What is Concurrent Planning and Why it is Good for the Children
It is important for people who are interested in adopting children from foster care today to understand what concurrent planning is and understand and embrace the reason it is the standard process for most children in foster care. Concurrent planning is child focused. Two plans are being honored for the child at the same time. The first plan outlines the steps birth parents have to take for their child(ren) to be reunified with their family, while the second plan is focused on permanency with a family willing and able to adopt should reunification be unsuccessful. In both cases, the child (ren) need to be placed with a family who is committed to honoring reunification and, if that fails, is willing to adopt the child. Concurrent planning placements limit the number of moves the children must go through during this difficult time.
Concurrent planning is beneficial for both the children and the foster/adopt parents. For the children, concurrent planning supports continuity. The relationship between the children and the birth family is not permanently disrupted during this time period as regular supervised visits are provided while the children are living in the foster/adopt home. Data has shown that it is beneficial for children in placement to see their biological and prospective adoptive family talk with one another. It provides a sense of “permission” to the children that it is okay to love and connect with both sets of parents. Data on concurrent planning also shows that it supports the child’s self esteem and identity formation.
It is true that foster/adopt parents run the risk that children they have embraced in their homes may be reunified with their families and that during this time it can be difficult to form relationships with the biological family. But concurrent planning does help the foster/adopt parents too. First, it eliminates secret keeping with regard to who are the children’s parents and facilitates being able to answer questions that children may ask, such as,
“What did my parents look like?”
“Why couldn’t they raise me?”
“Do I have other siblings?”
On a practical level it provides the foster/adopt family with access to the children’s family medical history, discourages the children’s creation of “fantasy parents” and allows biological parents to feel more at ease with where their children are living. This may result, in some instances, of allowing the adoption to move forward without appeals.
Concurrent planning is the dominant process for children between the ages of 0-5 who are in foster care, and is required for children under 3. Consequently, parents who are interested in adopting children from foster care must become familiar with the expectations of the process. Families must support court ordered reunification plans and visitation expectations. Visitations typically are supervised and court hearings are held at 6, 12, and 18 months. At Sierra Forever Families social workers provide full case management support throughout the process. This is helpful for the parents and the children as issues and questions may arise during this time.
Our children in care need adoptive families to take the emotional risk of possible reunification. They need families who can provide a loving, stable and supportive environment for children while the court process proceeds for families who had their children removed. What is best for the children is best for all involved and as our families often say, the benefits always outweigh any risk they had to take. Please contact Sierra Forever Families at 916-368-5114 and visit our website sierraff.org to learn more.