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6200 Permanency Planning and Case Planning in Substitute Care

6210 Permanency Planning

6211 Overview of Permanency Planning

CPS August 2013

Permanency is the term used to refer to a child exiting from DFPS care into an appropriate, permanent setting. Planning for permanency begins the moment CPS removes a child from the home and places the child in substitute care. It is a process that does not end until a child exits DFPS conservatorship, preferably to a permanent family setting.

6211.1 Philosophy of Positive Permanency

CPS August 2013

Positive permanency is the philosophy which guides DFPS staff in permanency planning for children in DFPS conservatorship. At its most basic, it means that DFPS seeks an outcome in which the child exits DFPS care into a permanent setting which includes a legal relationship to a family. Positive permanency is achieved when children are reunified, adopted, or permanent custody is given to another individual.

Every child has the right to a permanent and stable home, preferably with his or her own family. There is no adequate substitute for stable, permanent family ties. Family ties provide the child with a sense of belonging and connection to the larger world. When a child is unable to return home safely, positive permanency underscores the need for DFPS staff to actively seek another permanent family setting for the child. If DFPS is unable to achieve positive permanency for a child or youth, then it is incumbent upon the agency to identify, develop, and support connections to caring adults who agree to provide support to the youth once the youth ages out of the foster care system.

6211.2 Benefits of Permanency from a Child’s Perspective

CPS August 2013

For a children and youth, permanency is not theoretical; it is about “belonging” and having ongoing connections to significant people in their lives. At its most basic, permanency is about assuring the child that someone will be in his or her life to provide support now and in the future.

For a child or youth, this means that DFPS staff must strive to identify an appropriate permanent family setting in which a child or youth can:

  •  develop a reciprocal strong relationship with the people who are providing his or her day-to-day care;

  •  feel a sense of belonging as a member of the family or household;

  •  develop trust in his or her relationships with others;

  •  feel a part of a wider family, friendship and community network;

  •  feel loved and valued for who the child or youth is;

  •  experience continuity of culture, language and religion;

  •  develop a knowledge and acceptance of his or her birth family and personal life history;

  •  expect that placement will continue;

  •  have contact with the people who are significant to him or her; and,

  •  understand and exercise his or her rights and responsibilities as a member of the family or household, and in the community.

6211.3 Permanency Planning Process

CPS August 2013

The permanency planning process directs services toward providing the child:

  •  a safe living situation;

  •  a permanent living situation, where the placement is intended to be permanent and is consistent with the permanency goal;

  •  a family committed to the child;

  •  an enduring and nurturing family relationship that can meet the child’s needs;

  •  a sense of security;

  •  a legal status that protects the rights of the child without the department maintaining conservatorship, whether the child is being placed permanently with a family or transitioning to independence; and

  •  a connection to a caring adult who will be supportive into adulthood during and after the transition to independent living, in the case of a youth whose permanency goal is another planned, permanent living arrangement.

See DFPS Rules, 40 TAC §700.1201

For a discussion of the policy concerning permanency planning goals, see:

6212 Permanency Planning Goals

For a discussion of the policy concerning the steps to achieve the permanency goal, see:

6214.5 Implementing the Permanency Plan

For a discussion of the policy concerning the efforts made to achieve the permanency goal, see:

6218 Documentation of Efforts Made to Achieve the Permanency Goal

6211.4 Concurrent Permanency Planning

CPS August 2013

Reasonable efforts to finalize an alternative permanency plan may be made concurrently with reasonable efforts to reunify the child and family.

45 CFR §1356.21(b)(4)

A child’s permanency plan includes concurrent permanency goals consisting of a primary permanency goal and at least one alternate permanency goal.

Texas Family Code §263.3025(d)

Concurrent permanency planning is the process by which two different permanency goals are pursued simultaneously. Each case has a primary and an alternate permanency goal. Working on both outcomes at the same time allows staff to achieve positive permanency for the child as quickly as possible. When children are in the temporary managing conservatorship of the department, permanency is expected to occur before the mandatory dismissal date of 12 months after removal (unless extended to 18 months by the court in extraordinary circumstances). For children in the permanent managing conservatorship of the department, working on concurrent permanency outcomes ensures that staff continue to seek permanency outcomes for children and youth in a life-long family setting.

6211.5 Permanency Planning for Children with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities in Institutional Settings

CPS August 2013

DFPS uses the Permanency Planning Instrument (PPI), Form 6578, to assist in permanency planning for youth with intellectual or developmental disabilities (formerly referred to as mental retardation) who reside in general residential operations (GRO). The PPI is used for documenting community placement, data reporting, and obtaining state office and HHSC annual approval for continued placement of children with cognitive or intellectual disabilities in institutional settings if no less restrictive environment can be found.

The child’s assigned developmental disability specialist completes the PPI with subsequent reviews every six months thereafter. The PPI, along with the current child service plan, is sent to the service program administrator and state office developmental disability specialist (DDS) for review.

The state office developmental disability specialist enters the PPI information into the DFPS ACCESS database so that this information and other information from IMPACT can be sent to HHSC on a six month reporting period.

