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Concurrent Planning is Mandated by Law

legosConcurrent planning in California is mandatory for all court dependent children in out-of-home care for whom reunification services have been ordered. The purpose of concurrent planning is to honor the child’s attachment needs and to expedite a permanent home for the child should reunification fail.

“The social worker is required to develop two simultaneous plans for the child; one plan to facilitate reunification between parent and child, and a back-up plan for legal permanency for the child (often foster placement with prospective adoption parents) if reunification fails. Such concurrent planning is intended to avoid multiple placements and expedite permanency for children who cannot be returned to a parent.”

California Juvenile Dependency Practice, Continuing Education of the Bar (2013 Edition) § 5.9;
Welfare & Institutions Code §§ 358.1(b), 366.21(l), 16501.1(f)(10),
California. Rules of Court. 5.708(e)(2) and 5.690(a)(1)(B)(i) and (ii).

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Concurrent Planning Defined

“Concurrent planning means to work towards family reunification while, at the same time, developing an alternative permanent plan. It is concurrent rather than sequential [permanency] planning.”

“It is not a fast track to adoption, but to permanency.”

Gerald P. Mallon, D.S.W., Understanding and Using Concurrent Planning PPT, National Resource Center for Family Centered Practice and Permanency Planning at The Hunter College of Social Work, New York.

“In concurrent services planning, alternative forms of permanency are identified, and implemented early in the case planning process. The case plan addresses both how reunification can be achieved … and how legal permanency … can be achieved if efforts to reunify fail. … The development of both tracks simultaneously is necessary to achieve the goal of timely legal permanency.”

Concurrent Services Planning: Resource Guide, California Department of Social Services, p. I-3 (rev. 6/19/98 as cited in California Juvenile Courts: Practice and Procedure (2013) §2.129[9].)

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Permanency Defined

“Permanency is not a philosophical process, a plan, or a foster care placement, nor is it intended to be a family relationship that lasts only until the child turns age 18. Permanence should bring physical, legal and emotional safety and security within the context of a family relationship and allow multiple relationships with a variety of caring adults.”

“Permanency is the goal. Reunification is a primary but only one of several acceptable permanency goals.”

Gerald P. Mallon, D.S.W., Understanding and Using Concurrent Planning PPT, National Resource Center for Family Centered Practice and Permanency Planning at The Hunter College of Social Work, New York.

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Concurrent Planning Should Honor The Child's Attachments

Concurrent planning should honor the child’s attachments and expedite a permanent home for the child, in the event reunification fails.

“Healthy development depends on the quality and reliability of a young child’s relationships with the important people in his or her life, both within and outside the family. Even the development of a child’s brain architecture depends on the establishment of these relationships.”

Young Children Develop in an Environment of Relationships: Working Paper No. 1. National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2004).

“Multiple foster care placements present a host of traumas for very young children. When a baby faces a change in placement, fragile new relationships with foster parents are severed, reinforcing feelings of abandonment and distrust. Babies grieve when their relationships are disrupted and this sadness adversely affects their development. All placement decisions for infants and toddlers should focus on promoting security and continuity in out-of-home care.”

Restructuring the Federal Child Welfare System: Assuring the Safety, Permanence and Well-Being of Infants and Toddlers in the Child Welfare System (January 2007). Zero to Three Policy Center.

“Early secure attachments with a stable primary caregiver play a central role in a young child’s social, emotional and cognitive development … Children who have experienced abuse or neglect have an even greater need for sensitive, caring and stable relationships. Placement decisions should focus on promoting security and continuity for infants and toddlers in out-of-home care.”

“Strategies to protect the child’s existing relationships include:

  • Make the first out-of-home placement with a view toward permanency.
  • Develop a transition plan for any change in placement.”

Julie Cohen and Victoria Youcha, Zero to Three: Critical Issues for the Juvenile and Family Court, Juvenile and Family Court Journal, Spring 2004, p. 16-17.

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When Concurrent Planning Occurs

If at the disposition hearing the court orders a child to remain or be placed in custody, concurrent planning commences.

