Chapter 3 : Section 3.1

Selecting the Permanency Goal

Policy

Unless the court finds that aggravating circumstances exist, consideration of permanency goals shall occur in the following order of preference:

  • Remain with Family;

  • Family Reunification;

  • Adoption;

  • Permanent Guardianship;

  • Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA).

For children receiving in-home services, the permanency goal shall be Remain with Family.

For children receiving out-of-home care services, the initial permanency goal shall be Family Reunification, unless the Department is considering termination of parental rights due to the presence of aggravating circumstances. When aggravating circumstances exist, the Department may propose the initial permanency goal is undetermined.

The Department shall recommend to the court that the permanency goal be changed from Remain with Family or Family Reunification to another option when, following discussion in a case plan staffing, the Department determines that:

  • reunification services are contrary to the child’s best interests;

  • aggravating circumstances exist; or

  • no available services or interventions will enable the family to address the safety and risk factors that prevent the child from living safely at home within a time frame that meets the needs of the child.

Reunification services are not required to be provided if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that one or more of the following aggravating circumstances exist and relieves the Department of its duty to provide reunification services:

  • The child previously was removed, adjudicated dependent due to physical or sexual abuse and, after the adjudication, the child was returned to the parent or guardian and then removed within eighteen months due to additional neglect or abuse.

  • A party to the action provides a verified affidavit that states that a reasonably diligent search failed to identify and locate the parent within three months after the filing of the dependency petition or the parent has expressed no interest in reunification with the child for at least three months after the filing of the dependency petition.

  • The parent or guardian is suffering from a mental illness or mental deficiency of such magnitude that it renders the parent or guardian incapable of benefiting from the reunification services. This finding shall be based on competent evidence from a psychologist or physician that establishes that, even with the provision of reunification services, the parent or guardian is unlikely to be capable of adequately caring for the child within twelve months after the date of the child's removal from the home.

  • The parent or guardian:

    • committed an act that constitutes a dangerous crime against children as defined in A.R.S. § 13-705; or

    • caused a child to suffer serious physical injury or emotional injury.

  • The parent or guardian knew or reasonably should have known that another person committed an act that constitutes a dangerous crime against children as defined in A.R.S. § 13-705.

  • The parent's rights to another child have been terminated, the parent has not successfully addressed the issues that led to the termination, and the parent is unable to discharge parental responsibilities.

  • After a finding that the child is dependent:

    • the child has been removed from the parent on at least two previous occasions;

    • reunification services were offered or provided to the parent/guardian after removal; and

    • the parent/guardian is unable to discharge parental responsibilities.

  • The parent or guardian of a child has been convicted of:

    • a dangerous crime against children as defined in A.R.S. § 13-705;

    • murder or manslaughter of a child;

    • sexual abuse, sexual assault or molestation of a child;

    • sexual conduct with a minor;

    • commercial sexual exploitation of a minor;

    • sexual exploitation of a minor;

    • luring a minor for sexual exploitation; or

    • the parent or guardian of a child has been convicted of aiding or abetting or attempting, conspiring or soliciting to commit any of the crimes listed directly above.

  • A child who is currently under six months of age was exposed to a drug or substance and the exposure was not the result of a medical treatment administered to the mother or the newborn infant by a health professional and both of the following are true:

    • the parent of the child is unable to discharge parental responsibilities because of a history of chronic abuse of dangerous drugs or controlled substances; and

    • reasonable grounds exist to believe that the parents condition will continue for a prolonged or indeterminate period based on a competent opinion from a licensed health care provider with experience in the area of substance abuse disorders.

Concurrent case planning shall occur for all children placed in out-of-home care with a permanency goal of Family Reunification when the prognosis of achieving family reunification is poor and unlikely to occur within 12 months of the child's initial removal.

The Department shall seek a permanency goal of Adoption for children who cannot be reunified with their families, unless a compelling reason to not pursue adoption exists.

The Department shall seek a permanency goal of Permanent Guardianship when:

  • the child cannot be reunified;

  • adoption has been considered; and

  • the child (if age appropriate), family and Department are in agreement that guardianship is in the child’s best interest (for example, to maintain cultural, sibling and/or family connections, or when a child age 12 or older will not consent to adoption.)

The Department shall seek a permanency goal of Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA) only for youth age 16 years and older when family reunification, adoption, and permanent guardianship have been actively pursued by the Department and are determined not attainable prior to the child reaching the age of majority or not in the child’s best interests. When APPLA is the permanency goal, the Department shall enter into a formal agreement with the youth to document the permanent living arrangement.

The Department shall not change the permanency goal previously approved by the court or discontinue reunification services unless ordered by the court. Pending court approval of a change in the permanency goal, the Department shall increase efforts to implement the concurrent plan.

Procedures

Selecting the Permanency Goal

Whenever possible, prior to the case plan staffing, discuss the importance of permanency with the parents, guardians, and/or custodians, and inform them of all available alternatives to achieve permanency for the child, including family reunification through successful behavioral changes, consent to adoption, consent to guardianship, and adoption through termination of parental rights. Engage the parents, guardians, and/or custodians in a discussion of the alternatives to achieve permanency and obtain their input into the selection of the permanency goal.

Consider permanency goals in the order listed in policy. Select a permanency goal that is consistent with the needs of the child. Consider whether aggravating circumstances exist, any specific directions from the court, and input from the parents, guardians and/or custodians, child (age 12 years or older), and other service team members.