For information about permanency steps associated with moving children with intellectual or developmental disabilities out of institutional placements, see the Health and Human Service Commission procedures and guidelines on permanency planning:

Permanency Planning for Individuals Under Age 18 in Institutions

Permanency Planning for Individuals 18-21 in Institutions

Texas Government Code §§531.151; 531.159

6212 Permanency Planning Goals

CPS August 2013

Federal and state laws outline four permanency goals. To provide additional specificity and clarity, CPS subdivides the acceptable permanency options into nine subsets. These subset goals are the ones shown in IMPACT.

42 U.S.C. §675(5)(C)

Texas Family Code §263.3026

The categories are as follows:

Federal Law/Texas Family Code

CPS (as found in Child Plan of Service in IMPACT)

Family Reunification

Family Reunification

Adoption

Alternative Family: Relative/Kinship Adoption

Alternative Family: Unrelated Adoption

Permanent Managing Conservatorship to a Relative or Suitable Individual

Alternative Family: Relative/Kinship Conservatorship

Alternative Family: Unrelated Conservatorship

Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA)

APPLA Family: Foster Family DFPS Conservatorship

APPLA Family: Other Family DFPS Conservatorship

APPLA Independent Living

APPLA Community Care

See 6212.51 Prioritizing Permanency Goals

6212.1 Family Reunification

CPS August 2013

The permanency goal of family reunification identifies a child’s own home as the safe and permanent living situation towards which CPS services are directed. In addition, it indicates that:

  •  CPS has removed the child from the home;

  •  CPS will provide services to the child, the child’s family, and the child’s temporary substitute caregiver; and

  •  CPS has determined that the child’s parents are willing and, after completing services, able to provide the child with a safe living environment.

Family reunification may be with the parent from whom the child was removed or the non-custodial parent at the time of removal.

Exceptions to Planned Reunification

Family reunification should be the primary permanency goal for every child in substitute care except when a court has determined that reunification efforts are not necessary due to aggravated circumstances.

Texas Family Code, §262.2015

In some cases, however, the court may also determine that no efforts are reasonable because:

  •  the child’s parents cannot be found despite due diligence; or

  •  the child’s parents have either:

  •  executed an affidavit of relinquishment,

  •  had their parental rights terminated by the court, or

  •  been part of continued reunification efforts that are no longer consistent with meeting the child’s needs to achieve permanency.

6212.2 Adoption

CPS August 2013

A permanency goal of adoption indicates that:

  •  CPS has removed the child from his or her home;

  •  family reunification is not appropriate;

  •  adoption is in the child’s best interest;

  •  CPS intends to pursue termination of parental rights to the child;

  •  a safe and permanent family living arrangement has been found or is being sought that is willing and able to:

  •  protect the child,

  •  assume long-term responsibility for the child’s care and upbringing, and

  •  adopt the child;

  •  CPS provides services to the child and the family where the child is placed until the case can be closed; and

  •  following the consummation of an adoption, the adoptive parents become the parents of the child for all purposes.

Texas Family Code §162.017

Categories of Adoption

The categories of adoption include:

  •  Alt. Family: Relative/Kinship Adoption

  •  Alt. Family: Unrelated Adoption

Alt. Family Relative/Kinship Adoption is the preferred permanency goal if reunification is not possible. If a family member or fictive kin (see 4513 Definition of a Fictive Kin or Other Designated Caregiver) has been ruled out for both adoption and permanent managing conservatorship, the next best option for permanency is Alt. Family: Unrelated Adoption.

When choosing this goal, staff must consider:

  •  the child’s particular needs and wishes;

  •  the extent of bonding and attachment with the caregiver;

  •  the child’s need to maintain family connections;

  •  state and federal requirements related to placement with relatives; and

  •  other considerations pertinent to the child’s best interest.

See:

6212.5 Selecting the Permanency Goal

6212.51 Prioritizing Permanency Goals

6212.3 Permanent Managing Conservatorship to a Relative or Suitable Individual

CPS August 2013

The permanency planning goal of permanent managing conservatorship to a relative or suitable individual indicates that:

  •  family reunification is not appropriate;

  •  adoption is not appropriate;

  •  the goal is in the child’s best interest;

  •  a relative or suitable individual is being sought or has been identified; and

  •  CPS plans to transfer conservatorship to the relative or suitable individual.

Categories of Conservatorship

The categories of conservatorship to a relative or suitable individual are:

  •  Alt. Family: Relative/Kinship Conservatorship; and

  •  Alt. Family: Unrelated Conservatorship.

Selecting relatives or fictive kin to take conservatorship is almost always preferred to selecting unrelated families to take conservatorship.

A transfer of conservatorship to a relative or other suitable individual is generally appropriate as a permanency goal only if reunification or adoption by family cannot be achieved. See:

6212.5 Selecting the Permanency Goal

6212.51 Prioritizing Permanency Goals

4712 Ruling Out Family Reunification and Adoption Before Pursuing Permanency Care Assistance

When choosing this goal, staff must consider:

  •  the needs, preferences, and attachment issues of the child;

  •  the needs, circumstances, and preferences of the family selected, particularly if the family is the child’s current caregiver;

  •  the best interests of the child;

  •  any relevant requirements in state or federal law; and

  •  court orders.

