Q How do I plan for my future?
When you are in DCF custody, there is a process called “permanency planning” that can help you make a plan for the future.
Q What is permanency planning?
“Permanency planning” is planning for life after foster care. Planning ahead will help make sure that you have a permanent connection with an important adult in your life, a safe and permanent home, and the support you need to be safe and healthy and to reach your life goals. After you and your social worker, in conjunction with your lawyer and any other important people in your life, come up with a plan, the judge will look at it and decide whether to agree to it at a Permanency Hearing. Permanency is about helping you achieve physical, emotional and legal stability during and after you leave foster care.
Q What is the goal of “permanency planning?”
“Permanency planning” helps make sure that you have a safe and permanent home and the support you need to be safe and healthy and to reach your life goals. Permanency planning is also about helping you achieve physical, emotional and legal stability during and after you leave foster care. It is another way of saying “planning for life after foster care.” Planning ahead will help make sure that you have a permanent connection with an important adult in your life, a safe and permanent home, and the support you need to be safe and healthy and to reach your life goals. No matter how old you are, you deserve at least one lifelong consistent relationship with a caring adult. A lifelong connection is a person to whom you can go for advice on things like applying to college or getting a job. It's someone who will celebrate your successes and help you navigate your challenges. After you come up with a plan, the Judge will review it and decide whether to approve it at a Permanency Hearing.
Q Who is important in permanency planning?
- Your DCF social worker and DCF lawyer
- Your lawyer
- The Judge
- Other important people in your life, like a parent, guardian, foster parent, or brother or sister.
Q Why should I care about permanency planning?
- This is the chance you have been waiting for to take control of your life! You may be frustrated when you feel that adults are making decisions for you; permanency planning lets you have a major voice in decisions that affect your life.
- If you are involved in creating your permanency plan, it will be your life plan.
Q What is the permanency planning process?
The basic steps of the formal permanency planning process include 1) you talking to your lawyer, social worker, caretaker, and other important people in your life about your goals and needs; 2) you taking part in meetings and court hearings about you; 3) your social worker writing a permanency plan report (with input from you and your lawyer and other important people in your life) about your future plans and what you need to achieve your goals; and 4) review by the judge of your plan.
Q What is a permanency plan report?
The actual “permanency plan report” is the document your social worker writes with help from you, your lawyer, and other important people in your life. It talks about you and things that are happening or have happened in your life, what your permanent home will be, and your life goals. It also lists services that DCF and others will continue to provide to you. At your Permanency Hearing, the Judge will look at this permanency plan report and decide whether it includes what you need.
Q What is a “permanency goal?”
One of the sections in the permanency plan report that the Judge receives describes your “permanent goal." The permanency goal talks about where your permanent home will be in the future and your permanent connection with adults who will help support you in the future. Your goal could be either to return to your family( called reunification), be adopted, or get a legal guardian. The plan could also include foster care until you are no longer in DCF custody/care. You should also have assistance in developing a supportive relationship with a person you can rely on before and after you leave DCF. The Judge will review and determine whether to approve the plan at your Permanency Hearing
Q How do I take part in creating my plan?
- Meet with your social worker to talk about permanency planning.
- Meet with your lawyer for help in getting your ideas into the plan. If you do not know who your lawyer is, go to Chapter One and read the section under "What does my lawyer do?"
- Attend your Foster Care Reviews and actively participate.
- Go to court for your Permanency Hearing to talk to the Judge about
Q How do I work with my social worker in creating the plan?
About the time you turn 15 or 16, your social worker should also start talking with you about your plans for your future. Your social worker is responsible for writing your plan. When you meet, tell your social worker what services you need to help you be interdependent in the future. Interdependence means you are self-sufficient or that you have the independent living tools to take care of your responsibilities in life. Interdependence means you can be self-sufficient and still reach out to your life long caring adult for advice, networking connections and emotional support. Finding that lifelong connection is important no matter how old you are in DCF care. Contact your social worker to schedule a meeting to discuss what services you want to help you be successful in the future. Feel free to talk to your social worker or lawyer about your plan even before you turn 15! Talk to your lawyer as well about what you want for your future. Tell your lawyer what you want to do, where you want to live, and what your plans are. Your lawyer should talk to your DCF social worker about the plan for your future.
Q Things to think about when writing your plan:
- Where will I live when I turn 18?
- What do I want for my future?
- Have I told my social worker and lawyer what I want for my future?
- Who are some caring adults in my life?
- What are my goals in school? How will I reach them? How will I get extra help if I need it?
- Can I stay in my school if DCF changes my placement?
- What resources are available to help me go to college or vocational school and be successful there?
- What services do I want or need from DCF?
- Do I want to keep getting services from DCF after I turn 18?
- How will I get my driver’s license, if I want it?
- How will I get around if I don’t have a car or a license?
- How can I get and keep a job?
- How will I get money to support myself?
- Where will I live? How can I afford to live there?
- How will I get health insurance?
- How will I get medical care when I need it?
- What if I am not a US citizen?
- What teen parenting services could I use, if needed?
- When I leave DCF, how will I get health insurance or health care?
