Concurrent Planning Defined
“In concurrent services planning, alternative forms of permanency are identified, and implemented early in the case planning process. The case plan addresses both how reunification can be achieved … and how legal permanency … can be achieved if efforts to reunify fail. … The development of both tracks simultaneously is necessary to achieve the goal of timely legal permanency.”
Concurrent Services Planning: Resource Guide, California Department of Social Services, p. I-3 (rev. 6/19/98 as cited in California Juvenile Courts: Practice and Procedure (2013) §2.129.)
Concurrent Planning is Mandated by California Law
The purpose of concurrent planning is to honor the child’s attachment needs and to expedite a permanent home for the child should reunification fail.
“The social worker is required to develop two simultaneous plans for the child; one plan to facilitate reunification between parent and child, and a back-up plan for legal permanency for the child (often foster placement with prospective adoption parents) if reunification fails. Such concurrent planning is intended to avoid multiple placements and expedite permanency for children who cannot be returned to a parent.”
California Juvenile Dependency Practice, (CEB 2022) § 5.9; see also Welfare and Institutions Code §§ 358.1(b), 366.21(l), 16501.1(f)(10); California Rules of Court 5.708(e)(2) and 5.690(a)(1)(B)(i) and (ii).
Concurrent planning in California is mandatory for all court dependent children in out-of-home care for whom reunification services have been ordered. At least twenty-four states and the District of Columbia allow, but do not require, concurrent planning. For more information on each state's unique policies pertaining to concurrent planning, please click here.
Steps Involved in Concurrent Planning
If at the disposition hearing the court orders a child to remain or be placed in custody, concurrent planning commences. “Planning for a child’s legal permanence begins upon initial removal from his or her parents. Concurrent planning, i.e., setting up an alternative permanent plan while at the same time providing family reunification services for a detained child, shall be an integral practice.” Procedural Guide 0300-503.21 (Rev. 9/09), Los Angeles County Division of Children and Family Services.
The very first disposition report to the court must include a plan to provide a permanent home for the child in the event reunification efforts fail. See Welfare and Institutions Code §§ 358.1(b), 366.1, and 16501(i).
- Caseworkers begin the process of finding out the needs of caregivers and children, and the issues that created an unsafe living environment for the child. Caseworkers and professionals evaluate the situation and provide information to the judge and agency about possible home improvements needed to keep the child safe, and judges may order specific services to help.
Determining Family Members:
- The law requires that when a child enters foster care, the agency must notify both parents and relatives who may be willing to care for the child. Caregivers will be asked by the caseworkers for the names and addresses of families, and if unsure, efforts will be made by the courts and agency to contact and locate relatives.
- The case plan is a guide that tells caregivers what they must do to have their child return home.
- This may include intensive services, visitation efforts, programs, therapy, and treatment.
- It is expected that caregivers work with their caseworker and service providers and make progress on their case plan goals so that they can provide a safe home for their child.
Permanency Options for Children:
- Return home to the parent (reunification)
- Legal Guardianship Permanent legal custodianship
- Placement with a fit and willing relative
Plan A and Plan B:
- Plan A: The first choice for most foster children is for them to return home. However, the caregiver must be able to demonstrate to the judge that they can provide a safe home for their child.
- Plan B: If the judge decides that the child cannot safely return home, the second option that the judge must consider is one of the other federally approved permanency goals listed below.
Concurrent Planning Should Honor the Child's Attachments
The benefit of concurrent planning is that it protects children from the risk of trauma caused by loss, insecurity, instability, and anxiety. Concurrent planning seeks to reduce the amount of time that children spend in foster care and to ensure that children have more stability in their lives. Having a stable living situation promotes healthy development of relationships and secure early attachments, supporting successful mental, social, emotional, and cognitive development. Concurrent planning works to secure permanency faster, ensuring that children have fewer placements, possibly negating the harmful traumas of disruptions and abandonment feelings.