See:

6212.5 Selecting the Permanency Goal

6212.51 Prioritizing Permanency Goals

6212.4 Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement

CPS August 2013

A permanency goal of Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA) means that a child will age into adulthood while in the conservatorship of DFPS. This goal should not be selected for a child unless the preferred permanency goals have been considered and rejected, and the worker can document a compelling justification why none of the other permanency goals are in the young person’s best interest.

Social Security Act, 42 USC §675(5)(C) and 42 CFR §1356.21(h)(3)

Texas Family Code §263.3026(b)

See also 6212.51 Prioritizing Permanency Goals.

The permanency goal of Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement indicates that:

  •  the youth is age 16 or above;

  •  preferred permanency goals (FRE, adoption, PMC to relative or other individual) have been explored and ruled out;

  •  there is a compelling reason why neither reunification, adoption, nor a transfer of conservatorship are appropriate permanency goals in the youth’s best interest; for example, the youth is very close to turning 18 years of age and has no desire for a legal relationship with another adult;

  •  the compelling reason for selecting APPLA is documented in the youth’s case plan and continually updated;

  •  the safe and permanent living situation towards which CPS services are directed is the independent living situation or the assisted community placement that the youth will live in when he or she leaves CPS care; and

  •  the youth’s best interests and long term needs can best be met with this option.

Categories of Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA)

The categories of APPLA are as follows:

  •  APPLA: Other Family, DPFS Conservatorship – DFPS is awarded permanent custody of the child. The child would live in the least restrictive and most family-like setting possible (such as with fictive kin or a relative).

  •  APPLA: Foster Family, DPFS Conservatorship – DFPS is awarded permanent custody of the child. The child would live in a foster home until he or she reaches adulthood.

  •  APPLA: Independent Living – DFPS is awarded permanent custody of the youth. The youth lives in a setting other than a family setting, such as a foster group home, a residential treatment setting, or other institutional setting until he or she is age 18 and exits to an independent living situation.

  •  APPLA: Community Care – DFPS is awarded permanent custody of a youth with an intellectual or developmental disability. The youth lives in a setting other than a family setting, such as an HCS home, or an institutional setting. When the youth reaches adulthood, a legal guardian will be needed to look after the youth’s well-being.

For detailed information about the services CPS provides to prepare a youth to live independently as an adult see 10200 Preparation for Adult Living.

Reassessment of APPLA as the Permanency Goal

DFPS reassesses the selection of a primary permanency goal of Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement with each review of the child’s service plan. DFPS must continue to have a compelling reason why one of the more preferred permanency options is not appropriate for the child. DFPS documents the justification in each placement review report. This requirement is true for all permanency goals but is particularly crucial in the context of APPLA.

The primary permanency goal is changed to one of the preferred goals if circumstances change that would make the preferred goals of family reunification, adoption, or permanent managing conservatorship to a relative or other suitable individual more appropriate for the child based on the criteria in 6212.51 Prioritizing Permanency Goals.

6212.5 Selecting the Permanency Goal

CPS August 2013

Before selecting the permanency goals, the caseworker must discuss them with all of the following:

  •  The child (if developmentally and age appropriate)

  •  Parents (if parental rights have not been terminated)

  •  The representatives in the case; that is, the appointed volunteer from the Texas Court-Appointed Special Advocates (Texas CASA) ,the child’s attorney ad litem and the child’s guardian ad litem

The permanency goals should also be discussed with any of the following individuals who may be involved in the case:

  •  Child’s extended family

  •  Other significant people in the family’s life

  •  Caregiver, including foster parent or facility staff

  •  Other professionals and specialists, both those involved with the case and others who may have knowledge or expertise about the issues in the case

  •  Other CPS staff

If the parent disagrees with the permanency goal, the caseworker documents the reasons why. DFPS retains the discretion to select the permanency goal even if a parent or other party is in disagreement.

When determining the best permanency goals for a child, the worker must consider the child’s best interest, long-term needs, and existing relationships, including the child’s need for:

  •  safety, permanency, and well-being;

  •  an enduring and nurturing family relationship;

  •  life-long relationship and support from being a part of a family unit; and

  •  a legal status which protects the child without department involvement.

6212.51 Prioritizing Permanency Goals

CPS August 2013

Permanency goals must be considered in the following order of priority:

  •  Family Reunification

  •  Alt. Family: Relative/Kinship Adoption

  •  Alt. Family: Relative/Kinship Conservatorship

  •  Alt. Family: Unrelated Adoption

  •  Alt. Family: Unrelated Conservatorship

  •  APPLA Family: Foster Family DFPS Conservatorship

  •  APPLA Family: Other Family DFPS Conservatorship

  •  APPLA: Independent Living

  •  APPLA: Community Care

While this is the general order of priority, there are other factors that must be considered in assessing the goals, including a preference for existing relationships in the child’s life. Permanent placement with relatives or fictive kin takes priority over placement with persons who were not known to the child before coming into the conservatorship of DFPS.

