this section with respect to such child. Notice of the hearing on such petitions shall be given in accordance with sections 45a-716 and 45a-717. The Superior Court, after hearing, in accordance with the provisions of subsection [(b)] (i) or [(c)] (j) of this section, may, in lieu of granting the petition filed pursuant to section 46b-129, grant the petition for termination of parental rights as provided in section 45a-717.

[(f)] (m) Nothing contained in this section and sections 17a-113, 45a-187, 45a-606, 45a-607, 45a-707 to 45a-709, inclusive, 45a-715 to 45a-718, inclusive, 45a-724, 45a-725, 45a-727, 45a-733, 45a-754 and 52-231a shall negate the right of the Commissioner of Children and Families to subsequently petition the Superior Court for revocation of a commitment of a child as to whom parental rights have been terminated in accordance with the provisions of this section. The Superior Court may appoint a statutory parent at any time after it has terminated parental rights if the petitioner so requests.

[(g)] (n) If the parental rights of only one parent are terminated, the remaining parent shall be the sole parent and, unless otherwise provided by law, guardian of the person.

[(h)] (o) In the case where termination of parental rights is granted, the guardian of the person or statutory parent shall report to the court within [sixty] thirty days of the date judgment is entered on a case plan, as defined by the federal Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, for the child which shall include measurable objectives and time schedules. At least every six months thereafter, such guardian or statutory parent shall make a report to the court on the progress made on implementation of the plan. The court shall convene a hearing for the purpose of reviewing the plan for the child no more than twelve months from the date judgment is entered and at least once a year thereafter until [such time as any proposed] the court determines that the adoption plan has become finalized. For children where the commissioner has determined that adoption is appropriate, the report on the implementation of the plan shall include a description of the reasonable efforts the department is taking to promote and expedite the adoptive placement and to finalize the adoption of the child, including documentation of child specific recruitment efforts. If the court determines that the department has not made reasonable efforts to place a child in an adoptive placement or that reasonable efforts have not resulted in the placement of the child, the court may order the Department of Children and Families, within available appropriations, to contract with a child-placing agency to arrange for the adoption of the child. The department, as statutory parent, shall continue to provide such care and services for the child while a child-placing agency is arranging for the adoption of the child.

[(i)] (p) The provisions of this section shall be liberally construed in the best interests of any child for whom a petition under this section has been filed.

Sec. 2. Subsections (d) and (e) of section 46b-129 of the general statutes are repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(d) The preliminary hearing on the order of temporary custody or order to appear or the first hearing on a petition filed pursuant to subsection (a) of this section shall be held in order for the court to: (1) Advise the parent or guardian of the allegations contained in all petitions and applications that are the subject of the hearing; (2) assure that an attorney, and where appropriate, a separate guardian ad litem has been appointed to represent the child or youth in accordance with section 46b-129a and section 46b-136; (3) upon request, appoint an attorney to represent the respondent when [he] the respondent is unable to afford representation, as determined by the court; (4) advise the parent or guardian of the right to a hearing on the petitions and applications, to be held within ten days from the date of the preliminary hearing if the hearing is pursuant to an order of temporary custody or an order to show cause; (5) accept a plea regarding the truth of such allegations; (6) make any interim orders, including visitation, that the court determines are in the best interests of the child or youth. The court, after a hearing pursuant to this subsection, shall [provide to] order specific steps the commissioner and the parent or guardian [specific steps necessary for each to take] shall take for the parent or guardian to regain or to retain custody of the child or youth; (7) take steps to determine the identity of the father of the child or youth, including ordering genetic testing, if necessary, and order service of the petition and notice of the hearing date, if any, to be made upon him; (8) if the person named as the father appears, and admits that he is the father, provide him and the mother with the notices which comply with section 17b-27 and provide them with the opportunity to sign a paternity acknowledgment and affirmation on forms which comply with section 17b-27. These documents shall be executed and filed in accordance with chapter 815y and a copy delivered to the clerk of the superior court for juvenile matters; and (9) in the event that the person named as a father appears and denies that he is the father of the child or youth, advise him that he may have no further standing in any proceeding concerning the child, and either order genetic testing to determine paternity or direct him to execute a written denial of paternity on a form promulgated by the Office of the Chief Court Administrator. Upon execution of such a form by the putative father, the court may remove him from the case and afford him no further standing in the case or in any subsequent proceeding regarding the child or youth until such time as paternity is established by formal acknowledgment or adjudication in a court of competent jurisdiction.

