While under the watchful eye of the State, children in foster care are subject to rules different from those in natural households. For kids who are in the legal care of the State, Child Protective Services is an ever-present shadow. Children in care experiences can receive parent visitation at a CPS office or supervised by a foster parent. Foster families are held to the standards of the licensing agency as well as the State. Sometimes, additional stipulations put in by the courts involved.
Decisions regarding daily care, parenting, where they can travel are made by parties outside the household. Permanency, a word heard often at meetings and court hearings related to CPS cases refers to a long term outcome. From the State’s perspective, permanency for a child means a long term legal outcome that is unlikely to change until adulthood. The preference from the State’s perspective is either reunification with a parent, or adoption either by a family member or non-family member (Permanency Planning Resource Guide).
Adoption vs. Long-Term Foster Care
These two options are desired because, with reunification, the child returns safely with the natural parents. Adoption is preferred second to parent reunification because not only is it a legal, permanent outcome, but the child is considered to be a natural member of the family. Long term foster care is the least desirable outcome for a child because CPS is forever present until the child is 18 and the child may lack a support system needed during the bridge to adulthood and independence. However, permanency is much more than a place to live safely until adulthood.
What is Permanency?
The concept of permanency is related to a person’s roots, relationships and support system. Adoption is a permanent legal relationship, but is the relationship between an adopted child and parent permanent and rooted? Is the support the child will need throughout early adulthood and beyond permanent? When a child is adopted by an unrelated family, unless very young, memories of the biological family don’t disappear. The touch of a baby blanket, a TV show watched with mom may provoke memories. An attachment, a sense of home. Permanency is not a place, it is a feeling. Prospective adoptive and foster parents need to acknowledge and embrace the connections and sentiments children have with their family of origin. Those connections and sentiments can be built on and supplemented, but never replaced.
Learn More About Permanency
Along with connection and roots, permanency goes beyond a feeling of belonging. Indeed, it is also a sense of support and comfort into adulthood. Texas Family Initiative seeks to recruit and develop foster families who are sensitive and supportive to the permanency needs of children in care contact us.