Standards for public agencies

2020 Edition

Child and Family Services (PA-CFS) 13: Child Permanency

When children have been separated from their families, the agency participates in or facilitates permanency planning to promote physical, emotional, and legal permanence for children. 
Interpretation: The permanency planning process for American Indian and Alaska Native children and families must always involve tribal representatives and service providers to ensure compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act’s placement preferences and support culturally responsive planning that recognizes and incorporates tribal definitions of permanency and tribal perspectives of the best interests of the child into the permanency plan. To facilitate full participation, the agency must ensure that the tribe or local Indian organization receives timely notification of court or administrative case reviews, and is informed of any changes made to the permanency plan. 
NA The agency does not work with children placed in out-of-home care.
2020 Edition




Child and Family Services promote child and family well-being, protect children’s safety, stablilize and strengthen families, and ensure permanency.
Note: Permanency planning often occurs in conjunction with service planning. 
Full Implementation, Outstanding Performance
A rating of (1) indicates that the agency's practices fully meet the standard and reflect a high level of capacity.  
  • All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, with rare or no exceptions; exceptions do not impact service quality or agency performance. 
Substantial Implementation, Good Performance
A rating of (2) indicates that an agency's infrastructure and practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement. 
  • The majority of the standards requirements have been met and the basic framework required by the standard has been implemented.  
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality or agency performance.  
Partial Implementation, Concerning Performance
A rating of (3) indicates that the agency's observed infrastructure and/or practices require significant improvement.  
  • The agency has not implemented the basic framework of the standard but instead has in place only part of this framework.   
  • Omissions or exceptions to the practices outlined in the standard occur regularly, or practices are implemented in a cursory or haphazard manner. 
  • Service quality or agency functioning may be compromised.   
  • Capacity is at a basic level.
Unsatisfactory Implementation or Performance
A rating of (4) indicates that implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all.  
  • The agency’s observed service delivery infrastructure and practices are weak or non-existent; or show signs of neglect, stagnation, or deterioration.  
Self-Study EvidenceOn-Site EvidenceOn-Site Activities
  • Procedures for permanency planning
  • Procedures for finding and engaging kin
  • Procedures for terminating parental rights
  • Reports or other aggregate data regarding the length of stay in out-of-home care from the previous 12 months
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Parents served
    4. Children served
    5. Resource parents
    6. Residential treatment providers
  • Review case records

PA-CFS 13.01

Permanency planning: 
  1. occurs with families and the team of people that support them, including out-of-home care providers, service providers, and extended family members or other supportive individuals identified by the family, as appropriate; 
  2. is scheduled at times when appropriate parties can attend; and
  3. is child-driven, with children actively involved in every stage of the process as appropriate to their age and developmental level.
Examples: Child-driven permanency planning can include, but is not limited to, involving children in:
  1. conversations about what permanency means to them;
  2. the discovery of extended family and other significant adults; and 
  3. the formation of a permanency team that will support their desired outcomes and have an ongoing role in their lives. 

PA-CFS 13.02

The agency exercises due diligence in identifying and notifying all adult relatives of a child’s separation from his or her family within 30 days. 


The agency should have established procedures for identification of kin that involve a combination of engaging children and family members, conducting a thorough review of the case record, and using technological resources for family-finding. Notification should be provided in family members’ preferred languages and in multiple forms, including written form, in order to ensure accountability and maintain a record of efforts to notify.  Intensive efforts should be made to identify and notify at least relatives up to the third degree, and ideally relatives up to the fifth degree, including non-custodial parents and their relatives, relatives of incarcerated parents, and family members outside of the country. While federal law does not require it, the agency should ideally also identify and involve other family-like supports, including non-related adults with a connection to the child. 


This standard does not apply to cases in which kinship care does not involve an exchange of custody that requires legal permanency planning.

