Assessing the Context of Permanency and Reunification in the Foster Care System. Summary

12/01/2001

The priority of child welfare agencies is to provide safe and permanent environments for children. The best way to accomplish this goal is to balance the needs of children and their families. These needs often conflict, creating inherent tensions at all levels of the service delivery system. While the tensions can be frustrating and even confusing, it must be recognized that the tensions are intrinsic to the problems being addressed. The challenge is to learn to successfully manage the tensions and use them as a vehicle for positive change. New policies are creating environments that emphasize child safety. Yet, programmatic efforts are being developed to try to balance the needs of children and their families. It will be very important to track the effects of policy changes on child, family, and system outcomes. Some of the questions to be answered include:  Will reunification rates drop significantly?  If they do, will children be in other permanent arrangements or in legal limbo?  Can concurrent planning be implemented effectively and if so, is it an effective approach for permanency?  How will it impact reunification of families?  And how are children faring under the many permanency options?