needs education about the legal requirements for selecting APPLA under the ASFA guidelines so they can better determine if compelling reasons are presented and hold the APPLA choice to a high standard of evidence. There are circumstances where APPLA can and should be applied. However, the inappropriate use of APPLA is not only a disservice to the child affected, but it is also costly as the state pays a fine for each child that ages out of care under an APPLA permanency plan.
Recommendation #3: Ensure children have connections to family or other adults.
Only half (54%) of the cold case children had a documented relationship with an adult family member. Another 24% had no connections to adult family, but had at least one connection to a non-familial adult. The critical link between a nurturing adult-child relationship and healthy child development is well documented. As described above, the improvement of familial connections can start with thorough diligent searches. If relatives are unable to provide permanency, strident efforts should be made to foster and maintain familial relationships and relative visitation. When family members are located, concrete steps are required to cultivate relationships.
When no family resources can be established, fostering relationships with committed adults can begin by contact with school officials, CASA workers, mentoring agencies, coaches, and church members. The children themselves should be consulted for possible adult connections. DFCS should develop a policy that, absent a court order that contact is not in the child’s best interest, a child should have a right to continued contact with committed relatives and non-relative adults. The policy should cover all forms of contact – telephone calls, letters, and in-person visits. If an objection exists, the child should be given an opportunity to be heard before the court. Such a policy should also prohibit withholding of family contact as a form of punishment where safety is not an issue. No child should age out of care without a positive connection to a nurturing adult to provide the attachments and support required to deal with the trauma of abuse and neglect.
Recommendation #4: Involve children in permanency planning and Written Transitional Living Plans (WTLP).
Only 45% of eligible cold case children had a signed WTLP in their file. Boilerplate WTLP language indicates children have little involvement in the drafting of plans. The National Resource for Foster Care and Permanency Planning suggests that “All permanency policies programs, practices, services and supports should be developed and implemented in ways that
are driven by the young people themselves, in full partnership with their
families and the agency in all decision-making and planning for their futures, recognizing that young people are the best source of information about their own strengths and needs.”18 Youth should play an active role in permanency planning and the development of their WTLP.
Recommendation #5: Improve consistency and availability of Independent Living Program (ILP) Services.
Tremendous inconsistency exists in both the availability of ILP services statewide and in the receipt of services by eligible children. Only half of