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A Letter to my Child’s Birthmom

Dear Jane*,

It’s been more than 6 years since we have had any contact but I think of you often. As Ty gets older the thoughts of you are more frequent. There are so many things that I wish I could tell you. I just want you to know that Ty is the most amazing kid. He is funny and artistic, compassionate and kind, athletic and smart. I see a lot of you every time I look at him- he has your nose and your face shape. He definitely has your eyes.

He has started asking questions about you now. I try very hard to walk the fine line of honesty and discretion. I won’t lie to him about the events that led up to his being placed in foster care but I promise you that I choose my words very carefully. I have shown him all the pictures that I saved of the two of you together, he has one of them framed in his bedroom. I have shown him a lot of the things I saved for him in the memory box you wanted him to have. He has seen the items that you saved from his birth, the pictures that you gave me for him to have one day, the toys and gifts that you gave him, and some of the special things that he came to my house with like the fuzzy blanket and the stuffed dog. I still have every card and letter that you wrote to him and the ones you wrote to me as well but I don’t think he is ready for those yet. He knows all about his older brother and sister and he has exchanged letters with his sister. He thinks being adopted is really cool and he talks about it freely with anyone. You would be so proud of him.

I swear to you that he has always known how much you loved him. We have made sure to always tell him how much you loved him and how much you wanted him.  I will make sure that he knows how hard it was for you to sign those papers sacrificing your place in his life. He will know that it was a decision you made out of love. I also promise to make sure he understands how hard you tried to turn your life around, that you worked very hard to overcome the circumstances of your upbringing.

I’m sorry that you had nobody on your side. So many times I wanted to reach out to you and tell you that you weren’t alone. I wanted to tell you that I could see how hard you were working and how much pain you were in. I couldn’t at that time, it wasn’t my place and I don’t think my overtures would have been well received. We were adversaries, on opposite ends of the table. But my heart broke for you on the day of your good-bye visit with Ty. Watching Ty wave to you as you walked away hurt and I could see the tears in your eyes.

I promise you that Ty will never hear a bad word about you from anyone. I have tried hard to share with him all the good things that I know about you. I know that one day soon he is going to ask some hard questions. I will keep walking that fine line and focus on the positives. I have saved the entire case file in case he wants it later on in his life because I know, being adopted from foster care myself, how much that little piece of history will mean to him. I know that one day he is going to want to find you and talk to you and I will do anything in my power to help him. I hope that day finds you happy and secure with your own family. It wasn’t until I gave birth to my children that I truly understood the magnitude of your sacrifice or the depth of your pain. The very thought of being separated from them was more painful than I could have ever imagined before. It gave me a much deeper respect and sense of empathy for you and what you went through.

Thank you for giving birth to one of the most amazing kids I’ve ever met. Thank you for trusting me enough to raise your son. Just, thank you.

*Name Changed

How A Foster Care Placement Happens

I wanted to give you an idea of how a placement happens in my state. Most people, including foster parents, never get to see the inner workings of how a placement happens. They just get the call asking them to take placement of a child who came into care. Again, please remember that every state is different- heck every county is different. This is just an overview of how a placement happens, not why it happens.

For the purpose of this section, let’s assume that the report of abuse, neglect or dependency comes in during regular business hours at the agency. In other words, not an after hours hotline call.

The call comes into the intake line with a report of neglect. In my state, a reporter does not have the legal protection to remain anonymous. The agency has caller ID and will record the phone number of the person making the report whenever possible. The intake worker is supposed to advise the reporter that their phone number is being recorded into the report. My state used to take all anonymous reports until the system began being abused by ex-boyfriends, ex-mother in law’s, disgruntled girlfriends, etc. Obviously if a person is determined to remain anonymous, refuses to give any identifying information, and calls from a private number, there is not much the agency can do. They still have the responsibility to screen the call and investigate when applicable. However, in my experience, the report is taken with a grain of salt and the family is generally given a little bit more of the benefit of the doubt in those cases. I’m not saying it’s right, but it happens.

Once the call is received and the information is obtained, the intake worker must staff the report with a supervisor and a second intake worker. The team makes the decision whether to screen out the call as unfounded or to accept the report and proceed with an Investigative or Family Assessment.

