Many people think adoption and permanency mean the same thing.; however, it is more accurate to think of of permanency as a broad umbrella under which adoption fits. We all know what adoption means you go to court to say, “This person is a part of my family legally.” Adoption is legal permanency. But there are other types of permanency that include physical and emotional permanency. For children in the child welfare permanency may occur via:
- Return home
- Transfer of physical and legal guardianship
- Termination of parental rights and search for adoptive family
- Alternative Planned Permanency Living Arrangement (APPLA)
Permanency is not a single placement, it is not a plan, it is not a program. It is not what some call ‘long-term foster care’ or ‘permanent foster care’ – there is no such thing, as foster care is designed to be temporary. It is also not an Independent Living Skills class.
Permanency is a knowing, deep within, that you belong somewhere with someone even if you make a mistake, including a really bad mistake. Permanency requires relationships that are life-long and provide what any family might: being in a Last Will and Testament, hearing your name on the answering machine, having your picture on the family photo wall in someone’s house, knowing someone will walk you down the aisle (should you choose to get married and want that), realizing that the term ‘family vacation’ includes you, having people who will visit you regularly even if you are in jail.
If you are a worker in the child welfare field, here is a question you can ask yourself at a youth’s staffing meeting to determine whether or not that youth has permanency: Look around the room. Is there anyone in the room who is not paid to be there (this includes foster parents, guardians ad litem/CASAs, paid mentors)? If the answer is ‘no,’ then that youth does not have permanency.