340:75-6-31. Permanency planning (PP) for the child in Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) custody
(a) Legislative intent. Per Section 1-1-102 of Title 10A of the Oklahoma Statutes(10A O.S. § 1-1-102), whenever it is necessary for a child to be placed outside of the home, per the Oklahoma Children's Code, it is the intent of the Legislature that:
(1) each child be assured of the care, guidance, and supervision in a permanent home or foster home that serves the best interests of the child including, but not limited to, the development of the moral, emotional, spiritual, mental, social, educational, and physical well-being of the child; and
(2) permanent placement is achieved as soon as possible for the child.
(b) PP and placement preferences. The purpose of PP is to develop an appropriate plan addressing the child's immediate and long-term needs for safety, permanency, and well-being. PP begins immediately when a child is placed in DHS custody and continues until the child is living in a permanent home and the child welfare (CW) case is closed.
(c) Efforts to place the child with a suitable relative. Every effort is made to place the child with a suitable relative of the child, per 10A O.S. § 1-4-706.
(d) Consideration given to child's initial out-of-home placement. Careful planning and consideration is given to the child's initial placement so that in the event reunification is delayed or fails, the first placement made is the best available placement to provide permanency for the child, per 10A O.S. § 1-4-706.
(e) Concurrent PP. When a child is removed from the custody of the child's parent, DHS immediately assesses the need for PP with the intention that permanency occurs for the child at the earliest opportunity, per 10A O.S. § 1-4-706. • 2 & • 6
(f) Permanency hearing. Permanency hearings are held as required, per 10A O.S. § 1-4-811 and, per Oklahoma Administrative Code (OAC) 340:75-1-18.1.
(g) Permanency plan preferences. • 4 The permanency plan indicates the intended or desired outcome for each child and influences the services and interventions used to achieve such outcome. The permanency plan is consistent with each child's legal status and is in his or her best interests.
(1) When a plan is established, careful consideration is given when changing the plan to ensure the child's immediate and long-term needs for safety, permanency, and well-being continue to be met.
(2) In most cases, reuniting the child with his or her parent or legal guardian is the original case plan goal, unless a petition for immediate termination of parental rights is filed or the court makes a finding that reasonable efforts to reunite are not required.
(3) When reunification is not possible, other permanency plan options based on the child's best interests include:
(A) termination of parental rights resulting in an adoption;
(B) permanent guardianship; or
(C) a planned alternative permanent placement provided a child is 16 years of age and older.
(h) Reunification. • 4 & 7 In most situations, the initial permanency plan is to reunite the child with the family. The child may be returned to the home of the parent or legal guardian from whom the child was removed with prior court approval, per 10A O.S. § 1-7-103. When the permanency plan is reunification, services are implemented until:
(1) the child is returned home, the family home has stabilized, and the court case is dismissed; or
(2) it is determined the conditions that necessitated intervention were not corrected, although sufficient time and services were provided.
(i) Exceptions to reunification as the preferred permanency plan. Exceptions to reunification as the preferred permanency plan include:
(1) voluntary relinquishment of parental rights by all parents, biological, legal, presumed, and alleged;
(2) a Petition for Termination of parental rights is filed; or
(3) the court finds reasonable efforts to reunite the child and family are not required as outlined in 10A O.S. § 1-4-809and OAC 340:75-1-18.4.