Once the report is accepted, the next step is to assess the priority. Reports that involve allegations of Physical Abuse have 2 possible priorities: Immediate Response and Less than 24 hours response. Factors that require an immediate response include:
*Child is under age 5 or disabled [Physical abuse of a young child or a disabled child is considered high risk and requires an immediate response]
*Child is being tormented or tortured [This is considered to be aggravated circumstances and requires an immediate response, for example: child is being physically restrained to the point of injury, objects or chemicals are placed in the mouth, eyes]
*Child is in a life-threatening situation [Physical abuse can present as a life threatening situation depending upon severity, age and developmental stage of child, for example: possible internal injuries, burns requiring medical treatment, a child less than a year who has been shaken or subjected to spanking, hitting or other form of corporal punishment]
*Self reporting child under age 12 or child is afraid to go home [Based on credible threats made by parent, child’s behavioral indicators of fear, a history of abusive behavior that is similar to the current allegation may suggest a higher chance or reoccurrence]
*Child lives in a home where another child died as a result of maltreatment [Based on the potential risk, this requires an immediate response]

If none of these apply, the required response time is within 24 hours of the report.

Reports that include allegations of Sexual Abuse follow these guidelines:
*Does the perpetrator have access to a child currently being sexually abused? [Does the alleged perpetrator live in the home or have immediate access to the child? In situations where the abuse occurred in the past and the alleged perpetrator does not have access to the child, a response within 24 hours is acceptable]
*Is the child in a life-threatening situation? [Based on the child’s age and developmental status, does the sexual abuse presents a threat to the child’s life]
*Is this a self-reporting child under 12 or is this child afraid to go home? [The fear expressed is based on credible threats made by the parent; child (ren) evidences behavioral indicators of fear]

If the answer to any of the above questions is Yes, an immediate response is required. Otherwise, the response time is within 24 hours.

Reports that include allegations of neglect follow these guidelines:
*Is the child immediately at risk of harm resulting from neglect? [Based on the child(ren)’s age and developmental status, they are at immediate risk of harm. For example: leaking gas from stove or heating unit, no food in home and information that child has not been fed, substances or objects accessible to child (ren) that may endanger their health/safety, excessive garbage, human and/or animal waste which threatens health, serious illness or significant injury has occurred due to living conditions and these conditions still exist (lead poisoning, rat bites), firearms easily accessible to children]
*Is a child under age 6 or limited by a disability unsupervised? [The child(ren) is not supervised by the parent and there is no appropriate alternative plan for supervision]
*Is the child in a life threatening situation or has the child been abandoned? [Based on the child(ren)’s age and developmental status, the neglect presents a threat to life. Child abandonment is considered an aggravated circumstance and requires an immediate response]
*Is the child in a home where another child has been abused or where a child has died as a result of abuse or neglect? [Based on the potential for risk, this situation requires an immediate response. It is relevant to the screening of neglect reports to determine if the child is living in a home where another child has died as a result of abuse or neglect, regardless of whether the abuse or neglect was known and substantiated]
*Is the child in immediate need of medical care? [Based on the child needing immediate, but not lifesaving medical care, for example: child is underweight, not being fed, refusal of parent to meet child’s medical/mental health needs or treat a serious injury/condition]

If the answer to any of the above is Yes, an immediate response is required.

*Is the child at risk of serious injury? [Based on the parent’s ability to provide appropriate supervision and care]
*Has the child received discipline resulting in injury with visible marks or bruising?
If the answer to the above questions is Yes, the response time is within 24 hours.

All other reports of neglect require a 72 hour response time, including:
*Inadequate supervision
*Improper Discipline
*Injurious environment
*Lack of proper care

Those are the main tools used to determine the level of priority a report requires. There are a few others for Domestic Violence, Substance Abuse, Dependency, Emotional Abuse, and Moral Turpitude.

In my county, there were two types of assessments. Abuse cases always followed the Investigative Assessment path while Neglect and Dependency cases (not requiring an immediate or 24 hour response time) followed the Family Assessment path.