When selecting the permanency goal for the child, seek to maintain and support the child's relationship to parents, siblings, kin, and other individuals with whom the child has a significant relationship.

Aggravating Circumstances

If certain aggravating circumstances are present, the court may relieve the Department of its duty to provide reunification services. If the court finds reunification services are not required, the court will order a permanency goal and the Department shall provide services necessary to achieve the permanency goal ordered by the court.

Remain with Family as the Permanency Goal

Select a permanency goal of Remain with Family if the child is to stay with their family and the case is open for ongoing, in-home services.

See additional information regarding in-home services and case planning:

Family Reunification as the Permanency Goal

Select a permanency goal of Family Reunification as the initial goal for children receiving out-of-home care services, unless aggravating circumstances exist. See Family Reunification.

Adoption as the Permanency Goal

Select a permanency goal of Adoption when the permanency options of Remain with Family and/or Family Reunification have been ruled out, unless there is a compelling reason to not terminate parental rights.

Consider revising the goal from family reunification to adoption when in the child's best interests and any of the following circumstances exists:

  • The parent has abandoned the child.

  • The parent has neglected or willfully abused a child.

  • The parent is unable to discharge parental responsibilities because of mental illness, mental deficiency or a history of chronic abuse of dangerous drugs, controlled substances or alcohol and there are reasonable grounds to believe that the condition will continue for a prolonged indeterminate period.

  • The parent is deprived of civil liberties due to the conviction of a felony if the felony of which that parent was convicted is of such nature as to prove the unfitness of that parent to have future custody and control of the child.

  • The potential father failed to file a paternity action within thirty days of completion of service of notice or failed to file a notice of claim of paternity.

  • The parents have relinquished their rights to a child to an agency or have consented to the adoption.

  • The child is being cared for in an out-of-home placement and the Department has made a diligent effort to provide appropriate reunification services and that one of the following circumstances exists:

    • The child has been in an out-of-home placement for a cumulative total period of nine months or longer pursuant to court order or voluntary placement and the parent has substantially neglected or willfully refused to remedy the circumstances that caused the child to be in an out-of-home placement.

    • The child who is under three years of age has been in an out-of-home placement for a cumulative total period of six months or longer pursuant to court order and the parent has substantially neglected or willfully refused to remedy the circumstances that caused the child to be in an out-of-home placement, including refusal to participate in reunification services offered by the Department.

    • The child has been in an out-of-home placement for a cumulative total period of 15 of the most recent 22 months, the parent has been unable to remedy the circumstances that caused the child to be in an out-of-home placement and there is a substantial likelihood that the parent will not be capable of exercising proper and effective parental care and control in the near future.

  • The identity of the parent is unknown and continues to be unknown following three months of diligent efforts to identify and locate the parent.

  • All of the following are true:

    • The child was cared for in an out-of-home care pursuant to court order.

    • The Department made diligent efforts to provide appropriate reunification services.

    • The child, pursuant to court order, was returned to the legal custody of the parent from whom the child had been removed.

    • Within eighteen months after the child was returned, pursuant to court order, the child was removed from that parent's legal custody, the child is being cared for in out-of-home care, and the parent is currently unable to discharge parental responsibilities.

  • The parent has had parental rights to another child terminated within the preceding two years for the same cause and is currently unable to discharge parental responsibilities due to the same cause.

When applicable, describe in the case plan the compelling reason why terminating the parent’s rights (TPR) is not in the child's best interest and the permanency goal will not be changed to adoption, such as:

  • the child does not consent to adoption;

  • the permanency goal is permanent guardianship, which does not require TPR; or

  • the parent is terminally ill.

Termination of parental rights either by consent (relinquishment) or by court order is necessary for every child in the care, custody and control of the Department who has a permanency goal of Adoption. See Terminating Parental Rights.

Permanent Guardianship as the Permanency Goal

Select a permanency goal of Permanent Guardianship when family reunification and adoption are unlikely and/or there is a compelling reason not to terminate parental rights. See Permanent Guardianship.

APPLA as the Permanency Goal

For youth age 16 years old and older, select a permanency goal of APPLA when family reunification, adoption, and permanent guardianship have been actively pursued and are determined not achievable prior to the youth reaching the age of majority. A permanency goal of APPLA does not preclude the Department from providing services that will support family reunification, adoption, or permanent guardianship should a change in circumstances arise, such as the identification of a potential permanent guardian.

APPLA as a permanency goal shall not be recommended for children who have regular unsupervised visitation with their parent(s).

Documentation

Document the discussion during the case plan staffing for the selection or revision of the permanency goal in Notes as a Staffing note type, and in the next Progress Report to the Juvenile Court or Report to the Juvenile Court for Permanency Hearing following the case plan staffing.

When APPLA is the permanency goal, document in Notes designated as Locate Efforts note type, the intensive ongoing efforts that have occurred to return the youth home or secure a permanent placement with a fit and willing relative (including adult siblings), an adoptive parent, or a legal guardian, including efforts to utilize search technology (including social media) to find biological family members.

When APPLA is the permanency goal, document the actual or planned permanent living arrangement, i.e. with a kinship or licensed caregiver, in the Transition Plan.

Document the permanency goal for each child involved in the case within the case plan.

Effective Date: February 1, 2021
Revision History: August 03, 2018