(j) Priority for reunification with the custodial parent or placement with the non-custodial parent. When the child's parents do not live together, the priority for reunification is primarily with the custodial parent; however, a home assessment may be conducted regarding the noncustodial parent to assess the possibility of placement or custody with the noncustodial parent, when appropriate. • 3
(k) Placement with the noncustodial parent. The court may place the child with the noncustodial parent when it is in the child's best interests, per 10A O.S. § 1-4-707. When the child is placed with the noncustodial parent, the court may order the noncustodial parent to assume:
(1) sole custodial responsibilities for the child; or
(2) custody of the child under DHS protective supervision. • 3
(l) Final permanency order. Per 10A O.S. § 1-4-707, when the court orders the noncustodial parent to assume sole custodial responsibilities for the child, the court may also:
(1) order reasonable visitation and the payment of child support by the child's other parent; and
(2) terminate its jurisdiction in the deprived action by entering a final permanency order determining custody, visitation, and child support. The final permanency order:
(A) remains in full force and effect and controls custody or child support orders entered in an administrative or district court initiated prior to, or during the pendency of the deprived action until it is modified by a subsequent court order; and
(B) may be docketed and filed in the prior, existing, or pending administrative or district court action; or
(C) when there is no administrative or district court action in existence, the surviving order may be used as the sole basis for opening a new administrative or district court action.
(m) Adoption. When a child cannot return safely to his or her own home, adoption is the preferred permanency plan in most cases. • 4
(n) Legal guardianship. A guardianship may be the permanency plan for a child, when reunification and adoption were ruled out.
(1) A guardianship is not preferred over adoption because this option does not provide the same level of family permanency. The court may establish a permanent guardianship between a child and a relative or other adult, per 10AO.S. § 1-4-709, when the guardianship is in the child's best interest.
(2) Subject to the availability of funds, financial assistance is available to the legal guardian provided the eligibility requirements are met, per OAC 340:75-6-31.4.
(o) Planned alternative permanent placement. A permanency plan of planned alternative permanent placement is limited to a child 16 years of age and older when DHS documents a compelling reason for the court to determine that returning home, or placement of the child for adoption or guardianship is not in the child's best interests, per 10A O.S. § 1-4-811.
(p) Successful adulthood plan. Every child 14 years of age and older has a transition plan to successful adulthood, per OAC 340:75-6-110.
(q) Notice of rights. Every child 14 years of age and older is provided a notice of rights, per OAC 340:75-6-110.
(r) Emancipation. The federal definition of emancipation is the age at which the child reaches majority. In Oklahoma, 18 years of age is the age of emancipation. • 5
INSTRUCTIONS TO STAFF 340:75-6-31
1.Sources and tools used to determine the permanency plan. The child welfare (CW) specialist informs the parent of each permanency plan alternative and works with the parent to choose the plan that is in the child's best interests.Sources that assist the CW specialist and CW supervisor determine the best permanency plan for the child include, but are not limited to:
(1) Form 04KI012E, Individualized Service Plan (ISP), or Form 04KI014E, Individualized Service Plan (ISP) Progress Report, containing current documentation of the parent's progress, correspondence, family meetings(FM), consultations,or conferences with service and placement providers and professionals who interact with the child and parent;
(2) KIDS Contacts and Visits screens, containing pertinent information gained from visits and CW specialist contacts with the child, parent, placement provider, and service providers;
(3) statements by the parent that indicate the parent's perceptions of:
(A) the child;
(B) parenting the child;
(C) the abuse and/or neglect issues that require correction; and
(D) the parent's protective capacities and corrected behaviors and conditions;
(4) statements by the:
(A) child obtained from the CW specialist's monthly visitation with the child; and
(B) placement provider and service providers regarding the parent and child's desire to reunite;
(5) consultation with the CW supervisor;
(6) recommendations by the post-adjudication review board (PARB);
(7) conclusions or recommendations from a multidisciplinary staffing or FM as outlined in Oklahoma Administrative Code (OAC) 340:75-6-31.1;
(8) consultation with Permanency Planning (PP) or Adoption Services program staff;
(9) consultation and coordination with tribal officials, for a child subject to the Indian Child Welfare Act, to explore the tribe's interest and ability to provide for the child's permanent placement;
(10) Form 04KI030E, Assessment of Child Safety, reflecting if the level of safety threats increased or decreased compared to the safety threats identified at the time of the investigation that resulted in the child's removal; and
(11) Form 04KI030E, Assessment of Child Safety, updated as needed including, but not limited to, when:
(A) there is a substantial change in the family structure; or
(B) safety threats continue to affect the child.
