Permanency and placement stability
Children deserve to grow up in loving, lifelong families and have a sense of unconditional belonging. Research and experience have shown that separating children from their family creates lasting trauma — usually lifelong. The longer children remain separated from their family, the more likely they are to be moved multiple times, which is associated with problems of detachment, poor school performance, and behavioral challenges. When child protection agencies make the difficult decision to remove children from their family, it should be time-limited until the child can return home, enter into guardianship with a relative, or — if that is not possible — be adopted into another permanent family. No children should be left on their own to age out of foster care.
Children across the country still linger in foster care, however, turning what should be a temporary experience into one with consequences likely to extend into adulthood. In fact, one-quarter of all children in foster care have been there for at least two years. Becoming a permanency-driven child welfare system requires a sustained sense of urgency that begins the moment a child comes to the attention of the agency. It means adopting a systemwide understanding that children’s sense of belonging is fundamental to their well-being, and that relational and legal permanency is the only way to achieve that.