January 14th, 2008
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Categories: The Questions

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, let’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?

More reading:

Foster Parents Versus Biological Parents

What is the Priority Children or Drugs?

Effects of A Mother’s Choices

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6 Responses to “What Happens if Biological Parents Don’t Work Their Plan?”

  1. Deb Donatti says:

    I am wondering how often the parents get the kids back, only to have them land back in foster care quickly again.
    And do they start that count/ allowed time to work on a plan, all over each time?

  2. bob says:

    Often times the bio parents will be making slow progress or it takes them a while to realize the reality of what they have to do and they start later in the game. The ultimate goal for the child is always reunification, and by law, (in my state anyway) family services must put a good faith effort towards reunification as long as the rights of the parent have not been terminated. There are many factors that they have to consider legally. For example, is there a bond between the child and the bio parent?

    The families are given more of the services they need and as long as there is progress the judges often hold a glimmer of hope for families. More children are being returned to their parents today in the US then in the past and the time in foster care is shorter, statistically speaking. It’s never an easy decision to terminate the rights of a parent.

  3. bjc says:

    What about when there isn’t a bond between the bio parent and the child?

  4. xxsurroundedbyxy says:

    Where are you getting your statistics from? I would like to read it. I do not thing that time in foster care is shorter. I think more may be having rights terminated and being adopted rather than living in the system. I also do not believe that more are being returned to their parents, which may be a good thing with the bio parents I have seen in the system. Just curious as to where your statements stem from.

  5. bob says:


    It depends on the state. The Los Angeles Times recently published an article regarding reforms to the Child Protective / Foster Care system, I looked for it to post it, but it has aparantly been removed from their server. :-(

    What it said (from memory) was that the system is putting more effort into helping parents to get their lives on track, and by doing so, were able to shorten the average time a child spends in foster care as well as driving down the numbers and it has been successful. At the same time they have increased the number of adoptions which has driven the number of children in foster care at any particular time down signifigantly.

    The State of Maine is another example. There CPS and DCFS have undergone serious reforms. What they have done is changed the culture of the child protective system. Workers spend more time in the home, visit more frequently, etc. They provide drug treatment, for example, pick the parents up, take them to rehab and involve the children more. The focus is on keeping the families together by providing more services. This has also been very successful, as well as less costly. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t protecting children, just that they are going about it in different ways.

  6. eomaia says:

    Where did you get your info about parents not working their plan right away and being given extensions like hall passes?

    This is one reason that I’m against confidentiality rules. There is not enough public data to know what typically goes on when children are in foster care. I’m guessing you’re going by what social workers have told you off the record. Of course, they wouldn’t tell you if they repeatedly lost paperwork or otherwise dragged their feet to make the case take as long as possible and set new hoops for each one the parents jumped through, eventually settling on a plan that was as open to interpretation as a Rorschach ink blot.

    There is more than one side to every story.

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