21 Child L. Prac. 1 (2002-2003)

handle is hein.journals/chilawpt21 and id is 1 raw text is: GhrildL La-%w Practice

Vol. 21 No. 1

March 2002

Helping Lawyers Help Kids

This article is the sixth in a series to help judges determine whether the child welfare agency has provided 
reasonable efforts to arrange and finalize a permanency plan, as required by the Adoption and Safe Families Act.
Earlier articles outlined the permanency options and what to consider to make permanency a reality. This article
assumes more permanent placements have been considered and ruled out and the permanency plan is relative
Reasonable Efforts to Finalize a Permanency Plan for Relative Placement
by Cecelia Fiermonte

R elative placements have advan-
tages for children. They pre-
serve family bonds, reduce the
trauma of removal, and preserve the
child's cultural identity and heritage.
But there are also drawbacks.
Sometimes the relative can't care for
the child long-term, but feels pres-
sured to take the child anyway. Or,
the relative may be unable to shield
the child from a neglectful or
abusive parent.
Pemiiie        PlningUie ASFA
' Determining the Plan
(Covered in April 2001 issue)
Finalizing the Plan:
0   Reunification
(Covered in May 2001 issue)
*   Termination of
Parental Rights
(Covered in June 2001 issue)
(Covered in August 2001 issue)
*   Guardianship
(Covered in November 2001 issue)
Relative Placement
Planned Permanent
Living Arrangement
Interstate Placements

The Adoption and Safe Families
Act (ASFA) reflects the widely held
belief that relative placements are
positive for children. ASFA specifi-
cally lists placement with a fit and
willing relative as one of the per-
manency options.1 ASFA does not
define the terms relative or fit
and willing, or create separate legal
authority for relative placements.2
ASFA also provides that relative
placement is an exception to the re-
quirement to file a termination of pa-
rental rights action when the child
has been in foster care for 15 of the
most recent 22 months.3 And states
must consider giving preference to a
relative when they meet all the
safety standards.'
The agency's obligation to final-
ize the permanency plan means
more than just putting the child in a
relative's home to meet ASFA's re-
quirements at a permanency hear-
ing. Your reasonable efforts inquiry
helps ensure the agency has made a
well thought-out choice and ad-
dressed any barriers to permanency.
The relative home should be a
means to achieve permanency, not
merely a stopgap solution. The
agency must make reasonable ef-
forts not only to place the child, but
to make the placement as permanent
as possible.
E-mail: childlawpractice@staff.abanet.org

How do you decide from the
bench whether relatives are a good
resource for the child? How do you
balance the need for permanency
with the desire to maintain family
ties? How do you determine which
legal arrangement is best? What ef-
forts to finalize the plan on the
agency's part are reasonable?
This article helps you identify
complex issues raised by permanent
relative placements. Asking the fol-
lowing questions will help you de-
cide if the agency has made reason-
(Continued on page 2)
What's Inside:
The Capacity of a Mentally
Retarded Parent to Consent
to Adoption
Many Fathers Caught in
a Juggling Act
ABA Policies Protect
Children in New Ways
New York City Ordered to
Protect Nonabusive Battered
Mothers and Children
*   Internet: http://www.abanet.org/child

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