During the investigation, the social worker will use a Risk Assessment to determine the level of risk to the child if they remain in the home. The social worker will also complete a Family Strengths and Needs Assessment during the investigation.

Once a determination is made to Substantiate the report, which simply means finding that the report was true and conditions that are harmful to the child have been found, the family is either offered in home services or the agency proceeds to out of home placement. Contrary to what a lot of people believe, most children are not just yanked out of their home immediately and thrown into a foster home. With the exception of cases involving immediate risk of harm or death, cases are not decided in one day.

 A Family Assessment must be completed within 45 days and an Investigative Assessment must be completed within 30 days. Every effort to prevent the removal of the child from the home should be made before foster care is considered. Now this does not mean that a child is left for 30 days in a home where physical abuse is alleged. Most times, the agency will require the parent to choose and arrange for a temporary placement for their child in order to protect the child from further harm. If they cannot do so, the child may be placed in temporary foster care, called Shelter Care. If only one parent is alleged to be the perpetrator, the agency may ask that parent to leave the home during the investigation to prevent the removal of the child.

When the child must be placed in foster care, the investigator will hold a Staffing meeting which includes the birth family, the supervisor, a placement worker and any other people who have been working with the family. The family will be asked to provide names of relatives who may be able to take temporary care of their children. If there are no relatives available for kinship care, it falls to the placement worker to gather as much information during this meeting as possible to assist in finding a suitable foster home.

After the Staffing, the investigator will file the Petition for Non-secure custody to the court. Once the judge gives the Non-secure custody order, the child will be removed. In my county, the investigator will be accompanied by a police officer who will serve the parents with the Non-secure custody order and assist in the removal of the child. The child will be taken to the agency until arrangements are made to transport the child to a foster home. Normally, while the investigator is filing the petition for the custody order, the placement worker is finding a foster home. Usually the placement has been secured before the child is removed from their home.

That is a broad overview of how a placement happens and the different steps that are taken to bring a child into foster care.

Lessons Learned About Foster Parenting

We learned a lot of lessons during our years as foster parents, most of them were learned the hard way and some of them had really negative consequences. If you are becoming a foster parent then I hope some of the lessons we learned the hard way will help you not have to learn them on your own.

Lesson #1: Social Workers are not your friends.

This is a very important lesson to learn early on in your fostering career. It will save you a lot of time and trouble later on. No matter how nice your social worker, licensing worker or placement worker seems to be, don’t make the mistake of thinking you can have a deep friendship with them. Don’t ever tell a social worker something personal about your life that you don’t want everyone else in the office to know. And most importantly, don’t ever tell a social worker something that can come back to bite you in the rear. There is a very clearly defined line between friend and social worker, don’t cross it.

Lesson #2: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

If a placement worker calls you with this fabulous child who has no issues whatsoever and is just a delight to be around, be scared. Be very very scared. Then ask every question you can think of, including but not limited to: Why is this child in care? Is this their first placement? If not, why are they being moved? Some social workers are not above blatant lying in order to secure a placement for a difficult child and the closer it gets to 5:00pm, the more sugar coated the lies become!

Lesson #3: Other foster moms can be back stabbing jerks.

You know that old saying “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”? This applies to other foster moms. I have one very close friend who was a foster parent and we were friends before I became a foster parent. The other foster moms that I struck up friendships with ended badly with lots of tears-theirs not mine. Some foster moms like to be competitive, they will sabotage your placements, talk bad about you to social workers and they’ll do it all behind your back. Some foster moms are in this for the glory and praise, not for the kids. You’ll know this type when you see them- they always look like they manic meth heads with a perpetual smile on their face and a willingness to do anything to get into a social workers good graces. These bitches will take you down!

Lesson #4: Be very careful who you voice your complaints to.

Social workers talk. They talk a lot. They talk about you if you’re talking about them. If you have a legitimate complaint about something a social worker has done, take it to their supervisor. Don’t complain about them to their co-workers because that co-worker will immediately run to the social worker in question and spill everything you just said. It’s a fact.

Lesson #5: Be prepared to back up everything you say.

Document everything. Keep records about everything. I cannot stress this enough. This can save you a lot of time, trouble, and heartache down the line. Documentation can save your family.

