Permanency means establishing family connections and placement options for you so you have a lifetime of commitment, continuity of care, a sense of belonging and legal and social status that goes beyond your temporary foster care placement.
Permanency for young adults who have aged out of foster care means connection to trusted adults, a community of support and overall interdependent connections.
We know that your service worker and others have talked with you about permanency and that you probably have already established a permanency goal. However, because you are approaching legal adulthood (age 18), we want you to review some basics and to think about permanency as an important part of your plan.
Why is permanency so important?
Permanency is so important, especially now, because your chances of success are much better when you have other people in your life with whom you have permanent connections.
The sad truth is that young people who age out of foster care without a permanent family are more likely to be poor, to be homeless, to spend time in jail, and to have mental health and medical problems. This is why your caseworker and others so often bring up the subject of permanency.
Permanency involves finding a permanent family and establishing enduring family relationships and lifelong connections with adults who are significant to you. Establishing a permanent, legally recognized relationship means you have permanent (forever) family connections – not just until you become an adult.
Three permanency options are:
- Reunification – The first choice for permanency is a return home with custody returned to your parent or a prior custodian.
- Placement with custody transfer – The second permanency option is placement with a relative and transfer of custody to that relative.
DID YOU KNOW?
Adoption does not require you to be totally separated from your birth parents. Unless there are safety concerns, you may still have contact in accordance with a post-adoption contact and communication agreement.
Adoption does not require you to change your name. You have a choice about keeping or changing your name.
Adoption no longer means the replacement of the birth family by an adoptive family. Talk with your service worker about open adoption and ways you can stay connected to your birth family members such as siblings, grandparents and other relatives.
- Adoption – If reunification is not possible, then adoption by a relative or non-relative is the third choice. Sometimes people say “no” to adoption because they don’t have the facts.
Even if the permanency options listed above are not achieved, we know it is very important for an older youth in foster care to be connected to at least one, and preferably several, adults before leaving foster care. These adults:
- Are individuals you can go to for advice or guidance when making decisions and solving problems.
- Are individuals you can go to for companionship when celebrating holidays, special occasions, and personal achievements.
- Should be easily accessible to you, either by telephone or in person.
- May be relatives, parents, foster/resource parents, neighbors, family friends, coaches or teachers.
- Should be someone in addition to your boyfriend or girlfriend or current worker.
As you think about who you want to connect with or stay connected with, consider:
- Who cared for you when your parents could not?
- Who paid attention to you, looked out for you cared about what happened to you?
- Who has shared holidays and/or special occasions with you?
- Who do you like? Feel good about? Enjoy being with? Look up to and want to be like someday?
- Who believes in you? Stands by you? Appreciates you?
- Who can you count on? Who would you call at 2 AM if you were in trouble?
- Who do you think of when you want to share good news? Bad news?
- Who have you felt connected to in the past?
- Permanency pacts
A “permanency pact” is a pledge by a supportive adult to provide specific supports to a you, with the goal of establishing a lifelong, kin-like relationship.
Download Foster Club’s Permanency Pact resource in order to see an example of permanency pact, learn how to develop one, and see a list of 45 supports that an adult might offer to a youth transitioning from foster care. Many of these supports will be things you may not have thought of.
New tool to make connections
Throughout your time in foster care, local departments of social services have been responsible for continuing to search diligently for relatives in an effort to establish connections with significant adults.
Since the summer 2011, all local departments of social services have had access to a web-based search tool called Accurint. This tool is designed to help your service worker find family members and other interested adults who can serve as a resource for you while in foster care.
Even if earlier searches have not found family members, this new tool may yield better results. Ask your worker about Family Finding services using this new tool.
Introduction to some key resources
Before telling you more about the Independent Living Assessment and the Independent Living Services and Transition Plan, we want to introduce you to some key resources you will find helpful.
The FosterClub is a national network for young people in foster care. The website serves as a primary tool for connecting in a safe, monitored environment. It also provides information related to foster care, including books, posters, publications and forms specifically designed for youth in and transitioning out of care. The Club also is involved in teen conferences and workshops.
An important resource, FosterClub’s Transition Toolkit is designed to help you and your team take inventory of your current assets, identify your resources and map out a plan for the challenges after foster care. The toolkit encourages you to take control and begin your journey.
This subscription-based website provides interactive, animated lessons about employment, health, money management, housing, relationships, cooking, transportation and more.
Subscription is $24/year.
Casey Family Programs — It’s Your Life. We Listen.
This website features Resources for Youth including organizations, websites and other resources designed to give you ideas, information and support for your time in care and after. It also includes stories by and about the experiences of young people who have been in foster care. Read what they have done to define their own success.