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Foster Parents’ Rights
Laws affecting the rights of foster parents vary from state to state. These laws and regulations include the process for the termination of parental rights, removal of children from foster homes, and involvement in permanency planning decisions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Are foster parents given preferential treatment if a former foster child re-enters foster care or the child becomes available for adoption?
A: Sometimes. In many states foster parents are given preferential treatment because it furthers the state’s interest in reducing trauma, creating stability in the child’s life, and promoting the best interest of the child.
Q: Are foster parents able to file for termination of parental rights?
A: States are split on this issue. The determination generally comes down to whether or not the court views the foster parents as an interested party standing in the place of the parents and having a vested interest in assisting the court in determining the best long-term plan for the child. Some states do not allow foster parents to file for termination of parental rights; however, do allow foster parents to provide a report or make a recommendation to the court prior to the termination of parental rights hearing. In several states the key issue is the length of time the child has lived continuously in a foster home.
Q: Do foster parents have a right to notice of review hearings regarding their foster child?
A: In nearly all states, foster parents must be provided advance written notice of and opportunity to be heard in any review or termination hearing with respect to their foster child. This includes hearings concerning permanency for children in their care. The right to be heard includes only the right to testify and does not include the right to present other witnesses or evidence. The court has discretion to permit a foster parent to become a named party in a proceeding.
Q: Do foster parents have a right to notice of adoption proceedings or permanent guardianship hearings?
A: Yes, in most states. Some states allow the foster parents to intervene as a party in any proceeding involving custody of their foster child. Other states allow foster parents to object to the adoption petition. Many states consider foster parents to be “interested parties” with a right to present evidence or testimony at the hearings.
Q: Will a foster parent be precluded from adopting a child solely because that person has been the child’s foster parent?
A: No. Generally, after a child becomes free for adoption, foster parents are given preference and first consideration over other petitioners who file a petition for adoption of a child who has previously or currently resides with them.
Q: What rights do foster parents have when the state decides to reunify the child with his/her family?
A: In most cases, the states goal is to preserve the family unit whenever possible. Most states do not permit foster parents to petition for adoption when the Department of Social Services has decided to reunify the child with his/her family. Generally, foster parents are permitted to testify and present evidence regarding their former foster children in abuse and neglect proceedings because foster parents are in a position to provide the court with pertinent first-hand information. A few states allow children to stay in contact with former foster parents via telephone, mail, or visits; unless the court determines that the contact is not in the child’s best interest.
Q: Are foster parents entitled to advance notice of non-emergency transfers?
A: In most jurisdictions, foster parents must be given reasonable notice of the state’s plan to terminate the foster child’s placement. However, advance notice is generally not required in emergency situations. Under these conditions a foster child is in danger, necessitating immediate removal from the foster home. Often, foster parents have a right to appeal a foster child’s removal due to their special relationship with the child. This rule varies from jurisdiction and is based mainly on the length of time the child is in the foster home.
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