"The child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love, and understanding….”
Reunification and adoption are the only true permanent solutions. While ASFA (Appendix A) and the subsequent Fostering Connections Act (Appendix B) list kin care, “permanent” legal guardianship, independent living, and Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA) as permanency plans, they are anything but. They are pseudo-permanency plans, perhaps so-named as an excuse for our welfare and court systems at having failed children in foster care.
Kin care, especially when kin are identified immediately, can be a good temporary choice. The only way for kin care to become officially and legally permanent, however, is for the kin to adopt the child. Adoption indicates a lifetime parental commitment that mere care by relatives does not.
Permanent legal guardianship is mis-named. There is no such thing. No matter what one calls it, a guardianship can be dissolved. At best one might say that the legal guardianship is “temporarily” permanent. Legal guardianship has sometimes been offered as a permanency plan preferable to adoption by foster parents, even when the foster parents and child are bonded. Bonding is ignored while blood is given preference, genetic ties considered more binding than a history of love and nurture and habits developed.
Independent living is surely not a permanent plan. To call it such is to admit failure and give up, to agree in advance that the state cannot do what the child needs. In other words, the permanency plan is to say that a permanent home cannot be found. Very few persons, if anyone, are capable of truly living independently as an adult, certainly not our vulnerable foster children. Actually, independent living is an oxymoron. That it does not work well has been extensively demonstrated in Chapter Three. Society’s resources are currently being used generously to teach so-called independent living skills. Such resources could more profitably be used to find permanent homes for older youth and to reward creative efforts to accomplish this task.
APPLA has become the new goal or plan that has replaced independent living. By making the goal vague, the illusion is created that something substantive is being done for the emancipated young adult. Discharge planning would be a far more accurate and honest term.
If the state cannot find a permanent home for every child, the state can at least be honest. Cloaking the problem with euphemisms and pseudo-permanency plans only serves to make agencies relax their efforts, believing the problem to be solved by word-play. Every child has the right to a permanent home. The only permanent lifelong solutions are reunification and adoption. The state may not be able to find permanent homes for every foster child. But at least they need to be honest and refrain from labeling other resolutions as “permanency” plans.