This is one question that I have been asked in an email and also hear from time to time. I will start with what should happen.
Soon, after the children are placed into foster care the biological parents are given a service plan. Please remember, things will differ somewhat state to state or within the states things can also be different. The biological parents may also have different plans or individual areas that they may need to work on. They are given a year to work their plan, but with saying that, they also are suppose to be showing progress that they are working on their plan.
The goal is that biological parents should have their plan worked within 12 months, so that the children can return home. They can be given a 6 month extension to finish working their plan. Some states do have shorter time lines.
Now after saying that, letâ€™s get down to the daily reality in most foster cases. With my years of being a foster parent I have only seen and known of one case that followed this time line which comes from The Adoption and Safe Families Act. I will write about why this case followed the time line in the near future.
In most cases the biological parents do not attempt to work their plan or they may half way do a couple of things so they can say they are working on it. It is common for judges to grant the biological parents 6 months extensions like they are handing out hall passes to the point of the extension adding up to years instead of a few months. It does not matter if the biological parents have not done anything on their plan or even if they are in prison without the possibility of caring for their children.
Granted within time (sometimes years) if the biological parents continue not working their plan their parental rights will be terminated. Then the goal for the foster children will be adoption.
The reason that courts do not follow the time line is something that always bumfuzzled me. Then someone explained that it is about the numbers. The courts report their numbers and how the cases end. So is it about the children, or how the numbers will appear to others?