The Chief Justice of the Trial Court Paula M. Carey solicits comments on amendments to Trial Court Rule VI Permanency Hearing   

The main purpose of Rule VI is to ensure that children and young adults that are under the responsibility of the Department of Children and Families have the opportunity to have a timely and meaningful hearing where a judicial determination is made as to whether the child or young adult is receiving the required supports to reach a permanent, safe and healthy home and a stable adulthood. The suggested changes to this rule have been made in order to ensure that Massachusetts is in compliance with the federal law, specifically Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, the Adoption and Safe Families Act (1997), the Foster Care Independence Act (1999), the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (2008) and the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (2014). The proposed amendments ensure that youth are engaged in the permanency discussion outside of court, and that judges are encouraging participation by asking the child at the permanency hearing about his/her individual needs and desired permanency plan.

One of the major changes in the Rule comes from the Federal Strengthening Families Act, which prohibits the use of Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement ("APPLA") as a permanency plan for any youth under sixteen years of age. Pursuant to the federal law, APPLA must now be described in detail and approved by the court. In deciding whether to approve the plan of APPLA, judges are required to conduct an inquiry with the child about his or her desired permanency goal. This requirement supports engaging youth in important decisions about their lives and empowering them by encouraging participation in these discussions. The Rule also includes suggested changes around youth engagement, transition planning, discharge of youth from the system, and the court’s obligation to ensure “normalcy” for the youth, by ensuring the exercise of the “reasonable and prudent parent standard” so that children are participating in age and developmentally appropriate activities. All of these changes are intended to ensure Massachusetts is in compliance with current federal law.

A copy of the proposed Trial Court Rule appears at the link below. Comments should be sent to or by regular mail direct to James Morton, Deputy Court Administrator, Juvenile Court Administrative Office , 7th Floor, 3 Center Plaza, Boston, MA 02108, on or before May 26, 2017.