After considering the factors that affect a child’s permanency planning goals, the worker selects the most appropriate goal not yet ruled out as the child’s primary permanency goal and selects the next appropriate goal as the child’s concurrent goal. The concurrent goal may be the same as the primary goal but with a different subset of individuals. For example, the primary goal may be Alt. Family: Relative/Kinship Adoption and the concurrent goal may be Alt. Family: Unrelated Adoption. For children and youth in the permanent managing conservatorship of the Department, there may be times when only one goal is appropriate, such as Alt family: Relative/Kinship Adoption but with the subsets (the primary and concurrent plans) consisting of two different relatives.

6212.52 Priority of Family Reunification

CPS August 2013

Family reunification should generally be the primary permanency goal for every child in substitute care who is in the temporary managing conservatorship of the department. In cases in which the department has been awarded permanent managing conservatorship of the child, family reunification must be re-evaluated as a permanency option as appropriate to the circumstances of the case. For example, if a child or youth has been in care for a number of years, the safety threats present at the time of removal may no longer be a concern given changes in the parent’s circumstances or the age of the child. In some cases, however, circumstances surrounding the case or a particular family member may indicate the need for an alternative goal, or for different permanency goals for the child in relation to different family members.

Parent’s Ability

Texas law requires that CPS consider the following factors in determining whether a child’s parents are willing and able to provide a child with a safe environment. The same factors are useful in determining whether reunification is a permanency goal that serves the child’s best interest:

  •  The child’s age and physical and mental vulnerabilities

  •  The frequency and nature of out-of-home placements

  •  The magnitude, frequency, and circumstances of the harm to the child

  •  Whether the child has been the victim of repeated harm after the initial report and intervention by the department or other agency

  •  Whether the child is fearful of living in or returning to the child’s home

  •  The results of psychiatric, psychological, or developmental evaluations of the child, the child’s parents, other family members, or others who have access to the child’s home

  •  Whether there is a history of abusive or assaultive conduct by the child’s family or others who have access to the child’s home

  •  Whether there is a history of substance abuse by the child’s family or others who have access to the child’s home

  •  Whether the perpetrator of the harm to the child is identified

  •  The willingness and ability of the child’s family to seek out, accept, and complete counseling services and to cooperate with and facilitate an appropriate agency’s close supervision

  •  The willingness and ability of the child’s family to effect positive environmental and personal changes within a reasonable period of time

  •  Whether the child’s family demonstrates adequate parenting skills, including providing the child and other children under the family’s care with:

  •  minimally adequate health and nutritional care;

  •  care, nurturance, and appropriate discipline consistent with the child’s physical and psychological development;

  •  guidance and supervision consistent with the child’s safety;

  •  a safe physical home environment;

  •  protection from repeated exposure to violence even though the violence may not be directed at the child; and

  •  an understanding of the child’s needs and capabilities

  •  Whether an adequate social support system consisting of an extended family and friends is available to the child

Texas Family Code §263.307(b)

Aggravated Circumstances or Criminal Convictions

Under state and federal law, if certain “aggravated circumstances” are present in the case, or one or both parents have been convicted of certain criminal offenses, reunification is not required and DFPS does not have to consider family reunification as a permanency goal or make reasonable efforts to return the child to a parent.

Other Factors

The court may also determine that no efforts are reasonable because:

  •  the child’s parents cannot be found despite due diligence;

  •  the child’s parents have had their parental rights terminated by the court; or

  •  continued reunification efforts are no longer consistent with meeting the child’s needs to achieve permanency.

If family reunification is not an appropriate goal for the reasons discussed above, then the worker chooses between adoption and a transfer of conservatorship as the child’s primary permanency goal.

6212.53 Adoption vs. Conservatorship

CPS August 2013

Adoption is the preferred permanency goal for all children who cannot be safely reunified with their family of origin. Adoption should be selected if the intention is to terminate parental rights and find an adoptive home for the child.

An adopted child may be eligible for adoption assistance and post-adoption services. See 1700 Adoption Assistance Program.

The choice between adoption or conservatorship to a relative or suitable individual also depends on:

  •  the possibility or availability of suitable relatives or others who could be approved;

  •  whether parental rights can be or have been terminated; and

  •  the preference of the interested family for a particular legal relationship with the child.

If barriers to adoption by a relative or fictive kin cannot be overcome, the next best option is permanent managing conservatorship by relatives or fictive kin. Permanency care assistance may be available if a relative or fictive kinship caregiver meets the eligibility requirements and subsequently becomes managing conservator of the child.

See 1600 Permanency Care Assistance Eligibility and 4610 Kinship Caregivers Interested in Becoming Verified as Foster Parents.

When adoption by a relative or fictive kin, permanent conservatorship to a relative or fictive kin, and adoption by an unrelated person has been ruled out, granting permanent conservatorship to an unrelated individual is the next best option.

For a discussion about the differences between adoption and permanent managing conservatorship, see the brochure Adoption or Permanent Managing Conservatorship. Also consider 4712 Ruling Out Family Reunification and Adoption Before Pursuing Permanency Care Assistance. For issues concerning adoption assistance and transferring permanent managing conservatorship to a caregiver, see 1711.8 When Adoption Assistance Is Not Available (Transferring Permanent Managing Conservatorship).