Lesson #6: Know your limits but keep an open mind.

In your training class, you will be asked to decide about the type of children you are willing to accept. In my state, you are allowed to choose age range, sex, race, disabilities and behavior issues. Matt and I chose ages 0-3, any sex, any race, mild to moderate disabilities and mild behavioral issues. As new foster parents as well as full time working foster parents, we had to be realistic about what we could handle. As we got further into fostering, we relaxed those limits somewhat- we broadened our age range to 0-6 years, any sex, any race, moderate to severe disabilities and moderate behavioral issues. I would encourage you to really talk to more seasoned foster parents and get an idea of what you think you can handle. A lot of new foster parents are so excited to get a placement call that they accept the first child that they are offered, regardless of what the needs of that child might be. Plus a lot of new foster parents don’t want to say no for fear that the placement worker won’t call them again. Trust me- they’ll call you. They would much rather you turn down a placement that might be stretching the limits of your abilities than to have to move that child in 2 weeks because you discover you are in over your head.

Lesson #7: Being an effective advocate takes practice.

With few exceptions, great foster parents are made, not born. Most great foster parents started out insecure in their roles. They did what was asked of them with no questions asked, even when they didn’t think it was the right thing to do. They didn’t voice their opinions for fear of making the social worker mad enough to take the child away. Over time, they become more involved in the child’s case. They begin to offer opinions and suggestions when appropriate. They step up to the plate as the person who knows this child the best at that particular time. Foster parents live with these children 24/7. 365 days a year. Who better to be an effective and active advocate for that child? Now obviously I’m not talking about making case decisions, that is not your job. But requesting a developmental exam for a child in your home who you think is lagging behind? That’s your job. Documenting and reporting negative behaviors that occur every time a child has a visit with a birth parent? That’s your job.

Lesson #8: This is not your child.

Perhaps the hardest learned lesson of all. When all is said and done, this is not your child. In my county, foster parents were expected to interact with birth parents on a regular basis. We were required to participate within the team. We were encouraged to provide pictures at every visit. We were expected to share relevant information with the birth parents. We were also expected to respect the birth parents wishes about the care of their child whenever possible. For example, another foster mom I know had a pre-teen girl who came from a strict religious family. The family wanted that child to attend the church of their faith despite the fact that the foster family was a different religion. The foster family was expected to make that happen. There were many families that I found it extremely easy to interact with and communicate. Then there were others that I wanted no part of. It was a balancing act.

Timelines For A Foster Care Case Plan

As those of you who are foster parents or social workers know, there are a multitude of meetings, reviews and court hearings that go along with each foster child. They vary from state to state but I wanted to share the way my state does it and how the decisions are made.

Child Welfare Court Case Timeline

Day 0: Juvenile Petition and Non-Secure Custody Order filed with court [This is what gives the agency the authority to remove the child from the biological home]

Day 7: Initial hearing to determine need for continued non-secure custody which may be continued for up to ten (10) business days by consent; subsequent hearings within seven (7) business days and then thirty (30) calendar day intervals [This is when the agency presents the court with their evidence of abuse/neglect/dependency and requests that the court continue the order for the child to remain in foster care. Most of the attorneys for the birth parents will waive the subsequent hearings]

Day 60: Adjudicatory hearing no later than sixty (60) days from filing [This is when the judge hears evidence from the agency and the birth parents concerning the reasons the child was removed. The judge then makes a ruling as to whether the child should be declared neglected, abused or dependant. This ruling is very important as it determines the services that are offered to the parents and the likely length of the case]

Day 90: Dispositional hearing should take place immediately following adjudication; if not, it shall be concluded within thirty (30) days of the adjudication hearing [In my county, the dispositional hearing always was included in the same hearing as the Adjudication. The dispositional hearing is where the judge takes the recommendations from the agency and the GAL and determines what the parents need to do in order to regain custody of their child. For example- 12 weeks of parenting classes, Psych assessment and follow recommendations, Substance abuse assessment and follow recommendations, domestic violence assessment and follow recommendations, find stable housing, etc. These orders become part of the parents case plan]

