FOSTER PARENTS NEED A VOICE TOO – WHY FOSTER PARENTS SHOULD HAVE ATTORNEYS

Being a foster parent takes tremendous patience and courage. The stakes are about as high as they can be when children are involved. Losing often involves giving up children that foster parents have become extremely bonded to and who may have lived in their home for years on end. Trying to save money should not be an option for foster parents and it is extremely important that foster parents’ voices are heard at every meeting with CPS/DFS and at every court hearing. Foster parents need someone on their side that can navigate the legal process and be their spokesperson in meetings and Court hearings. The bottom line is that foster parents need their own lawyer.  This article explores the benefits for foster parents in hiring their own attorneys.

  1. Attorneys Can Assist a Foster Parent in Becoming a Party to a CPS Case. When an abuse and neglect case is filed, the parties in the case are the Department of Family Services, represented by the District Attorney, the children, represented by a CAP attorney, and the parents, who are represented by parent attorneys. In some cases, a live-in boyfriend or girlfriend of the parents is also made a party to the proceeding and is called a “special respondent.”  These parties have the right to receive notices of all court hearings, discover and access reports, motion the court with specific requests, call witnesses and cross examine opposing parties’ witnesses.  Foster parents are not parties to the original proceeding and therefore do not have many of these rights. Hiring a foster parent attorney can help foster parents in becoming a “party” and obtaining rights in legal proceedings.

Foster parents who want to become a party must usually file an intervenor action with the Court. An intervenor action, if granted by the judge, puts the foster parent on equal footing with all other parties in a CPS case. Once the foster parent has successfully intervened, the foster parent is entitled to the same right to notice, participation in hearings, access to reports and forum before a judge as any other party. If a foster parent wants the same rights as a party, it is strongly recommended that the foster parent hire an attorney.

  1. Attorneys Can Assist Foster Parents If Children Have to Be Removed. It is not unusual that a child in a CPS case may be moved several times throughout the case. This is usually referred to as placement. There are many reasons that placement can change and usually CPS is at odds with whomever the child is being removed from. Having an attorney can help a foster parent fight to keep placement of a child or fight a specific placement from occurring. Prior to the removal of a foster child, it is critical that foster parents who want to maintain a relationship with their foster child seek an immediate stay of the removal and request a forthwith hearing on the matter.  An attorney can assist with this.

If a child is being removed from a foster parent due to safety concerns or allegations of abuse against the foster parent, it is absolutely critical for a foster parent to have an attorney. A substantiated allegation of abuse against a foster parent can result in the foster parent losing their license. It can also result in the foster parent’s own children being removed. If an allegation of abuse is raised against a foster parent by a foster child or another party in the case, the foster parent is strongly encouraged to seek their own attorney.

  1. Attorneys Can Assist Foster Parents in Obtaining Services and Subsidies. Foster parents have to undergo a number of classes and attend meetings in order to become licensed by the state. However, nothing can really prepare a foster parent for having a child in their home. As every parent knows, every child is different and being a foster parent may come with its own unique challenges for each child. Having an attorney represent a foster parent can assist the foster parent in accessing services that the foster parent may not otherwise know about or be apprised of. Attorneys can assist foster parents in obtaining medical care for foster children, psychiatric services and tutoring services. Attorneys can also assist foster parents in scheduling visitations and in obtaining transportation for visitation. Overall, it just helps to have a lawyer fighting for the foster parents’ rights.
  2. Attorneys Can Assist in Termination and Adoption. There are often times that foster parents become adoptive parents. Navigating a termination of parental rights case and an adoption can be a daunting task for anyone. For a foster parent, it can be particularly trying because losing at termination means that you will not be able to adopt the child for the foreseeable future. Having an attorney through the termination process and adoption proceedings can help relieve foster parent’s stress and assist a foster parent in obtaining a favorable outcome. These topics are explored in more detail in other articles.

As you can see, if you are a foster parent it is very important that you have legal representation from the very beginning of the case. While it may seem like an unnecessary expense, it could cost a lot more if matters are not handled appropriately and in a timely manner. If you are a foster parent and want more information about how an attorney cam help you, please call us.