Concurrent Planning Law, Policy, And Practice
“Significantly, this finding is not just a finding that concurrent planning is taking place, it is also about concurrent doing. Some have mistaken concurrent planning as saying ‘If the child does not return home, we will move the child to an adoptive home.’ That is not what is envisioned. Instead the child is supposed to be placed in an alternative permanency home while reunification efforts are ongoing so that if reunification efforts fail, the child will not have to be moved from the home the child has come to know to a different home, often with strangers.”
Take Me Home: Protecting America’s Vulnerable Children and Families, Jill Duerr Berrick, Oxford Univ. Press 2009, Ch.3, p.45.
“To be effective, concurrent planning requires not only the identification of an alternative plan but also the implementation of active efforts toward both plans simultaneously, with the full knowledge of all case participants [emphasis added]. This two-pronged approach to finding a safe and stable family for children reduces multiple placements and long delays for children in foster care, and it promotes children building strong connections and trust with permanent families.”
Concurrent Planning for Timely Permanency for Children (2021), Child Welfare Information Gateway, Children's Bureau.
“Therefore, the concurrent plan should address the suitability and willingness of the current caretaker to provide a permanent home for the child, efforts to identify and move the child to a home that could be permanent if the current caretaker is unable or unwilling to care for the child on a long-term basis, sibling placement, and the need to place siblings together in a placement that could become a permanent placement if reunification is unsuccessful. The child’s attorney should:
- Make sure that a concurrent plan is included in the disposition report and that it includes a specific plan for permanency if reunification fails;
- Assess the suitability of the proposed permanent plan; and
- Object if there is no proposed permanent plan or if the plan proposed is not specific, does not seem realistic, or is not appropriate to meet both the short-term and long-term needs of that child.”
California Juvenile Dependency Practice (CEB 2022), §12.47.
See also California Department of Social Services (CDSS) Regulations:
“ ‘Concurrent Services Track’ means the portion of the case plan for a child receiving family reunification services which identifies the child’s permanency alternative and the services necessary to achieve permanency should family reunification fail.” Child Welfare Services Manual, Division 31-002 (a) Definitions (22).
“If the child is placed out of home and is receiving family reunification services, the case plan shall have two tracks: (1) The family reunification track, which consists of services described in Welfare and Institutions Code §16501(h). (2) The concurrent services: track which identifies the child’s permanency alternative and the services necessary to achieve legal permanence should reunification fail.” Child Welfare Services Manual Division 31-201.121(b) (pg. 66).
Effective Concurrent Planning Programs Share Common Elements:
- Individualized assessment and intensive, time-limited work with birth families targeting the problems that necessitated foster care placement.
- Full, documented disclosure with birth parents of problems, changes, possible consequences, and time frames.
- Early aggressive search for birth family resources for achieving permanency.
- Early identification and consideration of all permanency options.
- Frequent and constructive use of parent child visitation as part of reunification efforts.
- Early use of foster/adoptive or kinship placements.
- Involvement of foster/adoptive and kinship caregivers in teaching and skill-building with birth parents.
Concurrent Planning: What the Evidence Shows (2005). Child Welfare Information Gateway, Children's Bureau.
CDSS Concurrent Planning Promising Practices Notice:
Implementation of Concurrent Planning: Six research-based promising practices from The Center for Social Services Research at the University of California at Berkeley. All County Information Notice I-23-04, May 23, 2004.
CDSS Concurrent Planning Policy Questions Notice:
Permanency Policy Bureau Adoption Policy and Concurrent Planning Policy Units. All policy questions for the Concurrent Planning Policy Unit should be submitted to the following email address: [email protected]
National Resource Center Concurrent Planning Toolkit: An Overview of Concurrent Planning and a web-based Concurrent Planning Toolkit.
University of Pittsburgh: Pennsylvania Child Welfare Resource Center: concurrent planning resources and guides
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