2.Concurrent PP.Concurrent PP provides for reunification services while simultaneously developing a concurrent plan, when reunification efforts fail or are no longer feasible. Concurrent planning is required for cases with current or historical familial circumstances that indicate a poor prognosis for reunification, per OAC 340:75-4-12.1 Instructions to Staff.
(1) When concurrent PP is appropriate, the CW specialist:
(A) meets with all possible family members and the child, as appropriate, within 30-calendar days of determination that concurrent planning is appropriate, to discuss concurrent planning and obtain the family's input on the most appropriate plan for the child and begins to initiate activities to select the most appropriate concurrent plan;
(B) selects either adoption or guardianship as a concurrent plan, consistent with the child's best interests;
(C) develops activities and establishes time frames in order to progress toward achievement of the concurrent plan.Examples of concurrent planning activities include, but are not limited to:
(i) an immediate and ongoing diligent search and family-finding efforts for absent parents and relatives;
(ii) early identification of relatives or kin who are willing to be a permanent placement when reunification fails;
(iii) ongoing efforts to place siblings together; and
(iv) addressing all identified barriers to achieving the concurrent plan; and
(D) documents concurrent planning activities and files them in the case within 60-calendar days of determination that concurrent planning is appropriate.
(2) When concurrent PP is not initially appropriate, the CW specialist and CW supervisor review the poor prognosis indicators a minimum of every 90-calendar days or whenever family circumstances may dictate the need to initiate a concurrent plan.
(3) When a concurrent case plan goal is in place, monthly efforts toward both goals must be completed, discussed with the family during the monthly specialist contact, and is documented.
3.Assessment of the custodial or non-custodial parent.
(1) In non-Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children assessment of a custodial or non-custodial parent, a home study is not required as would be required when evaluating a placement resource.The CW specialist:
(A) assesses the parent's appropriateness and ability to meet the child's needs by utilizing Form 04KI030E;
(B) conducts a Child Abuse and Neglect Information System (KIDS) check; and
(C) conducts a home visit.
(2) When the court orders a home study of the custodial or non-custodial parent who is a party to the deprived case, the CW specialist completes the study as ordered by the court.
4.Selecting the appropriate permanency plan.The permanency plan that is consistent with the child's legal status and meets the child's best interests and long-term safety, permanency, and well-being needs is selected on Form 04KI012E and Form 04KI014E, as applicable.The CW specialist verifies that the appropriate permanency plan is documented in KIDS in the Case Plan/PermPlan tab.The CW specialist reassesses the appropriateness of the permanency plan each month during the monthly specialist contact and each time Form 04KI014E is updated.The CW supervisor affords careful consideration before approving a new case plan goal, a case plan goal change, or a concurrent case plan goal.The child's best interests are cautiously weighed before approval is granted.The permanency plan options are listed in paragraphs (1) through (5).
(1) Maintain in own home.When the child was not removed from the parent and is in the parent's legal or physical custody, "maintain in own home" is selected as the permanency plan when all of the criteria in (A) through (C) are met.The:
(A) safety threats of abuse or neglect are managed with a safety plan in place;
(B) family is cooperating with Child Welfare Services to demonstrate child safety and parental protective capacity; and
(C) child's own home is determined to be an appropriate, safe, and permanent living arrangement for the child.
(2) Return to own home.When the child was removed from the home for protection from abuse or neglect, "return to own home" is selected as the permanency plan unless any of the circumstances in (A) through (C) apply.
(A) All parents, whether biological, legal, presumed, or alleged, voluntarily relinquish parental rights.
(B) A petition for termination of parental rights is recommended.
(C) The court finds reasonable efforts to reunite the child and family are not required.