Day 180: Review of custody order must be held within ninety (90) days of disposition with a subsequent review within six (6) months [This is when the judge assesses the parents progress on their case plan. The judge may add new required services based on recommendations of the agency or the GAL. Some counties do not have another Review until the Permanency planning hearing at the end of one year. My county did Reviews every 90 days to assess the parents progress]

Day 365: Permanency planning hearing must be held within twelve (12) months of initial order removing custody, and may be combined with reviews with subsequent permanency planning hearings at least every six (6) months [The one year review is typically the one where the agency either recommends continuing with reunification or changing the primary plan]

So that is the way court works. Now, we’ve covered the court hearing time line. I’m going to show you the timeline for the Agency Reviews, also called Permanency Planning Action Team Reviews. These reviews include the social worker, the birth parents, the GAL, the foster parents, the social worker’s supervisor, the court liaison, the GAL supervisor and typically one social worker from the placement division and the other 3 team supervisors.

The reviews consist of 4 parts: Summary of Case & Recommendations from last review, Issues to be addressed by team, Service Provisions and Team Recommendations.

Summary of Case & Recommendations from last review: This states the primary plan, the concurrent plan and the secondary plan. It also includes the services that the parents are required to complete and any notable information from a previous review (such as the parent refused to show up, threw a temper tantrum, etc).

Issues to be Addressed by Team: This includes what the barrier/safety issues are that prevent the plan from being achieved on that day and what it will take to get the child in a permanent home

Service Provisions: This directly spells out exactly what agency efforts have been made to achieve permanency for the child (such as referrals to parenting classes, substance abuse, developmental screenings, etc). This is also where the social worker lists the progress the parents have made towards their case plan. The last part states what services have been provided by other community agencies to help the family achieve permanency and states what other services might be required.

Team Recommendations: This is the final outcome of the review. This is the section that states whether the team decided to continue services in place, continue reunification efforts or to change the primary plan.

Review 1: Within 60 days of the child coming into custody [This review is typically scheduled for immediately(within 14 days) after the Adjudication and Dispositional Court hearing.

Review 2: Within 90 days of the first agency team review, but no more than 150 days of the child coming into agency custody

Subsequent reviews take place every 6 months unless there is a change in circumstance that necessitates a review. [In my state, a child may not be removed from a foster home (except in cases of abuse) without an action review. My family is directly responsible for this change in law. Previously a social worker could decide to move a child, and poof- they were gone. This law came about because of the catastrophic conclusion to our fostering career.]

Separate from the Permanency Planning Action Reviews are the Child and Family Team Meetings. A CFT meeting is a way to engage and partner with all the people who surround a family and to support the family in building a support network that will eventually sustain them after the case is closed. A CFT meeting is more than a way to simply show respect or “be nice” to the family; it is a way for the agency to share responsibility for protecting children/youth with their families and the community. The CFT meetings are held by the social worker with a facilitator and also include the birth family, the foster parent, the GAL, any therapists or support people working with the family and the child if they are over age 13.

Child and Family Team Meetings are required at the following times during the case:
*Within 30 days of coming into care
*Within 60 days of coming into care
*Within 90 days after 60 day meeting, not more than 150 days after coming into care
*Every 6 months thereafter throughout the life of the case
*When there is a change in the plan or family circumstance and it is necessary to reconvene the team to discuss progress

The CFT meetings are more informal than the Agency Reviews. There is more dialogue between the birth family and the agency and less pointing of fingers and blame. The CFT meetings are where a lot of the case decisions are made. I hope that gives you a clearer picture of the inner workings of a CPS case.

Different Types Of Foster Care Permanency Goals

There are only 5 possible Permanency Goals in my state. There is always a primary goal and then a concurrent secondary goal. In my state, the primary goal is almost always going to start as Family Reunification. There are a few exceptions to that rule, however. If the parents have had their rights terminated on 3 or more children and the conditions that led to those terminations still exist, they are not offered reunification services. If the parents were responsible, either directly or indirectly, in the death or serious bodily injury to another child, they are not offered reunification services. If the child is being brought back into foster care after two unsuccessful reunification attempts with the same parent, they are not offered a third reunification plan.