6212.54 Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement

CPS August 2013

Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA) is the least preferred permanency goal. APPLA should be the youth’s primary permanency goal only when a youth is 16 and above and where there is a compelling justification for why none of the other goals are in the youth’s best interest.

Selection Criteria for APPLA

CPS selects Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement as a youth or young adult’s permanency-planning goal when CPS:

  •  has removed the youth or young adult from his or her home to protect him or her from abuse or neglect;

  •  has ruled out all other preferred permanency goals;

  •  has identified or is seeking a family or other caring adult to make a permanent commitment to support the youth or young adult, but that adult does not want to assume legal custody of the youth, and either:

  •  prepares the youth or young adult to live independently when he or she ages out and leaves care as an adult, or

  •  makes arrangements for the youth or young adult to live with assistance in a community setting that can care for his or her special needs in adulthood.

Identifying Support of a Family or Other Caring Adult

Staff work with the youth to identify a family or other caring adult for the youth with whom he or she can identify and have a sense of belonging. The family or caring adult must offer a safe, parental relationship and be supportive of the youth’s aging-out-of-care needs. Such families or adults may include:

  •  the youth’s biological family, relatives, or extended family;

  •  the current or a former foster family;

  •  a sponsor or mentor’s family; or

  •  a faith-based support family.

6213 Factors to Consider When Planning for Permanency

CPS August 2013

Working With Family of Origin

To the extent possible, DFPS tries to keep or place each child with people whom the child has known all his or her life, rather than placing the child with strangers. Because relatives and fictive kin are usually in a better position to meet a child’s needs for belonging, stability, and continuity of care than unrelated caregivers, DFPS ordinarily gives relatives more consideration for permanent placement (either by adoption or permanent conservatorship) than adoption by strangers, alternative long-term care, and adult living. Decisions regarding placement with relatives or fictive kin should be based on the relative or fictive kin caregiver’s capacity to protect the child from safety threats.

Working Collaboratively

To achieve permanency as quickly as possible, DFPS staff collaborate with the child’s parents, relatives, caregivers, and others involved with the child’s case.

Because effective communication is crucial, DFPS staff:

  •  engage the parents in the family assessment, and in service planning for the family and the child, as soon as possible;

  •  are specific in describing what the parents must do, and ensure that the parents understand what is expected;

  •  offer tangible support services that address:

  •  the child’s permanency and well-being needs in the child’s service plan ; and

  •  the safety threats, child vulnerability and parental protective capacity in the family’s service plan;

  •  address any special needs related to the family’s ethnicity, cultural background, disabilities, and so forth;

  •  involve other people who can help support the parents (such as relatives, friends, or church members);

  •  establish time frames;

  •  ensure that the parents know how to reach the worker; and

  •  treat case conferences, case plan reviews, and court hearings as opportunities to:

  •  review progress toward reducing safety threats,

  •  build parental, relative or fictive kin’s protective capacities,

  •  assess the family’s progress, and

  •  reconsider options.

Duration of Child’s Time in Conservatorship of DFPS

DFPS strives to keep every child and youth’s stay in DFPS conservatorship as brief as possible. To this end, workers follow the guidelines specified below:

1.   Every child or youth’s caseworker must periodically review the original reasons for the child or youth’s removal, and the situation that currently exists. The crucial question is if the safety threats can be managed by the parent’s protective capacities to allow the child to return to a safe home, and not if the parents have completed all the services and achieved goals specified in the family’s service plan. If the parents can ensure the safety of the child or youth, the child or youth can return home. If necessary, the parents can continue to work on their service plan with the child or youth in the home.

      In some cases, the parents will need support services and an effective safety plan for the child to return home. In other cases, an older child or youth’s vulnerability may have been reduced during his or her stay in out-of-home care; with reduced safety threats and increased parental protective capacities, the older child or youth may be able to return home.

2.   If parents have made significant progress in reducing safety threats and increasing their protective capacities in the first five months of the case, the case must be staffed with the supervisor and program director at the fifth month to discuss possible family reunification planning. See 6212.1 Family Reunification.

3.   If parents have not made significant progress in reducing the safety threats and improving their protective capacities in the first five months for the child to return home, the worker staffs the case with the supervisor regarding a possible change of the permanency goal.

4.   If a final order has been entered and the child or youth is in the permanent managing conservatorship of DFPS (with or without termination of parental rights), the caseworker must continually re-evaluate the child or youth’s circumstances, and address challenges and barriers to the child or youth achieving his or her permanency goals.

Staying Focused on Permanency

During the life of the case, events occur which may have direct or indirect impact on the achievement of permanency goals. The following is a non-exhaustive list of factors to consider:

  •  Whenever possible, try to keep a child or youth’s placement from breaking down. Transferring children to new caregivers tends to disrupt their progress towards achieving permanency.

  •  If a child or youth’s placement does break down, make sure that decisions about the child’s next placement address the child’s need for a safe, permanent home. If possible, the child or youth’s next placement should represent a step towards achieving permanency.