(e) If any parent or guardian fails, after service of such order, to appear at the preliminary hearing the court may enter or sustain an order of temporary custody. [and enter a default.]

Sec. 3. Subsection (k) of section 46b-129 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(k) (1) Ten months after the adjudication of neglect of the child or youth or twelve months after the vesting of temporary care and custody pursuant to subsection (b) of this section, whichever is earlier, the commissioner shall file a motion for review of a permanency plan and to extend or revoke the commitment. Ten months after a permanency plan has been approved by the court pursuant to this subsection, unless the court has approved placement in long-term foster care with an identified person or an independent living program, or the commissioner has filed a petition for termination of parental rights or motion to transfer guardianship, the commissioner shall file a motion for review of the permanency plan to extend or revoke the commitment. A hearing on any such motion shall be held within sixty days of the filing. The court shall provide notice to the child or youth, and his parent or guardian of the time and place of the court hearing on any such motion not less than fourteen days prior to such hearing.

(2) At such hearing, the court shall determine whether it is appropriate to continue to make reasonable efforts to reunify the child or youth with the parent. In making this determination, the court shall consider the best interests of the child, including the child's need for permanency. If the court finds that further efforts are not appropriate, the commissioner has no duty to make further efforts to reunify the child or youth with the parent. If the court finds that further efforts are appropriate, such efforts shall ensure that the child or youth's health and safety are protected and such efforts shall be specified by the court, including the services to be provided to the parent, what steps the parent may take to address the problem that prevents the child or youth from safely reuniting with the parent and a time period, not longer than six months, for such steps to be accomplished.

(3) At such hearing, the court shall approve a permanency plan that is in the best interests of the child or youth and takes into consideration the child or youth's need for permanency. Such permanency plan may include (A) revocation of commitment and placement of the child or youth with the parent or guardian, with or without protective supervision; (B) placing the child or youth in an independent living program; (C) transfer of guardianship; (D) approval of long-term foster care with an identified foster parent; (E) filing of termination of parental rights; (F) if the permanency plan identifies adoption as an option, a thorough adoption assessment and child specific recruitment. As used in this subdivision, "thorough adoption assessment" means conducting and documenting face-to-face interviews with the child, foster care providers, and other significant parties and "child specific recruitment" means recruiting an adoptive placement targeted to meet the individual needs of the specific child, including, but not limited to, use of the media, use of photo-listing services and any other in-state or out-of-state resources that may be used to meet the specific needs of the child, unless there are extenuating circumstances that indicate that these efforts are not in the best interest of the child; or [(F)] (G) such other appropriate action ordered by the court. At the permanency plan hearing, the court shall review the status of the child, the progress being made to implement the permanency plan and determine a timetable for attaining the permanency prescribed by the plan. The court shall extend commitment if extension is in the best interests of the child or youth for a period of twelve months. The court shall revoke commitment if a cause for commitment no longer exists and it is in the best interests of the child or youth.

[(4) Commitment shall be revoked by operation of law sixty days after a child or youth is removed from long-term foster care or an independent living program or sixty days after a termination petition is dismissed or a motion to transfer guardianship is denied, unless otherwise ordered by the court.]

Sec. 4. Section 45a-715 of the general statutes is amended by adding subsections (h) to (n), inclusive, as follows:

(NEW) (h) Either or both birth parents and an intended adoptive parent may enter into a cooperative postadoption agreement regarding communication or contact between either or both birth parents and the adopted child. Such an agreement may be entered into if: (1) The child is in the custody of the Department of Children and Families; (2) an order terminating parental rights has not yet been entered; and (3) either or both birth parents agree to a voluntary termination of parental rights, including an agreement in a case which began as an involuntary termination of parental rights. The postadoption agreement shall be applicable only to a birth parent who is a party to the agreement. Such agreement shall be in addition to those under common law. Counsel for the child and any guardian ad litem for the child may be heard on the proposed cooperative postadoption agreement. There shall be no presumption of communication or contact between the birth parents and an intended adoptive parent in the absence of a cooperative postadoption agreement.

(NEW) (i) If the court of probate determines that the child's best interests will be served by postadoption communication or contact with either or both birth parents, the court shall so order, stating the nature and frequency of the communication or contact. A court may grant postadoption communication or contact privileges if: (1) Each intended adoptive parent consents to the granting of communication or contact privileges; (2) the intended adoptive parent and either or both birth parents execute a cooperative agreement and file the agreement with the court; (3) consent to postadoption communication or contact is obtained from the child, if the child is at least twelve years of age; and (4) the cooperative postadoption agreement is approved by the court.