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Concurrent Planning Law, Policy, And Practice

“Planning for a child’s legal permanence begins upon initial removal from his or her parents. Concurrent planning, i.e., setting up an alternative permanent plan while at the same time providing family reunification services for a detained child, shall be an integral practice.”

Procedural Guide 0300-503.21 (Rev. 9/09), Los Angeles County Division of Children and Family Services.

The very first disposition report to the court must include a plan to provide a permanent home for the child in the event reunification efforts fail.
Welfare & Institutions §§ 358.1(b),
Welfare & Institutions §§ 366.1,
Welfare & Institutions §§ 16501(i).

At each review hearing the court must find whether reasonable efforts to provide legal permanence for the child, if reunification fails, have been made.
Welfare & Institutions § 366(a)(1)(B)
California Rule of Court  5.708(c)(1).

“Significantly, this finding is not just a finding that concurrent planning is taking place, it is also about concurrent doing. Some have mistaken concurrent planning as saying ‘If the child does not return home, we will move the child to an adoptive home.’ That is not what is envisioned. Instead the child is supposed to be placed in an alternative permanency home while reunification efforts are ongoing so that if reunification efforts fail, the child will not have to be moved from the home the child has come to know to a different home, often with strangers.”

Take Me Home: Protecting America’s Vulnerable Children and Families, Jill Duerr Berrick, Oxford Univ. Press 2009, Ch.3, p.45.

“To be effective, concurrent planning requires not only the identification of an alternative plan but also the implementation of active efforts toward both plans simultaneously, with the full knowledge of all case participants [emphasis added]. This two-pronged approach to finding a safe and stable family for children reduces multiple placements and long delays for children in foster care, and it promotes children building strong connections and trust with permanent families.”

Concurrent Planning – Existing Challenges and New Possibilities, Northern California Training Academy, Reaching Out, Spring/Summer 2009.

“Therefore, the concurrent plan should address the suitability and willingness of the current caretaker to provide a permanent home for the child, efforts to identify and move the child to a home that could be permanent if the current caretaker is unable or unwilling to care for the child on a long-term basis, sibling placement, and the need to place siblings together in a placement that could become a permanent placement if reunification is unsuccessful. The child’s attorney should:

  • Make sure that a concurrent plan is included in the disposition report and that it includes a specific plan for permanency if reunification fails;
  • Assess the suitability of the proposed permanent plan; and
  • Object if there is no proposed permanent plan or if the plan proposed is not specific, does not seem realistic, or is not appropriate to meet both the short-term and long-term needs of that child.”

California Juvenile Dependency Practice, Continuing Education of the Bar (2013 Edition) §12.47. See also California Department of Social Services (CDSS) Regulations:

“ ‘Concurrent Services Track’ means the portion of the case plan for a child receiving family reunification services which identifies the child’s permanency alternative and the services necessary to achieve permanency should family reunification fail.”
Child Welfare Services Manual, Division 31-002 (a) Definitions (22).

“If the child is placed out of home and is receiving family reunification services, the case plan shall have two tracks: (1) The family reunification track, which consists of services described in Welfare and Institutions Code §16501(h). (2) The concurrent services: track which identifies the child’s permanency alternative and the services necessary to achieve legal permanence should reunification fail.”
Child Welfare Services Manual Division 31-201.121(b) (pg. 66).

CDSS Concurrent Planning Promising Practices Notice:

Implementation of Concurrent Planning: Six research-based promising practices from The Center for Social Services Research at the University of California at Berkeley.
All County Information Notice I-23-04, May 23, 2004.

CDSS Concurrent Planning Policy Questions Notice:

Permanency Policy Bureau Adoption Policy and Concurrent Planning Policy Units. All policy questions for the Concurrent Planning Policy Unit should be submitted to the following email address: concurrentpolicyplanningunit@dss.ca.gov
All County Information Notice 1-90-10, November 4, 2010.

National Resource Center Concurrent Planning Toolkit: An Overview of Concurrent Planning and a web-based Concurrent Planning Toolkit.