Foster Care:

State Efforts to Expedite Permanency Hearings and Placement Decisions

T-HEHS-97-76: Published: Feb 27, 1997. Publicly Released: Feb 27, 1997.

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GAO discussed: (1) state efforts to reduce the time frames within which hearings must be held to determine permanent placements for foster children; (2) state initiatives designed to expedite permanent placements for foster children and the effectiveness of these initiatives; and (3) key factors that facilitate changes in this part of the child welfare system.

GAO noted that: (1) signaling the importance of permanent placement to the well-being of children, 26 states have established more stringent requirements on the timing of the first permanency hearing than has federal law, which requires a hearing within 18 months; (2) in addition, the states it reviewed undertook operational and procedural initiatives to expedite the permanent placement process as well as make well-informed permanent placement decisions; (3) although most of these states did not systematically evaluate their initiatives, they reported that many of the initiatives have contributed to reducing the time spent in foster care or decreasing the total number of foster placements made for a child; (4) state officials reported that the key factors in successfully implementing these initiatives were the long-term involvement of key officials, an extended commitment of resources, and the need for a change in perspective of case workers and judges in order to recognize that, in some cases, termination of parental rights is the best solution for the child's future.

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