(NEW) (j) A cooperative postadoption agreement shall contain the following: (1) An acknowledgement by either or both birth parents that the termination of parental rights and the adoption is irrevocable, even if the adoptive parents do not abide by the cooperative postadoption agreement; and (2) an acknowledgement by the adoptive parents that the agreement grants either or both birth parents the right to seek to enforce the cooperative postadoption agreement.

(NEW) (k) The terms of a cooperative postadoption agreement may include the following: (1) Provision for communication between the child and either or both birth parents; (2) provision for future contact between either or both birth parents and the child or an adoptive parent; and (3) maintenance of medical history of either or both birth parents who are a party to the agreement. 

(NEW) (l) The order approving a cooperative postadoption agreement shall be made part of the final order terminating parental rights. The finality of the termination of parental rights and of the adoption shall not be affected by implementation of the provisions of the postadoption agreement, nor is the cooperative postadoption contingent upon the finalization of an adoption. Such an agreement shall not affect the ability of the adoptive parents and the child to change their residence within or outside this state. 

(NEW) (m) A disagreement between the parties or litigation brought to enforce or modify the agreement shall not affect the validity of the termination of parental rights or the adoption and shall not serve as a basis for orders affecting the custody of the child. The court shall not act on a petition to change or enforce the agreement unless the petitioner had participated, or attempted to participate, in good faith in mediation or other appropriate dispute resolution proceedings to resolve the dispute and allocate any cost for such mediation or dispute resolution proceedings.

(NEW) (n) An adoptive parent, guardian ad litem for the child or the court on its own motion may, at any time, petition for review of communication or contact ordered pursuant to subsection (i) of this section, if the adoptive parent believes that the best interests of the child are being compromised. The court may order the communication or contact be terminated, or order such conditions in regard to communication or contact as the court deems to be in the best interest of the adopted child.

Sec. 5. Section 2 of public act 99-166 is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) In order to achieve early permanency for children, decrease children's length of stay in foster care and reduce the number of moves children experience in foster care, the Commissioner of Children and Families shall establish a program for concurrent permanency planning.

(b) Concurrent permanency planning involves a planning process to identify permanent placements and prospective adoptive parents so that when termination of parental rights are granted by the court pursuant to section 17a-112 of the general statutes, as amended by this act, or section 45a-717 of the general statutes, permanent placement or adoption proceedings may commence immediately.

(c) The commissioner shall establish guidelines and protocols for child-placing agencies involved in concurrent permanency planning, including criteria for conducting concurrent permanency planning based on relevant factors such as: (1) Age of the child and duration of out-of-home placement; (2) prognosis for successful reunification with parents; (3) availability of relatives and other concerned individuals to provide support or a permanent placement for the child; (4) special needs of the child; and (5) other factors affecting the child's best interests, goals of concurrent permanency planning, support services that are available for families, permanency options, and the consequences of not complying with case plans.

(d) Within six months of out-of-home placement, the Department of Children and Families shall complete an assessment of the likelihood of the child's being reunited with either or both birth parents, based on progress made to date. The Department of Children and Families shall develop a concurrent permanency plan for families with poor prognosis for reunification within such time period. Such assessment and concurrent permanency plan shall be filed with the court.

(e) Concurrent permanency planning programs must include involvement of parents and full disclosure of their rights and responsibilities.

[(d)] (f) The commissioner shall provide ongoing technical assistance, support, and training for local child-placing agencies and other individuals and agencies involved in concurrent permanency planning.

Sec. 6. Section 17a-42 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) There is established within the Department of Children and Families a photo-listing service which shall include, but need not be limited to, a book and an electronic format containing a photograph and description of each child to be photo-listed. Such book and its electronic format shall be distributed to all child care and child-placing agencies, as such terms are defined in section 45a-707, and to other organizations concerned with adoption. Such photo-listing service shall recruit adoptive families for children who are legally free for adoption under section 45a-725, and have remained in foster care or institutions for a period of [three months] thirty days or more, such [three months] thirty days to include any period of foster or institutional care immediately preceding the date on which such child was legally free for adoption. The Commissioner of Children and Families shall employ under his direction and control such persons as he deems necessary for the effective performance of such photo-listing service.

