Permanency for Children
Permanency, a safe and loving forever family, provides the foundation for a child’s healthy development. It offers safety and protection, stability and continuity of care, a sense of identity, a validation of personal importance and a legally secure environment. There are three “faces” of permanency—prevention, family preservation/reunification and adoption/permanent legal custodianship/independent living.
The ideal goal for each child is to live safely and permanently within his or her birth family. This ideal is often compromised by stressors in the home including poverty, the impact of substance abuse, physical illness and mental illness or other significant challenges. DHS invests heavily in prevention services to support families who are at risk for or are experiencing conditions that could lead to the abuse or neglect of children.
If a family does become involved with child welfare, DHS makes every effort to keep the family together through intensive in-home and community-based services. If the child is removed because his or her safety cannot be assured otherwise, the family continues to receive intensive, individually tailored services to facilitate a reunification.
When children are placed in out-of-home foster care, every attempt is made to keep siblings together and to provide kinship care, that is, to place them with appropriate and willing relatives or close friends with whom they have bonded.
Adoption/Permanent Legal Custodianship/Independent Living
When reunification is not possible and parental rights are terminated by the Court, case managers actively participate in identifying the best living arrangement for dependent children. Adoption is considered the second most desirable permanency goal after safe reunification. When adoption is not possible, permanent legal custodianship is pursued.
Young men and women 16 years of age and older who are aging out of the child welfare system without achieving permanency with an adoptive parent or legal custodian are assisted in their transition to independence by the Independent Living unit of DHS. Services range from personal assessments to job and career counseling, from life-skills building to assistance in applying for post-secondary education and financial aid. A one-stop shop for transition-aged youth, The Bridge of Pittsburgh, provides all of the above plus access to the internet and mentoring support.
- My Life: Stories from Youth in Allegheny County’s Child Welfare System
Young adults who live in foster care face many challenges, particularly as they transition from out-of-home placement to independence. Given the opportunity, youth in the child welfare system offer great insights about how their lives were shaped by the services they received and by the absence of needed services. DHS tapped into this valuable resource and created My Life.
- Pennsylvania Dependency Benchbook
A comprehensive resource, by judges for judges, that combines Pennsylvania law, organized pragmatically to allow quick and efficient use, with a series of state and national best practices that will provide judges and practitioners, from the least to most experienced, with the best possible information to support children and families safely.
- Permanency Report
Describes the DHS philosophy around providing permanent, loving homes for children and the efforts involved in achieving that goal.