DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

  DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

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Handbook 11: Concurrent Planning and Adoption
11-1 Concurrent Planning
Concurrent Planning and Adoption
11-1 Concurrent Planning
Reference Points
Seven Principles of Concurrent Planning
Purpose of Concurrent Planning
Assumptions Integral to Concurrent Planning
Working with Birth Parents
Practices that Support Concurrent Planning
Deterrents to Concurrent Planning
Other References

Reference Points
Effective Date: 5/1/10
Last Updated: 5/11/10
 Legal Basis:
Popup Window Adoptions and Safe Families Act (ASFA)


Concurrent planning may be defined as “a process of working to wards reunification while at the same time establishing an alternative or contingency back-up plan.  Concurrent, rather than sequential, planning efforts [to place children] more quickly move children from the uncertainty of foster care to the security of a safe and stable permanent family…” (Implementing Concurrent Planning: A Handbook for child Welfare Administrators, Patricia Shene, PhD., May 2001.).

Concurrent permanency planning involves identifying and working toward a child's primary permanency goal (most of tern, reunification with the birth family) while simultaneously identifying and working on a secondary plan for permanency.  It is an approach that seeks to eliminate delays in attaining permanent family placements for children in the foster care system.  It is fundamentally about focusing permanency efforts squarely on the best interests of the child and involves considering all reasonable options for permanency at the earliest possible point, following a child’s entry into foster care.  Typically, the primary plan is reunification with the child’s family of origin; in concurrent planning, an alternative permanency goal is pursued at the same time (Katz, 1999; Lutz, 2000). 

The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 specifies that reasonable efforts to place a child for adoption or with a legal guardian may be made concurrently with reasonable efforts to reunite the family (42 U.S.C. 671 (a)(15)(F): 1997). 

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Seven Principles of Concurrent Planning  

Seven principles are integrated into concurrent planning practice:

  • Differential Diagnosis - Based on the family history, information is gathered within the first thirty days of placement and is used to assess the strengths and needs of the child and family.

  • Success Redefined - Workers must begin to see success as permanency for the child, which may not be reunification with the birth family.
  • Plan A and Plan B - Plan A is reunification and Plan B is an alternate permanency plan, both of which begin when the child is placed in out-of-home care.

  • Full Disclosure - The birth family, Concurrent Planning Family, and the legal system are all informed that an alternate permanency plan will be made for the child during the period of reunification.  In the event that the child cannot safely return home, the alternate plan becomes the primary plan for the child.
  • Forensic Social Work - Workers must document all information pertaining to a case as the case progresses. This prepares workers, if it is decided to proceed with a termination of parental rights. A good social work case plan is a good legal plan (Katz, 1994).

  • Behavior, Not Promises - Birth parents must make progress and change the behaviors that caused the removal of their children. They will not be allowed to simply comply with the service plan.

  • Written Agreements - Birth parents and workers must negotiate the necessary steps that must occur for children to be safely reunited with their families. Written agreements empower birth parents and allow them to clarify expectations and focus on tasks.
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Purpose of Concurrent Planning  

The purpose of implementing concurrent planning into child welfare practice is to:

  • Successfully achieve permanence for all dependent children removed from their parents through a plan of reunification, adoption,       guardianship or emancipation. 

  • Recognize the problems caused by foster care drift and multiple placements and intervene to prevent drift by making an early placement in a permanency planning home.

  • Reduce the number of long term foster care and long term relative placements which are the least favored options for dependent children because of the tentative nature of permanence for children in such placements.

  • Lead to a consistent, caring caretaker which is essential for the development of attached behavior, which, in turn, is crucial for the development of healthy, productive adults.

  • Give families, including extended families, the opportunity to develop solutions to their problems and build on family strengths and to implement those solutions so that they can safely care for their children.

  • Honor the child’s link to his/her birth family by working intensively toward reunification.

  • Establish open, clear communication among the social worker, birth parents, permanency planning  family, and court, which often motivates parents to use offered reunification services.
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Assumptions Integral to Concurrent Planning  

The following assumptions are an integral part of concurrent planning practice:

  • Approach birth parents with empathy and respect.

  • Children can bond with more than one set of parents or caregivers.

  • With rare exceptions, children do want a relationship with their birth parents.
  • Birth parents have to be involved with the decision of how to move forward.

When preparing to discuss the topic of concurrent planning with the birth parents, the social worker understands that:

  • Parents ultimately decide the outcome of a case.

  • Parents have a right to know the permanency timeline.

  • Parents have a right to be told the Department's perception of their ability to reunify.

  • Parents need to give and receive information in order to make informed choices.

  • Parents are partners with the social worker in working towards permanency for their child(ren).
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Working with Birth Parents  

The key to working with birth parents in concurrent planning is to keep the process open and inclusive and keep the focus on the child.  In doing so, social workers employ the following strategies:

  • Respectful, honest and open interactions with the parents
  • Build common goals with the parents

  • Have the parents relate stories of their children, favorite memories, holiday celebrations, and other events that help the parents focus on their own and their children's strengths

  • Motivate parents by asking solution-focused questions about their goals and their goals for their children, what solutions have worked for them in the past, or how they might help their children succeed in their goals for them

  • Make the child's needs front and center at all times, including asking the parents about possible safe, permanent placements and ways in which the child can maintain connections with family, friends and community

  • Consistent communication with birth families throughout the life of a case regarding feedback on positive case progress or the need to confront planning ambivalence

  • Engage the parents in developing collaborative planning and decision-making in the permanent plan for their child

  • Reassure birth parents that concurrent families are not set up to compete with the parents and that everyone must work together in the child's best interests

  • Do not make false promises, but address the parents' concerns.  Let the parents know that your job is to make sure that, in the future, they have the best possible parent/child relationship.
  • Use the analogy that all parents need to think about who might take care their children if something happened to them
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Practices that Support Concurrent Planning   Child welfare practices that support concurrent planning include:
  • Assessment of children's developmental needs

  • Early paternity determinations
  • ICWA determinations made as soon as possible

  • Notification to relatives of child's removal from the family home

  • Intensive casework with families, including frequent visitation between parents and children and between child and his/her siblings

  • Strong reunification efforts that meet reasonable efforts requirements

  • Preferential consideration for placement given to grandparents, aunts and uncles, and siblings

  • Developing resources to assist relatives in maintaining placements

  • Kinship adoption agreements with the birth parents, siblings, and other kin
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Deterrents to Concurrent Planning  

Practices that may undermine concurrent planning efforts include:

  • Not completing time sensitive requirements at the very beginning of the case
  • Not including birth parents in the creation of the primary and back-up alternative plan for the child, so that parents share responsibility for the case outcome
  • Minimizing reunification efforts
  • Relying on initial assessments to predict outcomes, rather than completing thorough, ongoing assessments and adjusting services accordingly
  • Investing in a particular outcome
  • Designing case plans that are not family centered

  • Interpreting 12 months as an absolute limit on reunification, regardless of the parents' progress
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Other References  
bullet2 OPP Chapter 11-1.1: DFCS Concurrent Planning Process for Out-of-Home Placements
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