Children are immature. While in the process of growing and developing, they are being shaped by their experiences. However "safe" foster care may appear, it is temporary and engenders a sense of not truly belonging.
Research has clearly shown that delay in achieving permanence is not in the child’s best interest. As time drags on, the possibilities of bad outcomes multiply. The child learns not to attach or bond. The likelihood that he or she will become a criminal, homeless, or mentally ill increases significantly.
If the child must be removed from the birth home, the preferred initial resolution is reunification. For the child’s sake, the DCS must press diligently to reunite the original family within the outside limits allowed by federal and state laws. The deadlines are clearly stated: 6 to 12 months or 15 of the past 22 months. The best way to avoid delay is to provide the birth parents with a reunification plan within 24 hours of removal and monitor progress weekly.
Time is the enemy of a growing and developing child. As months go by without reunification, an alternate permanency plan must be considered. Legal guardianship and long-term foster care are obviously not true permanency plans. Adoption and reunification remain the only two lifetime options.
Every child has the right to a permanent home. Because the child is the more vulnerable party, this right should not be delayed while birth parents are allowed opportunity after opportunity over long periods of time to correct their own unacceptable behaviors.
To grow up sane and whole, all children need a home base, with committed adults they can count on to affirm their accomplishments, to show them positive discipline, and to love them for who they are. Even later in life, home may become a place of refuge "where when you have to go there, they have to take you in."
Indiana foster children spend an average of almost two years in foster care. That is both unnecessary and unacceptable. As former Indiana DCS Director James Payne once commented: "When you’re in third grade, it’s a long time till lunch."