  •  When a child’s progress towards achieving permanency appears to be stalled, involve the program director in the case (or anyone else who may be helpful) to identify the obstacles to achieving permanency, and to specify tasks and time frames for overcoming them.

  •  Caseworkers must always remain aware that children and youth entering into DFPS conservatorship are victims of child abuse and maltreatment. A child or youth’s ability to cope with trauma varies from one individual to another. A child or youth’s resilience to trauma and how the needs of the child or youth are met have a direct impact on permanency outcomes.

  •  In the same vein, when a case appears to be stalled in court, confer with the attorney representing DFPS in the case to look for ways to bring it to a conclusion.

  •  Periodically update a child’s key tests and assessments to make sure the child’s needs are accurately identified and addressed.

  •  Children must attend court reviews unless specifically excused by the court. Participation by electronic means such as telephone, video conferencing, or Skype may be employed if there is a prohibitive distance from the child’s placement and the court location.

6214 The Permanency Plan

CPS August 2013

All children receiving services, whether in family-based safety service or in conservatorship, have a permanency plan. It consists of:

  •  the primary permanency planning goal for the child and, in the case of a child for whom DFPS has been appointed temporary or permanent managing conservator, one or more alternate permanency planning goals. See 6211.4 Concurrent Permanency Planning;

  •  the specific steps to be taken to achieve the goal or goals, with responsibilities and timeframes established for taking those steps; and

  •  a discussion of the efforts made to achieve the goal or goals.

DFPS Rules, 40 TAC §700.1202

The permanency plan must initially be established in the development of the child’s or family’s service plan. The plan is reviewed at several different points in a case as part of DFPS’s regular review of the child’s or family’s service plan, and in the court hearings regarding permanency and placement review.

If the permanency plan is reviewed and determined to be inappropriate based on changing circumstances, the permanency plan must be changed and the child’s or family’s service plan must be updated to reflect the new permanency plan.

DFPS Rules, 40 TAC §700.1205(a)(b)

As noted in the reference above, the permanency plan addresses the specific steps that are needed to pursue the identified permanency goal for the child. It is developed in the case plan, which consists of the child and family plans of service.

Reasonable Efforts

DFPS is required to make reasonable efforts to place the child in a timely manner in accordance with the permanency plan, and to complete whatever steps are necessary to finalize the permanent placement of the child. In the permanency and placement court review hearings, the court determines whether the department has made reasonable efforts to finalize the permanency plan that is in effect for the child. This determination is required by federal law.

Social Security Act, Title IV-E, §471(a)(15)(B)(ii) and (C), §475(5)(C)

45 CFR §1356.21(b)(2)

Texas Family Code,§§263.306 and 263.503

6214.1 Developing the Permanency Plan

CPS August 2013

In developing a permanency plan for a child, staff identify specific steps to achieve the identified permanency goal. Since these are considered part of the permanency plan for the child, the presentation of the child’s permanency plan includes a discussion of the specific steps needed to achieve the goal. See 6212 Permanency Planning Goals.

These specific steps are also considered part of the case planning process. For further information about case planning see 6240 Case Planning.

Staff need to address the following areas in order to develop an appropriate permanency plan for the child:

  •  What the parents need or want to be able to safely maintain the child in the home

  •  What the relatives or extended family members may need or want to care for the child on a permanent basis

  •  What the child needs or wants to be able to return to the care of the parents.

  •  What the child needs or wants to be placed in the care of a relative or fictive kin.

  •  What the child’s caretaker needs or wants to care for the child on a long term basis and what the caretaker needs to support the permanency goal for the child

  •  What can be done to identify a caring adult

In order to develop an adequate permanency plan, staff must gather information from a variety of sources utilizing appropriate methods to:

  •  assess the child and the family’s needs, wishes, strengths, and problems;

  •  reach out to the child, the child’s family, and the child’s extended family as appropriate;

  •  develop relationships and rapport as circumstances warrant;

  •  gather sufficient information about the child and the family;

  •  assess the extended family for their strengths, needs, supports, wishes, and problems;

  •  obtain additional assessments as needed; and

  •  learn and stay knowledgeable about the resources and services that are needed and that are available in the community for children and families.

From this information, staff develop a permanency plan and service plan with the child and family, with appropriate tasks for those involved and identified time frames.

6214.2 Documenting the Permanency Plan

CPS August 2013

The permanency plan is documented in the:

  •  child’s service plan;

  •  family’s service plan, if a family stage is open;

  •  permanency progress report to the court when a child is in temporary conservatorship; and

  •  placement review report when a child is in permanent managing conservatorship.

DFPS Rules, 40 TAC §700.1206

The date of the permanency goal is the date that the child’s service plan is approved in IMPACT. When the permanency plan changes, the child and family service plans must be updated within 30 days from the date of the change. Court reports must reflect the permanency plan in effect when the court report is due. If the permanency plan is changed at a court review, the plans of service must be updated to reflect the change.