PA-CFS 13.03

Concurrent planning is documented and includes:  
  1. early, preliminary, and reasoned assessment of the potential for reunification, the best interests of the child, and the need for an alternative plan; 
  2. full disclosure to involved parties of all permanency options, including expectations, implications, available supports, and legal timelines; 
  3. joining a resource family that is prepared to develop a life-long relationship with the child; and 
  4. counseling parents about relinquishment and alternative permanency options if needed.
Interpretation: The age of a child should not limit the consideration of all permanency options. 

PA-CFS 13.04

Permanency plans document: 
  1. permanency goals;
  2. why goals are in the best interest of children and their well-being;
  3. why other permanency options are not appropriate; and
  4. how service plans and identified interventions support permanency and child well-being.


State regulations may require obtaining the child’s consent when guardianship or adoption is pursued. However, when the case involves an American Indian or Alaska Native child, such regulations may also be superseded by the Indian Child Welfare Act, wherein consent is not required.

Fundamental Practice

PA-CFS 13.05

In compliance with applicable law and regulation, legal permanency planning occurs according to the following standard timeframes: 
  1. within 60 days of placement a court-determined permanency plan is developed;
  2. at least every six months, a court or administrative review of progress towards permanency occurs;
  3. within 12 months of placement, and every 12 months thereafter, a permanency hearing evaluates the permanency goal and determines the need for an alternative goal; and
  4. after a child has been in placement for 15 of the most recent 22 months, a legally-exempted permanency decision is made or proceedings are initiated for the termination of parental rights.
Interpretation: Resource parents and residential treatment providers should be notified of and are entitled to participate in any review or hearing. 


The length of time a child has been in care cannot be the only justification for terminating parental rights. In order to support parents that are actively making progress towards reunification but need more time, the agency can determine a compelling reason for not filing for the termination of parental rights. Whenever possible, the permanency timeline for parents with substance use conditions should reflect the time needed to receive substance use treatment services and make progress towards recovery.  The mental health status and readiness of the child should also be taken into consideration when assessing permanency goals.


This standard does not apply to cases in which kinship care does not involve an exchange of custody that requires legal permanency planning.

Interpretation: Regarding element (d), federal law permits American Indian and Alaska Native families to move forward with a customary adoption, without terminating parental rights.  Customary adoptions, approved or adjudicated by the tribal court, are arranged through custom and tradition and allow for the transfer of custody while preserving parental rights. 

Other circumstances that preclude termination of parental rights when the case involves an American Indian or Alaska Native child include: placement with extended family per ICWA placement preferences; transfer of jurisdiction to the tribal court; insufficient provision of “active efforts” to support reunification; and inability to satisfy the legal requirements for termination of parental rights under ICWA. 


PA-CFS 13.06

The agency acts in accordance with federal and state regulations for terminating parental rights through court order or voluntary surrender, and:
  1. advises parents of their rights and options; and
  2. supports parents throughout the process. 
Interpretation: The Indian Child Welfare Act includes provisions related to the termination of parental rights that apply to both public and private adoption proceedings.  Parents of American Indian and Alaska Native children should be informed of their right, under ICWA, to withdraw consent to voluntary termination and the process and timeframes for doing so. 

PA-CFS 13.07

Case records document efforts made to support parents towards reunification, including:  
  1. involvement in assessment, service planning, and service selection;
  2. diligent efforts to provide parents with needed services and supports, including both formal and informal community resources; 
  3. ongoing, constructive, and progressive contact with their children; and
  4. reduction of barriers to contact and involvement in their children’s care.


When the agency is working with American Indian and Alaska Native children and families, the Indian Child Welfare Act requires active efforts be provided to support reunification. Active efforts require affirmative, thorough, timely, and culturally responsive engagement with families to satisfy the case plan by accessing resources and services and partnering with the tribe. Early consultation with the child’s tribe is critical to ensuring that a full range of resources have been made available to the family and that active effort requirements are fulfilled.  Agencies may work with tribal leadership, elders, religious figures, or professionals with expertise concerning the given tribe to determine culturally responsive active efforts and identify culturally appropriate services for the family. 

PA-CFS 13.08

To support permanency goals, resource families are informed about, and assisted in, pursuing permanency options such as adoption or guardianship, as appropriate.