- If I need an important document, like my social security card, do I know where to get it?
Q What should I look for in a life-long connection to a caring adult?
There is plenty of room in your life for multiple supportive adults, like aunts, uncles, coaches and mentors. You have a right to include your birth family as part of your permanency circle of supportive adults. You can also add supportive adults to your life without taking the place of previously established relationships.
In order to determine if you already have lifelong supportive adults in your life, ask yourself if these statements are true for you.
- The adults I live with now will care about me in the same way once I leave foster care.
- I have an adult in my life who would bathe me if I got too sick to bathe myself.
- I have an adult who I remember with a holiday card or some small birthday gift.
Ask yourself – Are there people in my life whom I trust that I already have a relationship with who could become my supportive adult? Talk with your social worker about how to include this person in your permanency planning. This person may be someone who is willing to create a permanency pact with you.
Q What is a Permanency Pact?
Once a supportive adult is identified as a potential lifelong connection, you may want to create a permanency pact with your supportive adult(s). You don’t have to be formally adopted or have a guardian in order to create a permanency pact with a supportive adult. A permanency pact is a promise between a supportive adult and a young person. It’s based on conversations you have with your supportive adult about the kind of positive supports you can turn to that adult for once you leave foster care.
You might ask the supportive adults in your life if they can provide some or all of the following supports once you leave foster care:
- Home for the holidays
- A place to do laundry
- Emergency place to stay
- Food/occasional meals
- Talking through tough decisions
- Spiritual support
- Legal troubles
- Cultural experience
- Relationships/marriage advice
- Assistance with medical appointments
- Care package at college
- Employment opportunity
- Job search assistance
- Recreational activities
- Mental health support
It’s okay not to be able to find all of these kinds of support in one person. This is why it’s so important for you and your social worker to build a permanency circle of multiple supportive adults by the time you leave foster care
Q What is the permanency hearing?
The permanency hearing is held at the courthouse, where the Judge is focused completely on YOU and YOUR FUTURE. These hearings happen at least once every 12 months, but can be every six months if you are 16 or older. Your social worker is responsible for writing down your plan and then asking a judge to approve the plan in court. Your lawyer has the right to tell the Judge if you don't like the plan or want it changed. The Judge will look at the plan and make sure it has what you need before agreeing to it. You have a right to be at the hearing no matter how old you are. If you are 16 or older, you will receive a special invitation from the Judge or DCF inviting you to court for your permanency hearing. It should be on a day and time that is good for you. If you want to be there, you should tell your lawyer and your social worker. If you are 16 years of age or older, it is expected that you will be present at your permanency hearing so make sure it is at a time when you can attend, even after school.
Q How often is there a permanency hearing?
Before you turn 16, the court must hold a permanency hearing every year while you are in DCF custody. If you are between the ages of 16 and 18 you should be having a permanency hearing every six months. If you want a hearing and it is not scheduled, talk to your lawyer. If you do not know who your lawyer is, go to Chapter One and read the section under "What does my lawyer do?"
Q What does my lawyer do at my permanency hearing?
Your lawyer should get a copy of your written permanency plan (written by your social worker) from DCF 30 days before the permanency hearing. Your lawyer should meet with you before the hearing to talk with you about the plan and to find out what you think about it. If you want to change something in the plan, your lawyer can tell DCF and the Judge in court what it is you want to change. Your lawyer can try to get DCF to change the plan to be what you want. If DCF doesn't agree, your lawyer can ask the Judge in court not to approve the plan. Your lawyer can also make sure that you are brought to court to be at the hearing and can help you speak to the Judge if you want to. The hearing is an opportunity for you to talk directly to the Judge. Prepare for this with your lawyer.
Q What if my hearing conflicts with another important event in my life?
Tell your lawyer and social worker if you have a major conflict with the court date. They may be able to ask the court to re-schedule it after school or at another time more convenient for you.
Q What do I wear to court?
Most lawyers wear business suits to court. You do not have to wear a suit, but you show respect for the court and make you feel more confident if your clothes are clean, neat and appropriate. No flip-flops, torn jeans, hats, low cut tops, or mini skirts.
Q Who will be in the courtroom?
The people allowed in the courtroom in a Permanency Hearing are you, your brothers and sisters, your parent(s)/guardian(s) if their rights have not been terminated, the lawyers, the DCF social worker, a probation officer, and your foster parents. A clerk who is responsible for keeping a record of what happens in the courtroom and a court officer responsible for security will also be in the courtroom. If you are not comfortable with all of those people in the courtroom talk to your lawyer before the hearing. If you do not know who your lawyer is, tell the judge. For instructions on who your lawyer is go to Chapter One and read the section under "What does my lawyer do?"
Q What do I say in court?
Usually you call the Judge “Judge” or “Your Honor.” When you speak in court, you will often be answering a question the Judge has asked. If you don’t know the answer to a question or don’t want to answer a question, it is okay to say that. You can also tell the Judge what you want to talk about. Talk to your lawyer about what you want to say, and you may even want to write it down before the hearing. Remember the purpose of the hearing is for you to be part of making the plan for your future.