For information about the initial family and child’s service plan, see:

6251 The Child’s Service Plan

6252 The Family’s Service Plan

For information about service plan reviews, see:

6260 Case Review

For information about the Permanency Hearing Court Reports and the Placement Review Hearing Court Reports, see:

5530 Permanency Hearings for Children Under Temporary DFPS Conservatorship

5580 Placement Review Hearings for Children Under Permanent DFPS Conservatorship

6214.3 Approving the Permanency Plan

CPS August 2013

The permanency plan is approved by the supervisor when the family’s service plan and child’s service plan is approved in IMPACT. If the goal is Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA), the program director approves the child’s service plan in IMPACT initially and annually thereafter. APPLA is a primary permanency plan only for youth who are age 16 or above. The court reviews and approves the permanency plan at every permanency and placement review hearing.

Children With Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities in Institutional Settings

For children with intellectual or developmental disabilities in foster care who are placed in institutional settings, additional approvals for permanency planning are required. See 6211.5 Permanency Planning for Children with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities in Institutional Settings.

6214.4 Presenting the Permanency Plan to the Court

CPS August 2013

Depending on the legal status, the permanency plan is submitted to the court through three different methods:

  •  In the family’s service plan, which is filed with the court before the status hearing

  •  In the court report for all permanency review hearings when DFPS has temporary managing conservatorship

  •  In the court report for all placement review hearings when DFPS has permanent managing conservatorship

Court Review and Determination

The caseworker submits the permanency plan to the court using one of the methods described above, ensuring that the court reviews the plan at regular intervals. The court then makes a determination at every permanency hearing that DFPS is making reasonable efforts to finalize the permanency plan.

Social Security Act, 42 USC §675(5)c

Texas Family Code §§263.102; 263.304(a); 263.306(b); 263.503

6214.5 Implementing the Permanency Plan

CPS August 2013

To assist with implementing the permanency plan, the worker may also consult with a variety of professionals and community resources that can assist with the steps necessary to achieve the permanency goal.

Examples of specific action that may be needed to implement the permanency plan are:

  •  referring parents for testing, counseling, parenting classes, alcohol or drug addiction rehabilitation services, or other specific services;

  •  meeting with parents on a regular basis to discuss ongoing issues;

  •  facilitating frequent parent-child visits and modeling parenting skills as necessary;

  •  arranging for siblings to maintain frequent contact;

  •  completing home studies on families for potential, long-term placement;

  •  helping a relative find resources to be able to support a child;

  •  making specific adoption recruitment efforts (such as registering children on adoption exchanges, making presentations, or setting up media events);

  •  preparing cases for termination so that children can be adopted;

  •  developing specific steps and resources to help a 17-year-old prepare for adult living;

  •  placing a child on a Medicaid Waiver list;

  •  sharing case information with other state and private agencies to obtain long-term services or find families; and

  •  identifying steps for relatives or kin to become verified foster care placements for possible preparation for permanency care assistance.

Activities such as these are examples of the reasonable efforts staff are required to make to achieve or finalize the identified permanency goal.

6214.6 Changing or Revising the Permanency Plan

CPS August 2013

The permanency goals are reviewed when the child’s service plan is evaluated and updated, during permanency conferences or family group conferences, permanency and placement hearings, and as needed. The permanency plan must be reviewed no less than every 180 days.

DFPS Rules, 40 TAC §700.1205

As a result of the review of the permanency plan, the worker modifies or changes the permanency plan for a child as required by the circumstances and the needs of the child, if the child is in temporary managing conservatorship or permanent managing conservatorship. The length of time to achieve potential permanency goals must be considered.

The court enters final orders before the one-year anniversary of the child entering DFPS conservatorship (or no later than 18 months if the court grants an extension for extraordinary circumstances). The worker should give careful consideration to this timetable when identifying appropriate permanency goals.

For Temporary Managing Conservatorship Legal Status

The worker is working a case with a primary goal of family reunification and a concurrent goal of adoption by relative. If after five months the parents are unable to make the necessary behavior changes to provide a safe home for the child, the worker establishes a new primary goal which may have previously been the concurrent goal, or may be another goal based on the circumstances of the case at that time.

For Permanent Managing Conservatorship Legal Status

The worker is working a case with the primary goal of adoption by a relative or fictive kin and a concurrent goal of transferring permanent managing conservatorship to the relative or fictive kin. If after six months the relative becomes unable to provide a permanent living situation due to unforeseen circumstance, and there are no other appropriate relatives or fictive kin, the permanency goals should then be revised to a primary goal of unrelated adoption and a concurrent goal of conservatorship to other suitable individual.

6215 Specific Steps to Meet Time Frames for Permanent Family Placements

CPS August 2013

Staff must make every effort to place children in permanent family placements within 12 months from the date a child enters care. The case is dismissed at the 12 month mark unless the court finds extraordinary circumstances and extends the deadline for up to six months.

