By John DiMotto
Whenever a child is removed from the parental home, federal and state law requires that a Permanency Plan be created and implemented to ensure that a child is reunified with the child's family whenever appropriate, or that the child quickly attain a placement or home providing long term stability.
The first Permanency Plan must be prepared and filed with the court within 60 days after the child is removed from the parental home. Furthermore, the plan must be updated and reviewed by the court every six months until the child is returned to the parental home or until permanency is achieved by an adoption following the termination of parental rights.
The Permanency Plan must address:
1) The names of all of the interested parties.
2) Date of removal.
3) Description of services offered and provided to address the circumstances.
4) Basis for the current placement.
5) Statement as to availability of a safe and appropriate family placement.
6) Statement of reasonable efforts to reunite family.
7) Educational information.
8) Medical information.
9) Plan for future.
10) Goals of the Permanency Plan.
11) Conditions that must be met to ensure safe return to parental home.
12) Statement as to ability of child to consult with court regarding the Permanency Plan.
At the Permanency Plan Review Hearing, the court must consider the following:
1) Continuing necessity for and the safety and appropriateness of the out of home placement.
2) Extent of compliance with the most recent plan by agency, service providers and family.
3) Efforts of Agency to provide appropriate services.
4) Progress towards eliminating causes that prevent return of child to parental home.
5) Potential date by which child can be returned to parental home.
6) Appropriateness of Permanency Plan if child has been out of parental home for 15 of the most recent 22 months.
7) Whether reasonable efforts have been made to achieve the most recent Permanency Plan goals, including through out of state placement if appropriate.
At the hearing, the court will hear from:
1) Attorney for State.
2) Social worker from Agency.
4) Parents attorneys.
5) Guardian ad Litem.
6) Child, if age appropriate.
What is of the utmost importance is that the Agency involved in monitoring the case, in Milwaukee County it is the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare (BMCW), must make reasonable efforts towards reunification or, if not viable, a permanent placement to provide stability for the child. If the court determines that the Agency has not done "reasonable efforts", their failure to comply with their duties will result in the loss of federal funds which is provided to the states to achieve permanency.
The Permanency Plan Review Process ensures that "no stone is left unturned" in the drive to provide safe permanency for vulnerable children.
In my next blog, I will discuss the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) and its role in TPR cases.