(705 ILCS 405/2-28.1)
    Sec. 2-28.1. Permanency hearings; before hearing officers.
    (a) The chief judge of the circuit court may appoint hearing officers to conduct the permanency hearings set forth in subsection (2) of Section 2-28, in accordance with the provisions of this Section. The hearing officers shall be attorneys with at least 3 years experience in child abuse and neglect or permanency planning and in counties with a population of 3,000,000 or more, any hearing officer appointed after September 1, 1997, must be an attorney admitted to practice for at least 7 years. Once trained by the court, hearing officers shall be authorized to do the following:
        (1) Conduct a fair and impartial hearing.
        (2) Summon and compel the attendance of witnesses.
        (3) Administer the oath or affirmation and take
testimony under oath or affirmation.
        (4) Require the production of evidence relevant to
the permanency hearing to be conducted. That evidence may include, but need not be limited to case plans, social histories, medical and psychological evaluations, child placement histories, visitation records, and other documents and writings applicable to those items.
        (5) Rule on the admissibility of evidence using the
standard applied at a dispositional hearing under Section 2-22 of this Act.
        (6) When necessary, cause notices to be issued
requiring parties, the public agency that is custodian or guardian of the minor, or another agency responsible for the minor's care to appear either before the hearing officer or in court.
        (7) Analyze the evidence presented to the hearing
officer and prepare written recommended orders, including findings of fact, based on the evidence.
        (8) Prior to the hearing, conduct any pre-hearings
that may be necessary.
        (9) Conduct in camera interviews with children when
requested by a child or the child's guardian ad litem.
In counties with a population of 3,000,000 or more, hearing officers shall also be authorized to do the following:
        (i) Accept specific consents for adoption or
surrenders of parental rights from a parent or parents.
        (ii) Conduct hearings on the progress made toward the
permanency goal set for the minor.
        (iii) Perform other duties as assigned by the court.
    (b) The hearing officer shall consider evidence and conduct the permanency hearings as set forth in subsections (2) and (3) of Section 2-28 in accordance with the standards set forth therein. The hearing officer shall assure that a verbatim record of the proceedings is made and retained for a period of 12 months or until the next permanency hearing, whichever date is later, and shall direct to the clerk of the court all documents and evidence to be made part of the court file. The hearing officer shall inform the participants of their individual rights and responsibilities. The hearing officer shall identify the issues to be reviewed under subsection (2) of Section 2-28, consider all relevant facts, and receive or request any additional information necessary to make recommendations to the court.
    If a party fails to appear at the hearing, the hearing officer may proceed to the permanency hearing with the parties present at the hearing. The hearing officer shall specifically note for the court the absence of any parties. If all parties are present at the permanency hearing, and the parties and the Department are in agreement that the service plan and permanency goal are appropriate or are in agreement that the permanency goal for the child has been achieved, the hearing officer shall prepare a recommended order, including findings of fact, to be submitted to the court, and all parties and the Department shall sign the recommended order at the time of the hearing. The recommended order will then be submitted to the court for its immediate consideration and the entry of an appropriate order.
    The court may enter an order consistent with the recommended order without further hearing or notice to the parties, may refer the matter to the hearing officer for further proceedings, or may hold such additional hearings as the court deems necessary. All parties present at the hearing and the Department shall be tendered a copy of the court's order at the conclusion of the hearing.
    (c) If one or more parties are not present at the permanency hearing, or any party or the Department of Children and Family Services objects to the hearing officer's recommended order, including any findings of fact, the hearing officer shall set the matter for a judicial determination within 30 days of the permanency hearing for the entry of the recommended order or for receipt of the parties' objections. Any objections shall be in writing and identify the specific findings or recommendations that are contested, the basis for the objections, and the evidence or applicable law supporting the objection. The recommended order and its contents may not be disclosed to anyone other than the parties and the Department or other agency unless otherwise specifically ordered by a judge of the court.
    Following the receipt of objections consistent with this subsection from any party or the Department of Children and Family Services to the hearing officer's recommended orders, the court shall make a judicial determination of those portions of the order to which objections were made, and shall enter an appropriate order. The court may refuse to review any objections that fail to meet the requirements of this subsection.
    (d) The following are judicial functions and shall be performed only by a circuit judge or associate judge:
        (1) Review of the recommended orders of the hearing
officer and entry of orders the court deems appropriate.
        (2) Conduct of judicial hearings on all pre-hearing
motions and other matters that require a court order and entry of orders as the court deems appropriate.
        (3) Conduct of judicial determinations on all matters
in which the parties or the Department of Children and Family Services disagree with the hearing officer's recommended orders under subsection (3).
        (4) Issuance of rules to show cause, conduct of
contempt proceedings, and imposition of appropriate sanctions or relief.
(Source: P.A. 89-17, eff. 5-31-95; 90-27, eff. 1-1-98; 90-28, eff. 1-1-98; 90-87, eff. 9-1-97; 90-608, eff. 6-30-98; 90-655, eff. 7-30-98.)