II. A. Permanency Policy
The purpose of this policy is to outline the philosophy and tasks that enhance permanency for children and youth in the care and custody of the State of Maine.
Permanency is not just a process, plan, or foster care placement, nor is it intended to be a family relationship that lasts only until the child turns age18. Rather, permanence is about locating and supporting lifelong family connections. For young people in the child welfare system, planning for permanence should begin with the family’s first level of involvement with the Department from initial CPS intervention, and be youth-driven, family-focused, culturally competent, and continuous until the goal of permanency is achieved.
Permanence can be the result of preservation of the family, reunification with birth family; or legal guardianship or adoption by kin, fictive kin, or other caring and committed adults. In addition, it is vital to promote the achievement or maintenance of other lifelong relationships, like siblings, extended family members, mentors, and childhood relationships. It includes frequent and honest discussions about permanency with youth and their families.
Permanence should bring physical, legal and emotional safety and security within the context of a family relationship and allow multiple relationships with a variety of caring adults. At the same time, young people in out-of-home care must be given opportunities, within the family and community environment, to learn the array of life skills necessary to become independent and interdependent adults. Ensuring that children and young people in foster care have both permanent relationships AND life-skills for independence is critical for the future well-being of youth in care.
IV PRACTICE MODEL
We believe that children’s needs are best served in a family that is committed to the child. We support placements that promote family, sibling and community connections, and encourage healthy social development.
V LEGAL BASE
Title 22 MRSA §4041 Family Reunification
Title 22 MRSA §4038-B Permanency Plans
Title 22 MRSA §4050 Termination of Parental Rights
Permanency: A safe, committed, loving relationship that is intended to last forever between a young person and adult* where the young person receives consistent emotional support, nurturing and acceptance based on trust and respect, providing for the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of the young person, offering legal rights and social status of full family membership, while assuring lifelong connections with the young person’s extended family, siblings and other significant relationships in the young person’s life.
(*This can include birth family, extended kin, friends, foster and adoptive parents and/or other caring adults identified by the youth)
Sibling: Sibling means one of two or more individuals having at least one common parent, or the individual would have been considered a sibling of the child under State/Tribal law but for a termination or other disruption of parental rights, such as death of a parent.
Young Person/Young People/Child: These terms will be used interchangeably in this policy to encompass the full range of children and youth that are involved with the Department. Permanency strategies ought to be employed with children and youth of all ages, as permanency is a priority for all in care.
VII PROCEDURE STATEMENT
All, actions, programs, practices, services and supports should be developed and implemented in ways that:
1. Recognize that every young person is entitled to a permanent family relationship and demonstrate that the agency is committed to achieving that goal.
2. Are driven by the young people themselves, recognizing that young people are the best source of information about their own strengths and needs.
3. Are established in full partnership with young people’s families, the agency, and multiple systems in the effort to identify and support permanent relationships, and regarding decision-making and planning for young people’s futures.
4. Acknowledge that permanence includes: a stable, healthy and lasting living situation within the context of a family relationship with at least one committed adult; reliable, continuous and healthy connections with siblings, birth parents, extended family and a network of other significant adults; and education and/or employment, life skills, supports and services.
5. Begins with initial CPS intervention. Efforts to achieve timely permanency through reunification with the young person’s birth family must begin as soon as the young person is in contact with the Department, while concurrently planning with family involvement regarding the range of permanency options that can ensure stability and continuity of relationships if continued out-of-home placement is needed.
6. Honor the cultural, racial, ethnic, linguistic, and religious/spiritual backgrounds of young people and their families and respect differences in sexual orientation and gender identity.
7. Recognize and build upon the strengths and resilience of young people, their parents, their families, and other significant adults.
8. Ensure that services and supports are provided in ways that are fair, responsive, timely and accountable to young people and their families, and do not stigmatize them, their families or their caregivers.
Involvement of family as soon as possible in permanency planning could lead to quicker and more stable permanency. Finding and notifying extended family of children who come into care can ensure stability and continuity of relationships if continued out-of-home placement is required. In compliance with federal guidelines, the state must exercise due diligence to identify and provide notice to all adult relatives within 30 days of removal from a home. Examples of relatives to be notified:
•Parents of siblings who have legal custody of that sibling
•Maternal AND paternal grandparents AND great- grandparents;
•Maternal AND paternal aunts and uncles AND great- aunts and great uncles;
•Step-parents of the children;
•Adult siblings of the child;
•Adoptive parents of a child who sibling enters custody at a later date.
Permanency Plans must be a part of the case/child planning process and are routinely reviewed by the court. Mandated permanency planning hearings shall determine a permanency plan within the earlier of:
A. Thirty days after a court order to cease reunification; and
B. Twelve months after the time a child is considered to have entered foster care. A child is considered to have entered foster care on the date of the first judicial finding that the child has been subjected to child abuse or neglect or on the 60th day after removal of the child from home, whichever occurs first.
C. Completed within Family Team Meetings 60 days prior to the Mandated Permanency hearing. (In compliance with the FTM/FFTM policy)
A permanency plan in Maine statute must contain determinations on the following issues:
A. The permanency plan must determine whether and when, if applicable, the child will be:
(1) Returned to a parent.
(2) Placed for adoption, in which case the department shall file a petition for termination of parental rights;
(3) Cared for by a permanency guardian,
(4) Placed with a fit and willing relative; or
(5) Placed in another planned permanent living arrangement. The District Court may adopt another planned permanent living arrangement as the permanency plan for the child only after the child has turned 16 and the department has documented to the court a compelling reason for determining that it would not be in the best interests of the child to be returned home, be referred for termination of parental rights or be placed for adoption, be cared for by a permanency guardian or be placed with a fit and willing relative.
B. In the case of a child placed outside the state in which the parents of the child live, the permanency plan must determine whether the out-of-state placement continues to be appropriate and in the best interests of the child.
C. In the case of a child who is 14 years of age or older, the permanency plan must determine the services needed to assist the child to make the transition from foster care to independent living.
D. Wishes of child. The District Court shall consider the wishes of a child in making a determination related to permanency and ensure the child has opportunity to participate in the permanency hearing if the child chooses.
To develop an effective and comprehensive system of permanence for young people, OCFS should address all six of the following components:
1.Empower young people through information, support, and skill development (including independent living skills) to be fully involved partners in directing their own permanency planning and decision-making.
2.Empower a wide range of individuals, through the Family Team Meeting process, to participate in permanency planning, beginning with birth family and including extended family, tribal members, past, present and future caregivers, other adults who are significant to the young person, other systems with whom young people are involved, and other community members identified or approved by the young person.
3.Consider, explore and implement a full range of permanency options in a timely and continuous way.
4.From the beginning, continuously and concurrently employ a comprehensive range of recruitment options. Multiple strategies must be employed to identify potential permanent family resources and significant adult connections, including a review of the entire case file, as well as conversations with multiple sources, such as the young person, birth parents, siblings, extended family members, tribal members, former and current caregivers, teachers, prior case workers, counselors, and other individuals in the community who care about the young person.
5.Recruitment of “New” Resource Families should include youth-designed, self-promoting elements, reflect the cultural, racial, ethnic, religious/spiritual backgrounds of young people, spread awareness about the needs of young people in care, engage potential permanency resources who have demonstrated commitment and concern for young people and their unique needs.
6.From the beginning of Department involvement, provide services and supports to continuously ensure that young people and their families have every opportunity to achieve and maintain physical, emotional, and legal permanence.