Each state has different ways of accomplishing permanency for the children in state’s care. Here is how my state describes the Case Goals and ways to meet those goals:

Family Reunification:
Reunification means that the biological parents or caretaker from whom the child was taken regains custody of the child. In most cases reunification is the primary permanent resolution sought, and reasonable efforts to reunify the child with the parent must be demonstrated and documented to the court. Reunification is appropriate when the parent is capable of providing minimum sufficient level of care, even when there are areas of concern. A return to even marginally adequate parents is a better alternative than years in foster care, as long as the safety of the child can be ensured.
Reunification should be considered when:
• The issues that precipitated the child’s removal have been addressed and resolved, and
• Risk to the child has been reduced to a reasonable level; and
• The parents have made changes in their behavior and circumstances that were identified as needing to change before the child could be returned safely to the home; and
• The parent has demonstrated capacity and willingness to provide appropriate care for the child; and
• The child’s safety and care in the home is reasonably expected to remain secure; and
• Supports from the agency and community are in place to assist the family to remain intact
Reunification should not be considered when the court has found that such efforts would be futile or would be inconsistent with the juvenile’s need for a safe, permanent home within a reasonable period of time.

Legal Custody:
Legal custody is an acceptable permanency option, although it does not have the same level of security or permanency as adoption or guardianship. Custody can be challenged before the court at any time there is a change in circumstances, regardless of the fitness of the custodian.
A judge can order legal custody of a child to a relative, foster parent, or other adult person deemed suitable by the court. The specific rights and responsibilities of the legal custodian are spelled out in the court order and may be as extensive as that of a guardian or limited. Legal custody is not well defined in statute, but typically implies responsibility for the oversight of a child’s care, protection, training and personal relationships.

In my state, Legal custody is literally the last resort to achieve permanency. The agency will not support a plan of Legal Custody unless all other avenues have been exhausted because there are too many loopholes in which the birth parent can regain custody of the child without the agency being made aware.

Legal Guardianship:
When reunification efforts are determined to be contrary to the health, safety or best interest of a child who is in the legal custody or placement authority of the agency, the county shall assess relative or kinship placements as a permanency option, including the child’s birth father and paternal relatives. If the family is willing to provide a permanent home for the child but is not willing to adopt, then guardianship and custody should be offered to the family as alternatives. Guardianship shall only be considered when reunification and adoption are ruled out as permanency options. Juvenile Court Guardianship assigns legal authority for the guardian to act on behalf of the child without further agency involvement, but with continued supervision of the court. The legal authority of the guardian includes:
• the care, custody and control of the juvenile,
• the authority to arrange placement for the juvenile,
• the right to represent the juvenile in legal actions before the court,
• the right to consent to actions on the part of the juvenile including marriage, enlisting in the armed forces, and enrollment in school.
• A guardian may consent to remedial, psychological, medical or surgical treatment for the juvenile.

In concurrent permanency planning, relatives and kin should be identified early and assessed for their potential as a possible permanent placement for the child. State law requires the judge who orders a child’s placement or continued placement to consider whether an appropriate placement with a relative is available. If the judge finds that a relative is willing and able to provide proper care and supervision in a “safe home,” the judge must order placement of the child with the relative. When placement with a relative for the purposes of foster care is made, consideration should be made as to the potential for that placement to become permanent through adoption or guardianship if reunification with the parent is not possible.

Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement:
APPLA means Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement. It is only an appropriate primary permanency goal for youth who are between the ages of 16 to 18, or as a concurrent permanency goal for youth ages 14 to 18.
• A permanent living arrangement for a youth age 14 or over who resides in a family setting which has been maintained for at least the previous six concurrent months; and
• in which the youth and caregiver have made a mutual commitment of emotional support and
• the youth has been integrated into the family; and
• the youth and caregiver are requesting that the placement be made permanent; and
• other permanency options, including adoption, guardianship, and custody have been determined to be inappropriate for the situation due to the youth’s long-term needs.

APPLA may be appropriate for relative or non-relative placements in licensed or court-approved non-licensed homes when the above criteria are met. The agency retains legal custody of the youth for the period of the APPLA. If the family is a licensed caregiver or becomes licensed, they shall receive standard board payments to help support the placement. If they are not a licensed foster care facility, they shall be informed of and given the opportunity to become licensed.

