Permanency Planning for Children and Youth: Out-of-Home Placement Decisions

By Taylor, Steven J.; Lakin, K. Charlie et al. | Exceptional Children, April 1989 | Go to article overview

Permanency Planning for Children and Youth: Out-of-Home Placement Decisions


Taylor, Steven J., Lakin, K. Charlie, Hill, Bradley K., Exceptional Children


ABSTRACT: This article advocates the extension of permanency planning" in out-of-home placements to include those children and youth with developmental disabilities. It discusses permanency planning and notes its promise in improving the opportunities of all children and youth to grow up in a stable family environment. There is a need for major initiatives in this area: 78% of children and youth with developmental disabilities who are placed in long-term care have no such protections. Though some states currently operate programs according to the principles of permanency planning, significant changes in existing federal policy are recommended to require permanency planning in federally supported out-of-home care for all children, including those with severe disabilities.

In 1978, the Children's Defense Fund (CDF) issued a report, Children Without Homes (Knitzer, Allen, & McGowan, 1978), that indicted federal and state governments for complicity in depriving about 400,000 children of the benefits of growing up in a stable family environment. In the Preface, Marion Wright Edelman, Director of CDF, wrote

At the federal level there is a pressing need for

strong leadership and legislative reform. Particularly

crucial is the passage of child welfare

legislation which would: erase federal fiscal incentives

to keep children in out-of-home care; increase

funds for preventative and restorative services;

strengthen protections for children and families; and

ensure children permanent families. (p. xiii)

It now seems apparent that the county sampling strategy employed in estimating 500,000 children and youth in substitute care in 1977 was one that yielded a substantial overestimation. Fortunately, this "error" helped stimulate good public policy. More realistically, about 260,000-270,000 children and youth were in substitute care in 1977 (see Hill, Lakin, Novak, & White, 1987).

Spurred by the CDF report, the advocacy of a range of child welfare groups, and changing perspectives within the field of child welfare, Congress enacted Public Law 96-272, the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980. P.L. 96-272 was a direct response to the "antifamily bias" and pervasive problems characterizing the child welfare system at that time. Among these problems were that: (a) more children were placed in foster care and other out-of-home settings than considered necessary or appropriate; (b) too many children remained in foster care and other settings too long and with little hope of either returning to their natural families or being freed for adoption; and (c) children in foster care and other out-of-home placements often bounced from setting to setting with few prospects for a stable family life.

P.L. 96-272 represented an important shift in federal policy away from support of out-of-home placements and toward support of home and family living. The law was intended to put an end to "foster care drift" and makes reference to "reduction in the duration of foster care for children. " As Grimm (1985) wrote about the context in which the bill was passed:

Among other problems in foster care, national

studies had documented that many children lingered

in temporary foster care placements for years, never

returning home to their parents or becoming

permanent members of new families. Congress

sought to put an end to this foster care drift by

imposing a mandatory review system upon the

states and the local child welfare agencies which

were responsible for foster children. (p. 24)

Congress mandated that for states to receive funds

under P.L. 96-272 they must comply with "permanency

planning" for children in foster care and other

out-of-home settings (Maluccio, Fein, & Olmstead,

1986). …

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