(b) Under sections 17a-112 and 45a-717, as amended by this act, the court may order that a child be photo-listed within thirty days of the termination of parental rights as a condition of granting an order of termination of parental rights if the court determines that it is in the best interests of the child. The court shall not order that a child twelve years of age or older be photo-listed unless such child consents to such photo-listing.

[(b)] (c) Said commissioner shall adopt regulations, in accordance with the provisions of chapter 54, to implement and maintain a photo-listing service. [within said department.] Such regulations shall include, but not be limited to, procedures for registration of children with the photo-listing service and format and media selection for presenting photo-listed children to the public. The commissioner shall, within available appropriations, establish, maintain and distribute a photo-listing service book. The commissioner, within available appropriations, shall contract with a nonprofit agency to establish and maintain the photo-listing service in its electronic format.

Sec. 7. Section 17a-43 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) Each child legally free for adoption, for whom the photo-listing service may recruit an adoptive family under subsection (a) of section 17a-42, shall, and any other such legally free child may, be registered with the photo-listing service within ten working days of becoming a child for whom such service may recruit an adoptive family. Each such registration shall include a recent photograph and written description of the child. Each such registration shall be reported to the court that ordered termination of parental rights.

(b) All changes in the status of a registered child shall be reported by the child care or child-placing agency to the photo-listing service within five working days after such change has occurred.

(c) Children remaining registered for a period in excess of twelve months shall have their photograph and written description updated within fifteen working days of the expiration of the twelfth month of their registration and every twelve months thereafter.

(d) A child's registration shall be withdrawn when the photo-listing service has been notified in writing that the child has been adopted, has reached his or her fourteenth birthday and will not consent to an adoption plan or has died.

Sec. 8. Section 17a-44 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) The photo-listing service shall semiannually check the status of photo-listed children for whom inquiries have been received. Periodic checks shall be made by such service to determine the progress toward adoption of such children and the status of those children registered but never photo-listed because of placement in an adoptive home prior to or at the time of registration.

(b) The commissioner shall refer appropriate children to national adoption exchanges when an adoptive family has not been identified within one hundred eighty days of the termination of the parental rights. The commissioner shall establish criteria by which a determination may be made that a referral to national exchanges is not necessary, and the commissioner shall monitor the status of those children not referred.

Sec. 9. Section 45a-726 of the general statutes, as amended by section 9 of public act 99-166, is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) If the Commissioner of Children and Families or a child-placing agency is appointed as statutory parent for any child free for adoption, the commissioner or such agency shall not refuse to place or delay placement of such child with any prospective adoptive parent solely on the basis of a difference in race, color or national origin.

(b) The Commissioner of Children and Families or the child-placing agency, in determining placement for each child, shall focus on the particular needs of the child and the capacity of the prospective adoptive parent to meet such needs. Whenever possible, siblings should be placed with the same prospective adoptive parent unless it is determined not to be in the best interests of a sibling.

(c) The Commissioner of Children and Families shall not discriminate in preparing a home study or in placing a child with a prospective adoptive parent based on whether the prospective parent is or is not willing to become a foster parent pending an adoption placement.

Sec. 10. Section 2 of public act 99-252 is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

The Department of Children and Families shall, within available appropriations, prepare an information handbook for any individual interested in adopting a child with special needs. The department and child-placing agencies shall give the handbook to such interested individual [at the time] no later than the beginning of the home study process. The handbook shall contain information concerning matters relating to adoption and adoption assistance including, but not limited to, nondiscrimination practices set forth in section 45a-726, as amended by this act, postplacement and postadoption services, adoption subsidies, deferred subsidy agreements, modification of rates and agreements, health care support, reimbursements, assistance if the family moves out of state and the right to records and information related to the history of the child, including information available under subsection (a) of section 45a-746. The handbook shall be developed and updated by the Commissioner of Children and Families with the advice and assistance of the Connecticut Association of Foster and Adoptive Families and at least two other licensed child-placing agencies in Connecticut designated by the commissioner.

Sec. 11. Section 45a-716 of the general statutes, as amended by section 31 of public act 99-84, is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) Upon receipt of a petition for termination of parental rights, the Court of Probate or the Superior Court, on a case transferred to it from the Court of Probate in accordance with the provisions of subsection (g) of section 45a-715, shall set a time and place for hearing the petition. The time for hearing shall be not more than thirty days after the filing of the petition.

