Permanency Options

The goal of everyone involved in the process is to safely return your children to your home permanently. Once your child is in placement, there are a number of possible permanency outcomes.


Reunification is the process of safely reconnecting children in out of home care with their families. When children can be safely reunified, this goal should be achieved in a timely manner.

When a child cannot safely remain at home, there are a number of different placement options. During the time of the placement, reasonable efforts are made by the social services agencies to provide the assistance and services needed to preserve and reunify the family. Reasonable efforts are identified within the family service plan, and might include drug or alcohol treatment, counseling or domestic violence services to name a few. Families may participate in Family Group Decision Making in order to create a plan that allows the child to return home safely. If the goals contained in the family service plan are met, reunification can occur.


Once it is determined that it is unsafe to return a child to his or her family of origin, adoption may be considered. After parental rights have been terminated, a child can legally be adopted.

Adoption is the official transfer of all parental rights and responsibilities that a biological parent has to the adoptive parent or parents. These rights and responsibilities include the care and supervision, nurturing and training, physical and emotional health and financial support of the child. Often, adoption of dependent children includes a financial subsidy to assist in their ongoing care.

Subsidized Legal Custodianship

Subsidized Legal Custodianship is a permanency option for a child who has been in substitute care for a minimum of six months and is unable to be reunited with his or her parents or for whom adoption is not possible. Subsidized guardianship programs strive to provide income support to the families and permanency for the children involved. Subsidized guardianships give the caregiver the opportunity to become the legal guardian of the child, thereby replacing the state in that role. After guardianship is granted, the state issues a monthly subsidy check to the guardian for the care of the child. The subsidy payments usually end when the guardianship terminates or when the child turns 18, although it may continue until the child reaches age 21 provided he or she is attending school.


When a child cannot return home and adoption or guardianship are not options, the child might remain in long-term foster care. In this arrangement, a specific adult or couple is in charge of the young person, exercises certain powers and responsibilities and plays a long term, permanent role in the child’s life.