NACAC recognizes that each child is an individual and therefore each situation requires careful evaluation, looking at the best interests of each child. In all placements, consideration of a child’s well-being must be paramount. The family should be selected based on the child’s needs and acknowledgment that age, race, and cultural considerations are necessarily important, as is appropriate input from the child. Agencies must prepare families to cope with the child’s physical, mental, learning, cultural, and emotional needs. Each adult who becomes a caretaker for a child should have a strong commitment to parenting the child, with an emphasis on developing a life-long relationship.
Practice and Policy Recommendations
Permanency planning must begin before a child or youth enters foster care. The first choice, of course, is to help a birth family stay intact. If that is not possible, the next choice would be appropriate relatives. Other appropriate people connected to the child or family should next be considered to parent the child or youth until he or she returns home. Finally, after a timely, diligent, and effective search, when an appropriate relative or family friend is not found, then a child or youth ideally should be placed with an appropriate foster family. Caregivers should be evaluated in a concurrent planning process prior to decision making concerning termination of parental rights. If there is no possibility of a return home, these families are then ready to provide a permanent home for the child or youth, either by adoption or guardianship. If a child or youth cannot return to his or her birth family, adoption or guardianship are the next best options regardless of the child’s age. Subsidies should be provided when they are in the best interests of the child or when required by law.
The best possible outcome for the child or youth is ensured when parallel, but separate efforts are made to: (1) strengthen and reunite the birth family; (2) document requirements for a termination of parental rights; (3) prepare the child or youth and address issues of loss; and (4) seek a permanent family for the child or youth.
An assessment of child well-being, family strengths and weaknesses, and the resultant likelihood of reunification should be performed immediately upon removal of a child or youth from his or her home. Concurrent planning should be an early and continuing process. As it becomes clearer that a child or youth is at increased risk of not returning home, additional resources should be directed to concurrent planning and obtaining a permanent home for the child or youth.