(3) Adoption.When the child was removed from the home for protection from abuse or neglect and the child's parent is unwilling or unable to demonstrate the protective capacities necessary to reduce the risk of abuse or neglect allowing the child to safely return home, "adoption" is selected as the permanency plan when:
(A) reunification no longer appears feasible;
(B) the adoption consultation process was initiated to discuss the child's PP options, regardless of whether termination of parental rights was recommended;
(C) it is determined that an adoptive family is the appropriate, safe, and permanent living arrangement for the child; and
(D) one of the conditions in (i) through (v) occurred or will occur in the near future.
(i) A request is made to the court to end visitation.
(ii) A request is submitted to the district attorney recommending a motion or petition be filed to terminate parental rights.
(iii) A motion or petition to terminate parental rights is filed.
(iv) The parent relinquished parental rights.
(v) Parental rights are terminated.
(4) Guardianship.When the child was removed from the home for protection from abuse or neglect and the child's parent is unwilling or unable to demonstrate the protective capacities to reduce the risk of abuse or neglect that would allow the child to safely return home, "guardianship" is selected as the permanency plan when:
(A) adoption is not in the child's best interests and guardianship in the home of a relative, kin, or other person is determined as the appropriate, safe, and permanent living arrangement for the child; and
(B) the relative, kin, or another person is willing and able to protect the child, assume responsibility for the child's care and upbringing, and accept legal guardianship of the child.Permanent placement is usually preceded by temporary placement with the relative, kin, or another person who meets all approved placement provider requirements.
(5) Planned alternative permanent placement (PAPP).
(A) PAPP is selected as the permanency plan only when the youth is 16 years of age and older and the criteria in (i) through (iv) are met.
(i) All other permanency plans were explored and were not feasible or in the youth's best interests.
(I) Reunification is the plan unless all parental rights are terminated, a petition is filed for termination of parental rights, or the court finds reasonable efforts to reunite are not required.
(II) When reunification is not feasible, adoption or guardianship is the next plan considered.
(ii) The youth chooses not to be adopted after adoption was thoroughly explored, explained, barriers were identified and resolved, and the opportunities for an adoption were demonstrated.The CW specialist listens to the youth, but does not allow decisions that are contrary to the youth's long-term best interests.In most cases, aging out of the CW system is the least desirable outcome.Documenting that a youth does not want to be adopted is not sufficient exploration of adoption as the goal.
(iii) The CW specialist conducted and documented an intentional interview with the youth and identified and documented a sufficient support system with permanent connections in the Family/Kinship Connections screen, keeping in mind the youth's future needs.The best practice is to identify a minimum of six to 10 connections that the youth can depend on after exiting the CW system.
(I) When there are fewer than six identified permanent connections for the youth, the PAPP goal is carefully considered as it may not be the most appropriate permanency plan and efforts must be made to identify more permanent connections for the youth's time in care.
(II) The CW specialist interviews each person identified as a permanent connection and explores the possibility of adoption and guardianship with them before proceeding with a PAPP permanency plan.
(III) Each person identified as a permanent connection is asked to participate in the FM.The PP specialist discusses with each adult connection his or her plan to support the youth before and after aging out of care; and
(iv) An FM is held to discuss a PAPP's pros and cons as a permanency plan goal with the youth and the youth's team.
(I) The youth, all permanent connections, the CW specialist, and CW supervisor are required to attend the FM.Other people are invited to attend when they can provide information, assistance, or support.
(II) During each FM, reunification, adoption, guardianship, and reinstatement of parental rights are fully explored.
(III) During an FM, intentional conversation occurs with the youth on the pros and cons of having the PAPP case plan goal, what he or she believes is in his or her best interests, and why.
(IV) The FM report contains a detailed description of how and why all other permanency options were ruled out and/or what ongoing steps will be taken to achieve permanency for the youth.
(V) All permanent connections attending the FM sign Form 04PP022E, Permanency Pact, indicating how they will support the youth.
(B) The CW supervisor can approve PAPP as the permanency plan in KIDS after all expectations listed in paragraph (A) are verified and met.
