Navigating the Foster Care System
Someone asked me lately how involved we got in our foster kids’ court proceedings.
My answer? V.E.R.Y.
Every three months there was a court hearing for the kids.
- We attended ALL court hearings.
- I wrote a letter to the judge a week before updating him on the kids.
- We talked with their court appointed lawyer before every hearing.
- We kept in contact with the social worker asking for all updates and plans.
- We sat with the birth parent and talked with them while we waited.
- We contacted the Guardian Ad Litem if needed
The judge always asked if we were present and read my letter during the proceedings. He often asked for our input to clarify some of the issues.
In addition, this shows the court that the kids are being properly cared for and fulfills one of the parental duties that are missing if they are not with their birth parents. It is amazing how much you will learn about their birth family, the foster care system and the legal system.
The case worker most likely has a heavy case load. By attending court you are showing the worker that you are willing to put in effort and support them. One of our workers was so burned out that he actually told us he wasn’t planning to do anything for our foster kids – that court was just a formality.
He had good reason to be discouraged. He had recently fought to terminate the parents rights of a boy in foster care because he knew the birth home was dangerous. He lost the case and the boy returned home immediately – he died that same week by parental abuse.
When we talked, we told him we would support him and even hire a lawyer if he felt the kids needed one. He accepted right away and started being more proactive.
Though we did not agree with much of the methods of the foster care agency, we remained involved through out the 2.5 years our last set of kids were in foster care. Since we were so involved, the judge felt comfortable granting the termination of parental rights.
The worker needs a plan.
Judges often won’t grant termination of parental rights if the foster care worker has no plan.
For the most part, the courts’ goal is to reunite families – which is the proper goal. But if that is not possible, judges need to know the child will have a forever family once termination is granted.
They don’t see the point of freeing a child that will only float around in the system. There are so many kids lost in the system, waiting for a family.
If you are a foster family that would be willing to adopt your foster child if they are ever in need, get involved in every area. It’s what parents do.
What do you find to be the greatest challenge in fostering? Is it the day-to-day caring for the child, or the emotional stress?
Let me know in the comments.