The Georgia Cold Case Project
suffice during a federal audit. During follow-up calls, DFCS representatives in one county volunteered to ensure that future paperwork contains proper reasonable efforts language.
Compelling Reasons for an APPLA Permanency Plan
Under the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA), child welfare agencies may choose “another planned permanent living arrangement” (APPLA) when preferable permanency options (reunification, adoption, legal guardianship, and permanent placement with a relative) are unavailable. APPLA is intended to be a permanent living arrangement, enduring beyond the expiration of the dependency case. This would entail a specific adult or adults who will act as permanent parental figures for the child.
If APPLA is the chosen permanency plan, the state must provide “compelling reasons” to the court as to why this plan was chosen over preferred options. An example of an acceptable compelling reason under ASFA would be an older teen that has a close bond and regular visitation with her mother, but due to disability the parent is unable to care for the child. Under an emancipation permanency plan, the teen resides with a stable and nurturing family that is committed to caring for her on a permanent basis.
APPLA was the plan for one third (36%) of cold cases reviewed. One in four of these cases did not have compelling reasons for choosing APPLA documented in their court orders. The most common compelling reason cited was that the child had behavioral problems (35%). The age of the child was the compelling reason in 19% of APPLA cases. Neither behavior nor age is a “compelling reason” according to ASFA regulations.
In 12% of APPLA cases compelling reasons were described in the file, but not documented in any court order. During follow-up calls, DFCS representatives in one county said they would include reasonable efforts to achieve permanency paperwork in the reviewed files.
Signed Written Transitional Living Plan
A written transitional living plan (WTLP) is required for all youth in care within 30 days of turning age 14, or for youth entering care at age 14 or older. Youth are administered the Ansell-Casey Life Skills Assessment, the results of which are used as the basis to develop the child’s WTLP goals. Family team meetings are used as a forum to both develop and implement the WTLP. The WTLP must be amended or revised at least every six months, or more frequently if new needs are identified, goals are achieved, or if the court orders new recommendations. Case managers are to review the WTLP with the youth at least every six months, and the plan has a place for the signatures of the child, case manager and coordinator to acknowledge that the WTLP information has been conveyed and agreed upon. More than half (58%) of cold case children were of age to require a WTLP. Of those, 90% had one in their file. Of the WTLPs located, only 45% had been signed by the child. During follow-up calls, DFCS representatives in one county said they would promptly secure the necessary WTLP signatures.
A common theme noted in case reviews was generic WTLP language. Some documents were vague and failed to address issues specific to the child.