(C) The CW specialist facilitates and documents a conversation with the youth to identify possible permanent connections, including a supportive adult who is:
(i) willing to commit to a life-long relationship with the youth;
(ii) a positive role model; and
(iii) able to provide specific support to the youth.
(D) When the youth resides with a supportive adult, the CW specialist:
(i) completes Form 04PP022E, between the youth and the adult permanent connection; and
(ii) provides the original Form 04PP022E to the youth, and includes a copy in the adult permanent connection, paper case record, and youth's Life Book.
5.Emancipation.Emancipation occurs when the child reaches the age of majority.In Oklahoma, certain rights of majority may be given to a child in certain circumstances, but this is not the purpose of emancipation as a permanency plan.
6. Indicators to proceed with a concurrent or different permanency plan.Concurrent PP, per OAC 340:75-1-18, provides for reunification services while simultaneously developing an alternative plan in the event reunification efforts fail or are delayed. A different permanency plan is established when "maintain in own home" or "return to own home" is no longer in the child's best interests.The conditions in (1) through (8) may indicate a need to pursue a concurrent or an alternate permanency plan for the child.
(1) ISP completion is irregular or sporadic and the parent has not addressed the safety threats in the home that may indicate a lack of interest in or commitment to reunification.
(2) The parent:
(A) lacks a close and positive relationship with the child; or
(B) visits the child inconsistently, such as frequently misses scheduled visits with the child or arrives late for visits with the child and leaves early.
(3) Maltreatment during unsupervised visitations is reported.Examples of maltreatment include, but are not limited to, referrals regarding the reoccurrence of abuse or failure of the parent to comply with any recommended treatment for the child.
(4) The child was returned to the home and removed again due to safety threats.
(5) The parent receives negative reports from service providers or other entities, such as FM members, PARB members, or the court-appointed special advocate (CASA).
(6) Reunification was the permanency plan for an extended period of time.
(7) The finding from the permanency hearing indicates a poor prognosis.
(8) A judicial finding was made that reasonable efforts to reunite are not required.
7. Reunification services.Court approval is required prior to the child's return to the home of the parent or legal guardian from whom the child was removed.In preparation for reunification and to provide the court information for consideration of a request for reunification, the activities in (1) through (9) occur.
(1) Visitation is increased in frequency and duration with reduced supervision, per OAC 340:75-6-30.
(2) The age-appropriate child is made aware that the parent progressed to the point that with the court's approval reunification may occur.
(3) Issues involving the child's apprehensions, indecisiveness, or reluctance to return home are managed through family consultation, FMs, counseling, or all three.
(4) Support services utilized include, but are not limited to:
(A) temporary child care;
(B) community service providers;
(C) in-home services; and
(D) continued Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) eligibility, when applicable, per OAC 340:75-6-31.2.
(5) The CW specialist informs the placement provider of the possibility of the child's reunification, provides information to the placement provider regarding the child, and includes the placement provider in PP.
(6) The CW specialist obtains information from service providers regarding the degree of safety in the family home including the parent's protective capacities, behaviors, and progress in correcting the safety threats.
(7) The case is staffed with the CW supervisor.
(8) An FM for reunification is held, per OAC 340:75-6-31.1.
(9) An assessment of child safety (AOCS) is required before recommending reunification to the court, per OAC 340:75-6-40.3.
8.Criteria for reunification.Indications for reunification are listed in (1) through (10) of this Instruction.
(1) The safety threats that necessitated the intervention are minimized.
(2) The parent's protective capacities increased.
(3) A plan is in place to address the child's safety and is documented on Form 04KI030E.
(4) The parent complied with the ISP.
(5) The parent demonstrated a change in the behaviors or circumstances that necessitated the removal, in such a manner that the conditions the court determines essential and fundamental to the child's health, safety, and welfare are met.
(6) Visitation is successful and increased in length and frequency, per OAC 340:75-6-30.