Adoption is the permanent plan offering the most stability to the child who cannot return to his/her parents. Factors to consider include whether or not the child is likely to return home and whether the child can be freed for adoption. In order for the child to be adopted, both parents must voluntarily relinquish their parental rights or their parental rights must be terminated by the court. The agency shall file a petition for termination of parental rights within 60 calendar days of the agency’s decision that the permanent plan is adoption or within 60 calendar days of the hearing that determines that the plan is adoption unless the court makes other findings. There must be legal grounds to terminate each parent’s rights. Adoption by foster parents is often an appropriate plan, especially if the child has developed a close relationship with the foster family. Such a plan has the benefit of providing continuity for the child with a family that they already know without requiring an additional move. Increasingly, foster families are being recruited and trained to provide foster care, to work with the team toward reunification efforts, and to be willing to consider committing to the child permanently through adoption if reunification is not possible. These parents are sometimes referred to as “permanency planning families.” Recruiting and training these families are key components of concurrent planning. Sometimes the child’s parent(s) recognize that they cannot be the permanent family for the child. When they know and respect the care that their child is receiving from the foster family, they may voluntarily relinquish their parental rights so that the child can be adopted by that family. The advantage in this situation is that it allows for the possibility that the child and birth parent continue some relationship while the child is raised by a committed and caring adoptive family.
When adoption is being considered as a permanent plan, satisfactory answers to the following questions are needed:
*Have all relative placement options been considered and eliminated?
*Has the child’s ethnic and cultural needs been considered and addressed?
*Has the best interest of the child been considered and documented?
*Are the parents willing to relinquish their rights, or is the agency ready to proceed with termination of parental rights?
*Do legal grounds for termination of parental rights exist?
*Is the child already living with caretakers who are willing to adopt?
*How soon can the child be placed in an adoptive home?
*How long will the court process take?
*Who will help the child through the placement process?
*Has a pool of potential adoptive families been recruited or is the agency willing to commit to child-specific recruitment?
*Has the child’s particular needs and strengths been thoroughly assessed and evaluated?
*Has a placement option that will be able to meet the child’s needs been identified?
*What is the child’s relationship with siblings?
*Should the child be placed with siblings and, if so, can this be accomplished?
*Is the child able to accept “parenting?”

My state is one that does not allow a child to remain with a Goal of Adoption for more one year with no progress. After one year, other avenue’s are explored to achieve permanency for the child:

*If the agency is unsuccessful in locating a person willing to adopt the child within one year, the permanency plan shall be changed unless the agency is able to justify to the court why the plan should remain “adoption”. Justification will include the agency’s progress toward locating a person willing to assume legal responsibility for the child.
* Youth who are reluctant to consider adoption shall be given an opportunity to talk in a facilitated Child and Family Team Meeting about their concerns. Other permanency options shall be offered, and the adolescent’s preferred plan should be given strong consideration whenever feasible. Adolescents who wish to reunite with their birth families should be given an opportunity to visit them under decreasing supervision, and provided with 24 hour access to emergency support should an unsupervised visit become untenable. The social worker shall work with the adolescent to process the visitation experience and to develop strategies to cope with problems that may come up in future visits.
* If a parent whose rights have been terminated has satisfactorily resolved the issues that led to termination and, along with the child/youth requests to re-establish a parental relationship, the agency shall evaluate their situation in a facilitated Child and Family Team meeting to determine whether or not the agency would support re-adoption by the birth parent.

In some cases, the child may choose to pursue Emancipation from the court rather than remain in foster care. Emancipation occurs through marriage, joining the armed forces, or emancipation by the Court. Children ages 16-18 may petition the Court for a judicial decree of emancipation. After the final decree of emancipation, the petitioner has the same right to make contracts and conveyances, to sue and be sued, and to transact business as if he/she were an adult. The parent is relieved of legal duties and obligations owed to the petitioner and is divested of all rights with respect to the petitioner. The decree of emancipation is irrevocable.

This is just how it works in my state. Other states have different timelines and may offer different services. If you are a foster parent with a question, please consult your own state’s foster parenting manual which can usually be found online.