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Youth Engagement

Engaging Youth in Permanency Planning

Why is it important to involve youth in permanency planning?

Because youth have their own ideas about permanency, they need to part of the permanency planning discussion. When planning for permanency with adolescents, the practitioner must think about using different approaches than might be used with younger children. Many times the youth, themselves, are the best at identifying permanent connections that may lead to legal permanency and/or lifelong relationships.

What does permanency mean to adolescents?

Permanency for youth is not necessarily the living arrangement. It is not simply providing independent living services, and it is not just offering adoption. It is providing that youth with life-long permanent connections to people the youth identifies as important to him/her. When asked, “What does permanence mean to you?” youth responded:

  • “It means having your side of the church full when you get married." (Youth Presenter, Iowa Permanency Forum 2005).
  • “It means having the key to the house." (Youth Participant, National Child Welfare Resource Center for Youth Development (NCWRCYD) Youth Permanency Forum 1999).
  • “It means having your picture on the wall in someone’s house." (Youth Narrator, Minnesota Adoption Exchange Video 2005).
  • “Legal permanency is a chance for choice. It is a chance for someone to choose you and for you to choose them. Does it matter that moment of choice is recognized by the system? From my vantage point, it doesn’t." (Compiled from Sanchez 2004).


How can we talk to young people about permanency?

The Permanency Pact is a good tool to use when talking with a youth about permanency. Developed by FosterClub, the Permanency Pact provides the structure that is needed to help both youth and adults establish a positive, kin-like relationship.

What programs support permanency for foster youth?

In 2003, The Children’s Bureau awarded approximately $7 million to fund projects that assist child welfare agencies in achieving permanency for youth in foster care and to assist states in improving their ability to meet the needs of the rising number of children waiting for permanent families. The Adoption Opportunities program provides funds to help eliminate the barriers to adoption and to help find permanent families for youth in care.

What legislation supports permanency for adolescents?

  • The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 (P.L. 96-272) was the first piece of federal legislation to be passed that focused on permanency planning for foster youth.
  • The Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) of 1997 (P.L. 105-89) reduced the timeframes in which to hold permanency hearings (from 18 to 12 months), expedited termination of parental rights, and lifted the requirement for states to pursue reasonable efforts to prevent removal of youth from their biological families and stated that the child’s well-being should be greatly considered. This Act also created the Adoption Incentive Payment Program, which was the first federal incentive program in child welfare to reward states for increasing the number of adoptions from foster care.
  • The Chafee Foster Care Independence Act of 1999, which focused on older youth aging out of care, provided greater opportunities and funds to states in order to provide educational, financial, employment, housing, and other supports to prepare older youth in care for independent living.
  • The Promoting Safe and Stable Families Amendments of 2001 provided funding to states to support programs that offered services to youth in foster care. This legislation also authorized the creation of the Education and Training Voucher program.
  • The Adoption Promotion Act of 2003 added bonuses to the Adoption Incentive Program, which provided additional awards for the adoption of children over the age of nine.
  • Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003 provided additional funding to increase the adoptions of older youth in foster care and expanded post-adoption services for special needs youth.