Concurrent Planning for Timely Permanency for Children - Virginia

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Defining Concurrent Planning

Citation: Child & Fam. Serv. Man. § E(7.4)

In policy: Concurrent planning is a practice that facilitates permanency planning for children in foster care. The definition of concurrent planning is a structured approach to case management that requires working toward family reunification while, at the same time, establishing and working toward another permanency plan (e.g., placement with relatives or adoption by a relative or another family). It involves a mix of meaningful family engagement, targeted case work, and legal strategies aimed at achieving timely permanency, while at the same time establishing and actively working a concurrent permanency plan in case the primary goal cannot be accomplished in a timely manner.

It is not a fast track to adoption but to permanency. Concurrent planning should be used for all foster care cases to ensure that if reunification cannot be achieved within the time frame permitted by law, the child will still achieve permanency promptly.

State Approaches to Concurrent Planning

Citation: Child & Fam. Serv. Man. § E(7.4)

In most cases, the concurrent plan will be placement with a relative with subsequent transfer of custody or adoption. The Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) allows the local Department of Social Services (LDSS) to engage in concurrent planning while making reasonable efforts to reunite the family. Concurrent planning replaces sequential planning in foster care by simultaneously exploring and placing with possible relative options and/or identifying an approved family that can serve as both a foster and adoptive family to a child.

The desired outcomes from concurrent planning are decreased length of stay in foster care, fewer placement moves, and fewer children in long-term foster care. These outcomes help maintain continuity of care for children and, thus, healthier attachments to caregivers.

ASFA requires that once an agency has filed a petition to terminate parental rights (TPR), it begins the process of recruiting, identifying, and approving an adoptive home for the child. LDSS caseworkers should not wait until the TPR order is final to begin adoption recruitment. The intent of concurrent planning is to reduce delays in finding permanent homes for children. Caseworkers do not have to eliminate one goal before working toward another for a child.

The goal of concurrent permanency planning is to ensure that children are in safe, permanent homes as quickly as is consistent with their health, safety, and well-being while recognizing the urgency caused by the child's sense of time.

Six processes that support concurrent planning include the following:

  • Early determination of paternity so that limited resources are not provided to someone who is not the birth parent
  • Early permanency assessment, including identification of family strengths that indicate strong potential for reunification as well as indicators of weak potential for reunification
  • Early relative search and permanency assessment to determine their appropriateness to provide a temporary and a permanent home to the child
  • Service plan content that indicates the permanency-planning goal and the concurrent goal for the child
  • Match foster and adoptive families with children from families with a poor prognosis for reunification so that children have only one placement while in foster care
  • Explore voluntary relinquishment so that parents can be empowered to choose the future that is best for their child and themselves

Three practices essential for concurrent planning include the following:

  • Establish and maintain firm timelines
  • Use full disclosure, including a respectful discussion with parents so that they will have clear information about the following:
    • Reunification standards and expectations
    • Parents' rights and responsibilities
    • The importance of staying connected to their child
    • How foster care, by its very nature, has the potential to cause harm to their child
    • How a permanent placement is vital to their child's well-being
  • Factors in the family's history that may make reunification more difficult
  • The consequences of not reunifying and the steps the caseworker is taking to provide an alternative permanency safety net for the child through identification and implementation of a concurrent plan
  • Explore permanency with caregivers