§4 ch9: Permanent Outcomes for Children
9.4 Guidelines for Placement Decision Making for Permanency Planning
Permanency refers to the restoration or establishment of stable, enduring protective child living arrangements and environments. The essence of permanency is Child Safety.
These guidelines must be used when conducting any administrative review, including PPRT/FST meetings, regarding the specific child.
Family reunification is generally the first choice and should occur as soon as the parents have been able to resolve or reduce the problem(s) which necessitated the child’s placement to a minimally acceptable safe level, which allows the child to return home. Reunification maintains family roots, requires few legal procedures, and is usually the least traumatic choice. Reunification refers to a safety decision to modify an out-of-home safety plan to an in-home safety plan based on an analysis that:
- Impending danger threats have been eliminated or reduced
- Caregiver protective capacities have been sufficiently enhanced
- Caregivers are willing and able to accept an in home safety plan, and
- Conditions for return have been met
Revised Missouri Statutes in Chapter 207, 210, 211, 219, 451, 452, 455, 475, 566 and Chapter 568 affect custody, placement and visitation of children under the jurisdiction of Juvenile Court. Some parent/caregiver's felony convictions may not allow the court to reunify.
The Children’s Service worker is to determine if the parent has a known criminal history, involving any of the above stated felony convictions. If the parent’s criminal history is not known to the worker, the worker is to request that a local or state law enforcement agency or juvenile officer conduct a name-based criminal history record check to include full orders of protection and outstanding warrants of each parent by using the Missouri Uniform Law Enforcement System (MULES) and the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) to initially assess whether the parent holds a criminal history. Workers should document when local law enforcement does not make such information available.
The requirements of Section 210.117. RSMo do not apply to any reunification efforts made prior to August 28, 2004. However, a case in which a parent has criminal convictions/guilty pleas that were entered after August 28, 2004 shall adhere to Section 210.117 RSMo.
The FST, when deciding whether family reunification is appropriate, should assess the child’s and family functioning and situation, especially in relation to:
- The parent’s ability to meet the physical, social, emotional, medical, educational and safety needs of the child
- The parent(s) has rectified the conditions that led to out-of-home care
- The impact on the child and family of experiences with past abuse and/or neglect
- The child’s current level of functioning and any special needs
- Level of parental functioning, family relationships, communication patterns, conflict resolution skills and children’s relationships
- The parent’s and child’s strengths, resources and potentials that can make reunification possible. Special appreciation should be given to the strengths and resources in families whose lifestyles, family styles and child rearing methods differ from that of the Children’s Service Worker or other members of the Family Support Team
- Support and/or services available to the family through natural helpers, CD and the community
- Family problems which may impede reunification, i.e., mental illness, substance abuse, domestic violence, homelessness, etc.
- The family’s and child’s willingness and readiness to be reunited; and
- The relationships between the parent, placement provider, Children’s Service Worker, and child which promote or impede reunification
- If the child has been in foster care for 15 out of the most recent 22 months or one of the other factors exist which trigger the mandatory filing of a Petition to Terminate Parental Rights (TPR), then the worker and the Family Support Team must review the case to determine if there are compelling reasons why the filing of a TPR petition is not in the best interests of the child. The procedure for determining and documenting a compelling reason finding is included in this chapter. This review should be conducted at least 30 days before every permanency hearing held under 211.720 RSMo. and at least 30 days prior to the expiration of the 15/22 month trigger date. FST meetings may also be called if there is a significant change in circumstances which may affect the identified compelling reasons for not filing a TPR petition
Restrictions on placement, custody, visitation or reunification for minors who were determined to be either a victim or a perpetrator in an incident of abuse between minors (Section 210.117 RSMo.; Section 210.710 RSMo.; Section 210.720 RSMo.; and Section 211.038 RSMo.) may present significant difficulties for workers who are working toward reunification; making placement decisions or enrolling children in Division custody in child care or in school.
The Children's Service Worker and other Family Support Team members should carefully weigh the risk of reunification against the risk of continued placement in out-of-home care. The NCFAS G+R should continue to be used in assessing the family as long as reunification is the primary goal.