II. A. Permanency Policy
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Philosophy and Purpose:
Permanency is not just a process, plan, or foster care placement, nor is it intended to be a family relationship that lasts only until the child turns age18. Rather, permanence is about locating and supporting lifelong family connections. For young people in the child welfare system, planning for permanence should begin with the family’s first level of involvement with the Department from initial CPS intervention, and be youth-driven, family-focused, culturally competent, and continuous until the goal of permanency is achieved.
Permanence should bring physical, legal and emotional safety and security within the context of a family relationship and allow multiple relationships with a variety of caring adults. At the same time, young people in out-of-home care must be given opportunities, within the family and community environment, to learn the array of life skills necessary to become independent and interdependent adults. Ensuring that children and young people in foster care have both permanent relationships AND life-skills for independence is critical for the future well-being of youth in care.
Permanence can be the result of preservation of the family, reunification with birth family; or legal guardianship or adoption by kin, fictive kin, or other caring and committed adults. In addition, it is vital to promote the achievement or maintenance of other lifelong relationships, like siblings, extended family members, mentors, and childhood relationships. It includes frequent and honest discussions about permanency with youth and their families.
Efforts to achieve timely permanency through reunification must begin with initial CPS intervention, while concurrently engaging in contingency planning with family involvement regarding the range of permanency options that can ensure stability and continuity of relationships if continued out-of-home placement is needed. In compliance with federal guidelines, the state must exercise due diligence to identify and provide notice to all grandparents and other adult relatives within 30 days of removal from a home.
Permanency is: A safe, committed, loving relationship that is intended to last forever between a young person and adult* where the young person receives consistent emotional support, nurturing and acceptance based on trust and respect, providing for the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of the young person, offering legal rights and social status of full family membership, while assuring lifelong connections with the young person’s extended family, siblings and other significant relationships in the young person’s life.
Young Person/Young People/Child: These terms will be used interchangeably in this policy to encompass the full range of children and youth that are involved with the Department. Permanency strategies ought to be employed with children and youth of all ages, as permanency is a priority for all in care.
All policies, actions, programs, practices, services and supports should be developed and implemented in ways that:
1. Recognize that every young person is entitled to a permanent family relationship and demonstrate that the agency is committed to achieving that goal.
2. Are driven by the young people themselves, recognizing that young people are the best source of information about their own strengths and needs.
3. Are established in full partnership with young people’s families, the agency, and multiple systems in the effort to identify and support permanent relationships, and regarding decision-making and planning for young people’s futures.
4. Acknowledge that permanence includes: a stable, healthy and lasting living situation within the context of a family relationship with at least one committed adult; reliable, continuous and healthy connections with siblings, birth parents, extended family and a network of other significant adults; and education and/or employment, life skills, supports and services.
5. Begins with initial CPS intervention. Efforts to achieve timely permanency through reunification with the young person’s birth family must begin as soon as the young person is in contact with the Department, while concurrently planning with family involvement regarding the range of permanency options that can ensure stability and continuity of relationships if continued out-of-home placement is needed.
6. Honor the cultural, racial, ethnic, linguistic, and religious/spiritual backgrounds of young people and their families and respect differences in sexual orientation and gender identity.
7. Recognize and build upon the strengths and resilience of young people, their parents, their families, and other significant adults.
8. Ensure that services and supports are provided in ways that are fair, responsive, timely and accountable to young people and their families, and do not stigmatize them, their families or their caregivers.
Permanency Plans must be a part of the case/child planning process and are routinely reviewed by the court. Mandated permanency planning hearings shall determine a permanency plan within the earlier of:
A. Thirty days after a court order to cease reunification; and
B. Twelve months after the time a child is considered to have entered foster care. A child is considered to have entered foster care on the date of the first judicial finding that the child has been subjected to child abuse or neglect or on the 60th day after removal of the child from home, whichever occurs first.
Family Team Meetings must be utilized to establish a coordinated permanency plan with youth and their families 60 days prior to the Mandated Permanency hearing. (Reference: FTM Policy- Decision Points)
A permanency plan in Maine statute must contain determinations on the following issues.
A. The permanency plan must determine whether and when, if applicable, the child will be:
(1) Returned to a parent.
(2) Placed for adoption, in which case the department shall file a petition for termination of parental rights;
(3) Cared for by a permanency guardian,
(4) Placed with a fit and willing relative; or
(5) Placed in another planned permanent living arrangement. The District Court may adopt another planned permanent living arrangement as the permanency plan for the child only after the department has documented to the court a compelling reason for determining that it would not be in the best interests of the child to be returned home, be referred for termination of parental rights or be placed for adoption, be cared for by a permanency guardian or be placed with a fit and willing relative.
B. In the case of a child placed outside the state in which the parents of the child live, the permanency plan must determine whether the out-of-state placement continues to be appropriate and in the best interests of the child.
C. In the case of a child who is 16 years of age or older, the permanency plan must determine the services needed to assist the child to make the transition from foster care to independent living.
5. Wishes of child. The District Court shall consider the wishes of a child in making a determination related to permanency and ensure the child has opportunity to participate in the permanency hearing if the child choses.
To develop an effective and comprehensive system of permanence for young people, OCFS should address all six of the following components: