(a) An order placing or continuing the placement of a juvenile in the custody or placement responsibility of a county department of social services, whether an order for continued nonsecure custody, a dispositional order, or a review order:
(1) Shall contain a finding that the juvenile's continuation in or return to the juvenile's own home would be contrary to the juvenile's best interest;
(2) Shall contain specific findings as to whether a county department of social services has made reasonable efforts to either prevent the need for placement or eliminate the need for placement of the juvenile, unless the court has previously determined under subsection (b) of this section that such efforts are not required or shall cease;
(3) Shall contain findings as to whether a county department of social services should continue to make reasonable efforts to prevent or eliminate the need for placement of the juvenile, unless the court has previously determined or determines under subsection (b) of this section that such efforts are not required or shall cease;
(4) Shall specify that the juvenile's placement and care are the responsibility of the county department of social services and that the department is to provide or arrange for the foster care or other placement of the juvenile. After considering the department's recommendations, the court may order a specific placement the court finds to be in the juvenile's best interest; and
(5) May provide for services or other efforts aimed at returning the juvenile to a safe home or at achieving another permanent plan for the juvenile.
A finding that reasonable efforts have not been made by a county department of social services shall not preclude the entry of an order authorizing the juvenile's placement when the court finds that placement is necessary for the protection of the juvenile. Where efforts to prevent the need for the juvenile's placement were precluded by an immediate threat of harm to the juvenile, the court may find that the placement of the juvenile in the absence of such efforts was reasonable.
(b) In any order placing a juvenile in the custody or placement responsibility of a county department of social services, whether an order for continued nonsecure custody, a dispositional order, or a review order, the court may direct that reasonable efforts to eliminate the need for placement of the juvenile shall not be required or shall cease if the court makes written findings of fact that:
(1) Such efforts clearly would be futile or would be inconsistent with the juvenile's health, safety, and need for a safe, permanent home within a reasonable period of time;
(2) A court of competent jurisdiction has determined that the parent has subjected the child to aggravated circumstances as defined in G.S. 7B-101;
(3) A court of competent jurisdiction has terminated involuntarily the parental rights of the parent to another child of the parent; or
(4) A court of competent jurisdiction has determined that: the parent has committed murder or voluntary manslaughter of another child of the parent; has aided, abetted, attempted, conspired, or solicited to commit murder or voluntary manslaughter of the child or another child of the parent; has committed a felony assault resulting in serious bodily injury to the child or another child of the parent; has committed sexual abuse against the child or another child of the parent; or has been required to register as a sex offender on any government-administered registry.
(c) When the court determines that reunification efforts are not required or shall cease, the court shall order a plan for permanence as soon as possible, after providing each party with a reasonable opportunity to prepare and present evidence. If the court's determination to cease reunification efforts is made in a hearing that was duly and timely noticed as a permanency planning hearing, then the court may immediately proceed to consider all of the criteria contained in G.S. 7B-906.1(e), make findings of fact, and set forth the best plan of care to achieve a safe, permanent home within a reasonable period of time. If the court's decision to cease reunification efforts arises in any other hearing, the court shall schedule a subsequent hearing within 30 days to address the permanent plan in accordance with G.S. 7B-906.1. At any hearing at which the court orders that reunification efforts shall cease, the affected parent, guardian, or custodian may give notice to preserve the right to appeal that order in accordance with G.S. 7B-1001. The party giving notice shall be permitted to make a detailed offer of proof as to any evidence that party sought to offer in opposition to cessation of reunification that the court refused to admit.
(d) In determining reasonable efforts to be made with respect to a juvenile and in making such reasonable efforts, the juvenile's health and safety shall be the paramount concern. Reasonable efforts to preserve or reunify families may be made concurrently with efforts to plan for the juvenile's adoption, to place the juvenile with a legal guardian, or to place the juvenile in another permanent arrangement. (1998-229, ss. 4.1, 21.1; 1999-456, s. 60; 2001-487, s. 2; 2005-398, s. 1; 2011-295, s. 3; 2013-129, s. 15; 2013-378, s. 1.)
Last modified: March 23, 2014