Permanency planning is the process of assessing and preparing a child for long term care when in out-of-home placements such as kinship, foster care or institutions. A care plan must centre on what is in the child’s best interests, and therefore requires an ongoing assessment of the child and her needs. A guardian may be appointed as a further protection of a child’s rights.
The ultimate goal of permanency planning is to ensure a secure environment with lifelong bonds that will support the child into adulthood. For most children this will be provided by their birth parents and relatives, and therefore family reunification should be the primary goal. Where reunification is not in possible or suitable for the child, adoption or Islamic kafalah is usually the next best option since it offers more stability and enables the child to develop a lasting attachment to carers.
Each child is an individual and brings a unique set of requirements. The choice of placement must therefore consider the child’s cultural and religious background, abilities and any special needs, attachments to significant people and how such relationships can be maintained, their education, health and overall development. Ideally, children should be kept close to their original communities in order help maintain their identity and to reduce disruption to their everyday lives.
While short term care such as fostering can provide a safe place for a child and time to assess their needs, it is often an unsuitable long term option since it is a temporary arrangement that is prone to breakdown. Social workers or other child protection paraprofessionals in the community must determine the use of short term care and the development of longer term plans with the full participation of the child, birth family, and prospective caretakers, providing opportunities for contact with each other, and preparing all for moves.
All placements should be monitored regularly to ensure the child is safe and his/her physical, emotional, and educational needs are met. This includes children who have been recently returned to their birth family or who are newly placed with adoptive parents. Monitoring enables the provision of family support services, and helps to reduce placement breakdown and incidences of abuse.
The resources in this section focus on the factors that should be considered when planning a child’s care, and the advantages and disadvantages of placement options.