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Time to Permanency

Definition: Average (median) time from filing of the original petition to permanency

Purpose: Timeliness. The desired outcome is the expedition of permanency by minimizing the time from the filing of the petition or protective custody order to permanency.

Courts generally are most familiar with timeliness measures. These measures provide courts with tools to assist them in pinpointing areas where they are doing well and areas where improvement is needed. This measure is perhaps the most important indicator of timeliness because it covers the time from which the court takes jurisdiction of the case, i.e. when the petition is filed, to the time permanency is reached.

Key decisions that the court should make at the permanency planning hearing are:

  • The child is to be returned home on a specific date.
  • The child will be legally freed for adoption.
  • The custody of the child will be transferred to someone permanently.
  • The child will remain in foster care on a permanent or long-term basis.
  • Foster care will be extended for a specific time, with a continued goal of family unification.

Method: This measure can only be calculated after permanency has been achieved and the case closed. It should be calculated on all of the cases closed because permanency was achieved.

Select all cases that have achieved permanency within the past 12 months. Compute the number of days from filing of the original petition to the date of permanency for each of the four permanency outcomes.

Determine the case with the median time for each of the permanency outcomes.

Analysis and Interpretation:

Interpretation is enhanced by examining the average time from petition to permanency according to whether or not the child was removed from the home. Obviously, permanency is most critical when children are not in their own homes.

Calculating the relative time frames from which permanency was achieved further aids interpretation.

Time to permanency from Filing of Original Petition

Time from filing of the original petition to Permanency

Elapsed time between key hearings.

Required Data Elements:
Case number or child identifier,
Date of original petition was filed
Date permanency was achieved.
Reason for case closure—reunification, guardianship, adoption, planned permanent living arrangement.


Alternative Measures:
• Average time from removal to permanency
• Average time from shelter care hearing to permanency
• Length of Time to Exit Foster Care to Reunification
• Length of Time to Exist Foster Care to Adoption

Date of Removal: The date a child is actually removed from the home. Frequently, law and statute permit the removal of a child and the filing of the petition and hearing follows afterward.

Date of Case Closure: The date a cases is closed by the court and jurisdiction ended.

Closure Reason: Reason that a cases is closed: including reunification, adoption, emancipation, reaching age of majority, or another permanent living arrangement.

Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement: This is a permanent legal arrangement for a child designed to promote stability and permanency in a child’s life. It is a category for arrangements other than a return home, adoption, legal guardianship or placement with a relative.

Mean: The most common way of defining average (measure of central tendency) calculated as the sum of a all of the times to permanency divided by the number of cases in the sample.

Median: A robust way of defining average—the middle number in an array of numbers such that half of the numbers will be above this point and half will be below.
Calculated in this way, medians are not subject to fluctuations caused by a wide disparity in values that means are.