§ 1-1-102. Recognition of duties, rights and interests--Legislative intent
A. For the purposes of the Oklahoma Children’s Code, the Legislature recognizes that:
1. Parents have a natural, legal, and moral right, as well as a duty, to care for and support their children and such rights are protected by state and federal laws as well as the Constitution. To that end, it is presumed that the best interests of a child are ordinarily served by leaving the child in the custody of the parents, who are expected to have the strongest bond of love and affection and to be best able to provide a child those needed qualities that make a child’s life safe and secure. Nevertheless, this presumption may be rebutted where there is evidence of abuse and neglect or threat of harm;
2. A child has a right to be raised by the mother and father of the child as well as a right to be raised free from physical and emotional abuse or neglect. When it is necessary to remove a child from a parent, the child is entitled to a permanent home and to be placed in the least restrictive environment to meet the needs of the child; and
3. Because the state has an interest in its present and future citizens as well as a duty to protect those who, because of age, are unable to protect themselves, it is the policy of this state to provide for the protection of children who have been abused or neglected and who may be further threatened by the conduct of persons responsible for the health, safety, and welfare of such children. To this end, where family circumstances threaten the safety of a child, the state’s interest in the welfare of the child takes precedence over the natural right and authority of the parent to the extent that it is necessary to protect the child and assure that the best interests of the child are met.
B. It is the intent of the Legislature that the Oklahoma Children’s Code provide the foundation and process for state intervention into the parent-child relationship whenever the circumstances of a family threaten the safety of a child and to properly balance the interests of the parties stated herein. To this end, it is the purpose of the laws relating to children alleged or found to be deprived to:
1. Intervene in the family only when necessary to protect a child from harm or threatened harm;
2. Provide expeditious and timely judicial and agency procedures for the protection of the child;
3. Preserve, unify, and strengthen the family ties of the child whenever possible when in the best interests of the child to do so;
4. Recognize that the right to family integrity, preservation or reunification is limited by the right of the child to be protected from abuse and neglect;
5. Make reasonable efforts to prevent or eliminate the need for the removal of a child from the home and make reasonable efforts to return the child to the home unless otherwise prescribed by the Oklahoma Children’s Code;
6. Recognize that permanency is in the best interests of the child;
7. Ensure that when family rehabilitation and reunification are not possible, the child will be placed in an adoptive home or other permanent living arrangement in a timely fashion; and
8. Secure for each child the permanency, care, education, and guidance as will best serve the spiritual, emotional, mental and physical health, safety, and welfare of the child.
C. Whenever it is necessary for a child to be placed outside the home pursuant to the Oklahoma Children’s Code, it is the intent of the Legislature that:
1. Each child shall be assured the care, guidance, and supervision in a permanent home or foster home that will serve the best interests of the child including, but not limited to, the development of the moral, emotional, spiritual, mental, social, educational, and physical well-being of the child;
2. When a child is placed in foster care, the foster parent shall be allowed to consider the child as part of the family;
3. Whenever possible siblings shall be placed together and when it is not possible efforts shall be made to preserve the relationships through visitation and other methods of communication; and
4. Permanent placement is achieved as soon as possible.
D. A foster parent or group home where a child is placed has a recognizable interest in the familial relationship that the foster parent or group home establishes with a foster child and shall therefore be considered an essential participant with regard to decisions related to the care, supervision, guidance, rearing, and other foster care services to the child.
E. It is the intent of the Legislature that the paramount consideration in all proceedings within the Oklahoma Children’s Code is the best interests of the child.