Steps for Meeting Required Timeframes

To obtain dismissal or permanent orders 12 months from the date DFPS was named temporary managing conservator, staff:

  •  start services for families as soon as possible after removal;

  •  engage families early and help them understand the need for timely progress;

  •  locate, notify and, as applicable, study all maternal and paternal grandparents and other relatives as quickly as possible;

  •  ask all parents and available family members about the child’s possible Native American or Alaskan Eskimo heritage;

  •  clearly outline tasks to be completed by the parents as part of the family’s service plan and describe how progress is to be measured;

  •  request that the court order specifically incorporate the Family Plan of Service and order the parents to comply with the plan;

  •  complete the family’s service plan shortly after the adversary hearing (within 30 days of initial placement) based on the discussions with the family and the court orders, ensuring that families receive copies quickly;

  •  complete diligent searches and service on absent parents;

  •  make effective use of placements for permanency, using dual verified foster and adopt homes and legal risk placements, when appropriate, and seek to have children in permanent placements within 12 months after they come into care;

  •  work with the families to ensure they are getting the help they need, encouraging them in their efforts, and monitoring and evaluating their progress;

  •  re-evaluate the permanency goal by the time a child has been in care for five months;

  •  engage in concurrent planning from the beginning of the case;

  •  file for termination early so that the merits hearing can be held and completed by the 12-month mark from the time DFPS received TMC (or up to the 18-month mark if the court has approved the extension for extraordinary circumstances);

  •  look for legal risk or adoptive placements as soon as adoption becomes a primary or concurrent permanency goal, if a permanent placement has not been identified;

  •  maintain appropriate recruitment efforts, if a permanent family has not been identified; and

  •  request records be redacted by the Records Management Group (RMG) for children who are free for adoption.

During the permanency and placement review hearings CPS must report to the court all efforts made to achieve the permanency goals.

6216 Specific Steps when a Child’s Permanent Placement Involves the Department Maintaining Conservatorship

CPS August 2013

If the permanency goal is Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement with a foster family or other family arrangement with the department maintaining conservatorship, staff take steps to review and consider other permanency options that would not involve the department maintaining conservatorship. Such steps may include:

  •  re-contacting relatives to review their interest and circumstances;

  •  revisiting the parent’s situation to determine if the safety threats are controlled;

  •  identifying or strengthening support systems that could assist a parent or relative in caring for a child;

  •  meeting with the attorneys that represent the department to see if grounds for termination exist that could be successfully prosecuted in court; or

  •  setting up special case meetings to review options and develop strategies.

Consistent reviewing of other permanency options assists in ensuring that any permanency goal that includes the department as permanent managing conservator is absolutely necessary and justified, and that no other goal is feasible or possible.

6217 Permanency Roundtables (PRT)

CPS August 2013

Permanency roundtables (PRT) were created to improve permanency outcomes and facilitate discussions regarding permanency for children and youth in the permanent managing conservatorship (PMC) of DFPS. A permanency roundtable is an internal case consultation attended by CPS permanency experts who come together in a structured and supportive meeting to develop a child specific permanency action plan. The goal of the action plan is to develop strategies designed to exit a child to a family through family reunification, adoption, or a transfer of custody to a family member or fictive caregiver as well as improve lifelong connections to caring adults and family members.

The roundtable key players include a permanency practitioner who facilitates the roundtable and tracks the action plan every month, a permanency consultant whose role is to focus exclusively on permanency for the youth, a master practitioner who is the agency policy and practice expert, a scribe who captures the discussion on the permanency action plan, and the youth’s caseworker and supervisor. The case selection criteria include children and youth over the age of six who:

  •  are in the permanent managing conservatorship of DFPS;

  •  are not in their intended to be permanent placements;

  •  have been in care the longest; and

  •  are a part of a sibling group.

Priority is given to children and youth of color.

6218 Documentation of Efforts Made to Achieve the Permanency Goal

CPS August 2013

The permanency plan addresses the efforts made by the department to pursue the goal of permanency.

Staff document DFPS’s efforts to achieve permanency for a child in the:

  •  reviews of the child’s service plan (see 6260 Case Plan Review);

  •  Permanency Progress Report, which is completed for permanency hearings (see 5530 Permanency Hearings for Children Under Temporary DFPS Conservatorship); and

  •  Placement Review Report, which is completed for placement hearings (see 5580 Placement Review Hearings for Children Under Permanent DFPS Conservatorship).

Staff ensure that the information in IMPACT is accurate and updated promptly, particularly with respect to the permanency goal, legal status, placement information and child characteristics.

For information about specific documentation requirements for children with developmental disabilities, see the Health and Human Service Commission’s procedures and guidelines on permanency planning for individuals under age 18 in institutions and permanency planning for individuals ages 18-21 in institutions, as noted in 6211.5 Permanency Planning for Children With Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities in Institutional Settings.

6219 Selecting a Conservatorship Option That Supports the Permanency Goal

CPS August 2013

When DFPS recommends a permanency-planning goal for a child, the department also asks the court to make a conservatorship appointment that supports the goal. The options ordinarily available to the court are to:

  •  dismiss DFPS’s managing conservatorship;

  •  transfer managing conservatorship from DFPS to a relative or other suitable person;

  •  terminate parental rights and appoint DFPS, a relative, or other suitable person as permanent managing conservator; or

  •  appoint DFPS as permanent managing conservator without terminating parental rights.

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