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Kevin O'Flaherty

In this article, we explain what happens at a permanency hearing and answer the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of a permanency hearing in Illinois?
  • What happens prior to the permanency hearing?
  • What factors should be considered when scheduling a permanency hearing?
  • What is a permanency plan?

What Is the Purpose of a Permanency Hearing In Illinois?

Permanency hearings serve to determine what should happen to a child after entering foster care. As the name suggests, the purpose of the hearing is to achieve or work towards permanency for the child, so that the child is not left to languish in the foster care system.

The permanency hearing is a critical stage in neglect or abuse cases as during the hearing the court will determine if the parents or current guardian of the child have made appropriate lasting changes in their lifestyle, behavior, etc to allow the child to return home or whether there will be another outcome (usually the termination of parental rights and adoption, but there are other permanency plans that we will discuss.)

During the permanency hearing, whether it be the initial hearing or subsequent hearings, evidence and testimony may be considered to determine if the permanency plan established at the dispositional hearing or previous permanency hearing has been in the child’s best interest and to what degree the involved parties have worked towards the success of the permanency plan.

What Happens Prior To the Permanency Hearing?

The process that ultimately leads to a permanency hearing usually starts because the minor is removed from the home due to alleged abuse or neglect. An initial fact-finding hearing is scheduled, often in the form of a shelter care hearing. If DCFS fails to show evidence of abuse or neglect at the shelter care hearing then the child will usually be returned home. Otherwise, the child will continue under protective custody or be temporarily moved into foster care. From here, the dispositional hearing will be scheduled, during which an initial permanency plan will be created to hopefully resolve the case and place the minor in whatever situation is in his or her best interest. Prior to and after the dispositional hearing, further investigation and evaluation are made into the minor’s home situation and the treatment of the minor by the parents.

What Factors Should Be Considered When Scheduling a Permanency Hearing?

In most cases, a permanency hearing will be scheduled within 12 months of when temporary custody of the child is established. This timeline is shortened to 30 days if the parental rights of both parents are terminated at the dispositional hearing or a motion was filed requesting a finding that reasonable efforts to reunify the minor with his or her parents have failed and will no longer continue.

After the initial permanency hearing, follow-up permanency hearings should be scheduled at 6-month intervals until the goal of the permanency plan is achieved and the child has been placed with an appropriate guardian and the court deems the child’s living and guardianship situation in his or her best interest and the case is closed. Evidence can be presented by the appropriate parties at each permanency hearing sometimes leading to a change in the permanency plan and goal, and another follow-up permanency hearing scheduled.

What is a Permanency Plan?

The initial permanency plan is created during the dispositional hearing and acts as the guide for what should happen between the last dispositional hearing and the first permanency hearing. Often, the court creates two permanency plans, a primary one, and a backup. Within a permanency plan there may be multiple points or goals, such as 1) Return the child to the parents home and 1a) The parents must first complete drug rehabilitation, anger counseling, etc, and 2a) The parents must provide a stable source of income and dwelling, etc.

If the permanency plan is to change at the permanency hearing or be solidified from the dispositional hearing the court must order one of the following plans/goals:

  • Reunification with the parents within a given period of time;
  • Adoption;
  • A permanent guardianship;
  • Custody under the department and living with an appropriate relative;
  • Substitute care pending termination of parental rights;
  • Short-term care with the plan to return home within a given period of time;
  • Substitute care pending independence for minors 15 years and older; or
  • Continuing to live in foster care as long as certain criteria have been met.

In nearly all cases, unless the court rules all goals in the permanency plan met and the child’s custody and living situation in his or her best interest with the case closed, a permanency review hearing will be scheduled.

If you have any questions about Illinois permanency hearings give our office a call at 630-324-6666 and speak with one of our qualified family attorneys.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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