(b) The court shall cause notice of the hearing to be given to the following persons as applicable: (1) The parent or parents of the minor child, including any parent who has been removed as guardian on or after October 1, 1973, under section 45a-606; (2) the father of any minor child born out of wedlock, provided at the time of the filing of the petition (A) he has been adjudicated the father of such child by a court of competent jurisdiction, or (B) he has acknowledged in writing to be the father of such child, or (C) he has contributed regularly to the support of such child, or (D) his name appears on the birth certificate, or (E) he has filed a claim for paternity as provided under section 46b-172a, or (F) he has been named in the petition as the father of the child by the mother; (3) the guardian or any other person whom the court shall deem appropriate; (4) the Commissioner of Children and Families. If the recipient of the notice is a person described in subdivision (1) or (2) of this subsection or is any other person whose parental rights are sought to be terminated in the petition, the notice shall contain a statement that the respondent has the right to be represented by counsel and that if the respondent is unable to pay for counsel, counsel will be appointed for the respondent. The reasonable compensation for such counsel shall be established by, and paid from funds appropriated to, the Judicial Department, however, in the case of a Probate Court matter, if funds have not been included in the budget of the Judicial Department for such purposes, such compensation shall be established by the Probate Court Administrator and paid from the Probate Court Administration Fund.

(c) Except as provided in subsection (d) of this section, notice of the hearing and a copy of the petition, certified by the petitioner, the petitioner's agent or attorney, or the court clerk, shall be served at least ten days before the date for the hearing by personal service or service at the person's usual place of abode on the persons enumerated in subsection (b) of this section who are within the state, and by certified mail, return receipt requested, on the Commissioner of Children and Families. If the address of any person entitled to personal service or service at the person's usual place of abode is unknown, or if personal service or service at the person's usual place of abode cannot be reasonably effected within the state or if any person enumerated in subsection (b) of this section is out of the state, a judge or clerk of the court shall order notice to be given by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested, or by publication at least ten days before the date of the hearing. Any publication shall be in a newspaper of general circulation in the place of the last-known address of the person to be notified, whether within or without this state, or if no such address is known, in the place where the termination petition has been filed.

(d) In any proceeding pending in the Court of Probate, in lieu of personal service on a parent or the father of a child born out of wedlock who is either a petitioner or who signs under penalty of false statement a written waiver of personal service on a form provided by the Probate Court Administrator, the court may order notice to be given by certified mail, return receipt requested, deliverable to addressee only and at least ten days prior to the date of the hearing. If such delivery cannot reasonably be effected, or if the whereabouts of the parents is unknown, then notice shall be ordered to be given by publication, as provided in subsection (c) of this section.

Sec. 12. Subsection (g) of section 45a-717 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(g) At the adjourned hearing or at the initial hearing where no investigation and report has been requested, the court may approve a petition terminating the parental rights and may appoint a guardian of the person of the child, or, if the petitioner requests, the court may appoint a statutory parent, if it finds, upon clear and convincing evidence, that (1) the termination is in the best interest of the child, and (2) (A) the child has been abandoned by the parent in the sense that the parent has failed to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern or responsibility as to the welfare of the child; (B) the child has been denied, by reason of an act or acts of parental commission or omission, including, but not limited to sexual molestation and exploitation, severe physical abuse or a pattern of abuse, the care, guidance or control necessary for the child's physical, educational, moral or emotional well-being. Nonaccidental or inadequately explained serious physical injury to a child shall constitute prima facie evidence of acts of parental commission or omission sufficient for the termination of parental rights; (C) there is no ongoing parent-child relationship which is defined as the relationship that ordinarily develops as a result of a parent having met on a continuing, day-to-day basis the physical, emotional, moral and educational needs of the child and to allow further time for the establishment or reestablishment of the parent-child relationship would be detrimental to the best interests of the child; (D) the parent of a child who [(1)] (i) has been found by the Superior Court to have been neglected or uncared for in a prior proceeding, or [(2)] (ii) is found to be neglected or uncared for and has been in the custody of the commissioner for at least fifteen months and such parent has been provided specific steps to take to facilitate the return of the child to the parent pursuant to section 46b-129 and has failed to achieve such degree of personal rehabilitation as would encourage the belief that within a reasonable time, considering the age and needs of the child, such parent could assume a responsible position in the life of the child; (E) the parent of a child, under the age of seven years who is neglected or uncared for, has failed, is unable or is unwilling to achieve such degree of personal rehabilitation as would encourage the belief that within a reasonable amount of time, considering the age and needs of the child, such parent could assume a responsible position in the life of the child and such parent's parental rights of another child were previously terminated pursuant to a petition filed by the Commissioner of Children and Families; (F) the parent has killed through deliberate, nonaccidental act another child of the parent or has requested, commanded, importuned, attempted, conspired or solicited such killing or has committed an assault, through deliberate, nonaccidental act that resulted in serious bodily injury of another child of the parent; or (G) the parent was convicted as an adult or a delinquent by a court of competent jurisdiction of sexual assault resulting in the conception of a child except for a violation of section 53a-71 or 53a-73a [resulting in the conception of the child] provided the court may terminate such parent's parental rights to such child at any time after such conviction.

