Appeal from Superior Court, Chittenden Unit, Family Division
Alison S. Arms, J.
Matthew Valerio, Defender General, and Marshall Pahl,
Appellate Defender, Montpelier, for Appellant.
J. Donovan, Jr., Attorney General, Montpelier, and Jody A.
Racht, Assistant Attorney General, Waterbury, for Appellee.
PRESENT: Reiber, C.J., Skoglund, Robinson and Eaton, JJ., and
Grearson, Supr. J., Specially Assigned
1. In this appeal, we construe 33 V.S.A. § 5926, which
provides neglected or unmanageable children subject to the
Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children the right to
a hearing before being placed out-of-state. The trial court
concluded that only juveniles whose parents' rights had
not yet been terminated were entitled to a hearing under
§ 5926. Because M.C. did not fall within this group, the
court denied his request for a hearing. M.C. appeals, arguing
that this interpretation violates his state and federal
constitutional rights, the remedy for which is to afford all
children the right to a hearing under § 5926. The State
agrees that M.C. is entitled to a hearing pursuant to §
2. We do not reach M.C.'s constitutional argument because
we agree with the State that the plain language of §
5926 affords all neglected and unmanageable children the
right to a hearing before being placed out of state. We
therefore reverse the trial court's decision and remand
for a hearing under § 5926. We also grant the
State's unopposed request to preserve the status quo
during the remand proceedings. Unless otherwise ordered, M.C.
will remain in his current out-of-state placement pending the
trial court's decision on remand.
3. The facts are undisputed. M.C. was taken into the custody
of the Department for Children and Families (DCF) in 2014
when he was six years old. He was adjudicated as a child in
need of care or supervision. In January 2018, M.C.'s
parents voluntarily relinquished their parental rights in
him. DCF has custody of M.C.
4. In February 2018, DCF sought to place M.C. in an
out-of-state residential facility. M.C.'s attorney did
not support the placement. A DCF caseworker subsequently
moved for an emergency hearing on the proposed placement.
M.C.'s attorney questioned the caseworker's authority
to seek such relief; she requested a hearing under 33 V.S.A.
5. Section 5926 is part of the Vermont-specific provisions
relating to the Interstate Compact on the Placement of
Children. It provides:
The officers and agencies of this State having authority to
place neglected or unmanageable children may place such a
child in another state. However, unless parental rights have
been judicially terminated any such child being placed in
another state pursuant to this compact shall, upon request,
be given a court hearing on notice to the parent or guardian
with opportunity to be heard prior to his or her being sent
to such other state for care and the court finds that:
(1)equivalent facilities for the child are not available in
(2)care in the other state is in the best interest of the
child and will not ...