The Permanency Roundtable Program Helps Reunite Children with Their Parents
Ms. Taylor* and Mr. White* are a married couple who have five children between them and one on the way at the time their children were removed from their care due to a domestic violence incident. Thankfully, a relative was able to care for the two boys and another relative was given temporary custody of the three girls. The boy’s caregiver was given custody of the baby who was removed shortly after birth. Ms. Taylor and Mr. White struggled to consistently engage in services to address the domestic violence and their relationship remained unstable and erratic; however, they were visiting the children on a regular basis.
The family’s dependency case lingered on in this manner for three years. Although they were well cared for by their great aunts, neither was able to care for the children indefinitely. Unable to reunify the children with their parents and on the cusp of recommending legal action to terminate their parental rights, the case manager referred the six children to FFCR’s PRT Program. At the Initial 2-hour permanency roundtable, FFCR’s PRT Specialist facilitated the development of a permanency action plan focused on stabilizing the parents’ relationship and reengaging them in services. The PRT team also ensured that the two great-aunts had the necessary support to continue caring for the children. Over the course of the family’s involvement in PRTs, the case manager and guardian ad litem changed several times. The PRT Specialist worked to bring each new professional up to speed, and did not allow these personnel changes to derail the family’s progress towards reunification.
FFCR’s PRT Outreach Specialist maintained contact with each parent and provided encouragement and guidance. With this support, Ms. Taylor and Mr. White steadily progressed with their services and learned improved coping strategies. Eventually, adequate housing was the only barrier keeping reunifying the children from reunifying with Ms. Taylor. The PRT Outreach Specialist connected the case manager and Ms. Taylor with a program that provided temporary rental assistance, and she was able to move into a small townhouse. When the court approved, the PRT team assisted with the gradual transition of all six children back into Ms. Taylor’s care and helped her get her home ready for the children’s arrival. Although the parents had initially engaged in couple’s therapy, they eventually decided to divorce. With the assistance of the PRT team, they worked out a timesharing arrangement for Mr. Taylor’s three children. To increase social support and maintain connection with their extended family, the PRT team encouraged Ms. Taylor to remain in close contact with her maternal aunts who were able and willing to provide childcare, emotional support and extra love and nurturing to the children.
Effectively engaging parents who have lost custody of their children is extremely challenging. Often, when they struggle or get overwhelmed, no one takes the time to understand what the barriers are and what type of assistance and support they really need. Promoting reunification usually requires the kind of extraordinary effort and extensive practical and emotional support provided by FFCR’s PRT staff and the PRT team to parents such as Ms. Taylor and Mr. White. In this case, the PRT Program was able to facilitate both legal permanency with the parents and a lifelong permanent connection between the children and their great aunts.
* Names and identifying information have been changed to protect privacy.