(7) The child resolved issues related to separation from the parent through counseling or other effective means.
(8) The child is prepared for the reunion and received support in managing his or her feelings about returning home and separating from the current placement provider.
(9) All adults living in the home who are not biological parents underwent a national fingerprint-based criminal history records search.
(10) The court gives prior approval of the child's return to the parent's or guardian's home, per Section 1-7-103 of Title 10A of the Oklahoma Statutes.
9.Guide for determining reunification feasibility.The questions in this Instruction are used as a guide in assessing the potential for successful reunification or in identifying poor prognosis.
(1) Has the parent demonstrated behavioral change related to the identified safety threats?
(2) Does the parent have the ability and willingness to provide a safe home for the child?
(3) When the abuse or neglect that precipitated intervention was severe, brutal, or cruel:
(A) has the parent made sufficient progress in completing the plan established to address the safety threats;
(B) is the parent responsible for the abuse or neglect no longer present in the home; or
(C) does the parent who was not the perpetrator have the protective capacities to keep the child safe?
(4) When the child has special needs, does the parent have the ability and willingness to meet the child's special needs and access community resources, when necessary?
(5) Are the child's feelings about the child's family and placement discussed during regular visits between the child and the CW specialist?
(6) Has the child resolved personal issues regarding the abuse or neglect and separation?
(7) Has the parent responsible for the abuse or neglect assumed responsibility?
(8) Is the child aware of each parent's ISP progress?
(9) Are there relatives, neighbors, child care providers, and community services who are active participants in the safety plan and who are willing to report safety threats?
(10) Does each parent keep medical appointments and have an interest in the child's school functioning?
(11) Has parent-child visitation increased in length and frequency for the child and the CW specialist to observe behavioral changes in the parent?
(12) Is there healthy, age-appropriate communication between the parent and the child?
10.Protocol utilized when a child wants to return home but safety threats are present.In some cases, the child expresses a strong desire to return home when the parent has not sufficiently reduced the safety threats to the child and increased protective capacities to allow the child to be safely returned to the home.In these circumstances, the CW specialist:
(1) informs the parent of the child's desire to return home;
(2) explains to the parent the consequences of failure to:
(A) eliminate the safety threats;
(B) comply with the ISP; and
(C) meet the child's need for a permanent home;
(3) examines the ISP to determine if revisions are necessary and encourages the parent's input.When ISP changes are required, refer to OAC 340:75-6-40.4;
(4) assesses if the services are available, realistic, and necessary to address the safety threats and increase the parent's protective capacities; and
(5) arranges a consultation through an FM with the parent; child, when appropriate; CW specialist; and key service providers to eliminate confusion or uncertainty for the parent.
11.Protocol utilized when a child is reluctant to return home.
(1) When the parent has corrected the conditions leading to the CW intervention but the child is reluctant to return home, the parent is informed of the child's preference and is involved in the resolution through:
(A) family counseling;
(B) consultation with the CW specialist; or
(C) a gradual reunification process.
(2) The CW specialist facilitates an FM to discuss a resolution.The FM requires involvement of the placement provider, child's counselor, or other service provider to explore the possibility of:
(A) abuse or neglect that was not disclosed or discovered;
(B) family violence, substance use or abuse, or conflicts that were not resolved;
(C) fears about the parent's treatment of the child;
(D) belief that the parent, stepparent, or other adults and children in the home feel negatively toward the child;
(E) fear or disapproval of the stepparent or other adults and children involved or living with the parent;
(F) concerns that conditions in the home, such as reliable meals, cleanliness, housekeeping conditions, appropriate clothing, and similar necessities are not available; or
(G) preferential treatment of other children by the parent or persons involved with the parent.
12.Reunification – Oklahoma Human Services (OKDHS) supervision.When the court returns custody to the parent under OKDHS supervision, the CW specialist end dates the current KIDS placement episode with the exit reason of "Reunification."The removal episode automatically end dates.