Sec. 13. Subsection (a) of section 17a-111a of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) The Commissioner of Children and Families shall file a petition to terminate parental rights pursuant to section 17a-112 if (1) the child has been in the custody of the commissioner for at least fifteen consecutive months, or at least fifteen months during the twenty-two months, immediately preceding the filing of such petition; (2) the child has been abandoned as defined in subsection [(c)] (j) of section 17a-112, as amended by this act; or (3) a court of competent jurisdiction has found that (A) the parent has killed, through deliberate, nonaccidental act, a sibling of the child or has requested, commanded, importuned, attempted, conspired or solicited to commit the killing of the child or a sibling of the child; or (B) the parent has assaulted the child or a sibling of a child, through deliberate, nonaccidental act, and such assault resulted in serious bodily injury to such child.

Sec. 14. Subsection (a) of section 17a-111b of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) The Commissioner of Children and Families may, at any time, petition the court for a determination on whether reasonable efforts to reunify the parent with the child are appropriate. The court may determine that such efforts are not appropriate if: (1) The parent has subjected the child to the following aggravated circumstances: (A) The child has been abandoned as defined in subsection [(c)] (j) of section 17a-112, as amended by this act; or (B) the parent has inflicted sexual molestation or exploitation or severe physical abuse on the child or engaged in a pattern of abuse of the child; (2) the parent has killed, through deliberate, nonaccidental act, a sibling of the child, or has required, commanded, importuned, attempted, conspired or solicited to commit the killing of the child or sibling of the child, or has committed an assault, through deliberate, nonaccidental act, that resulted in serious bodily injury of the child or a sibling of the child; (3) the parental rights of the parent to a sibling have been involuntarily terminated within three years of the filing of a petition pursuant to this section, provided the commissioner has made reasonable efforts to reunify the parent with the child during a period of at least ninety days; or (4) the parent was convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction of sexual assault, except a conviction of a violation of section 53a-71 or 53a-73a resulting in the conception of the child.

Sec. 15. Subsection (a) of section 46b-129 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) Any selectman, town manager, or town, city, or borough welfare department, any probation officer, or the Commissioner of Social Services, the Commissioner of Children and Families or any child-caring institution or agency approved by the Commissioner of Children and Families, a child or his representative or attorney or a foster parent of a child, having information that a child or youth is neglected, uncared-for or dependent, may file with the Superior Court which has venue over such matter a verified petition plainly stating such facts as bring the child or youth within the jurisdiction of the court as neglected, uncared-for, or dependent, within the meaning of section 46b-120, the name, date of birth, sex, and residence of the child or youth, the name and residence of his parents or guardian, and praying for appropriate action by the court in conformity with the provisions of this chapter. Upon the filing of such a petition, except as otherwise provided in subsection [(d)] (k) of section 17a-112, as amended by this act, the court shall cause a summons to be issued requiring the parent or parents or the guardian of the child or youth to appear in court at the time and place named, which summons shall be served not less than fourteen days before the date of the hearing in the manner prescribed by section 46b-128, and said court shall further give notice to the petitioner and to the Commissioner of Children and Families of the time and place when the petition is to be heard not less than fourteen days prior to the hearing in question.

Sec. 16. Section 52-212a of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

Unless otherwise provided by law and except in such cases in which the court has continuing jurisdiction, a civil judgment or decree rendered in the Superior Court may not be opened or set aside unless a motion to open or set aside is filed within four months following the date on which it was rendered or passed. The continuing jurisdiction conferred on the court in preadoptive proceedings pursuant to subsection [(h)] (o) of section 17a-112, as amended by this act, does not confer continuing jurisdiction on the court for purposes of reopening a judgment terminating parental rights. The parties may waive the provisions of this section or otherwise submit to the jurisdiction of the court, provided the filing of an amended petition for termination of parental rights does not constitute a waiver of the provisions of this section or a submission to the jurisdiction of the court to reopen a judgment terminating parental rights.

Approved May 26, 2000