5 Things Foster Parents Should Know About Navigating The Court System

The important role foster parents have in a child’s life expands significantly when they go to court.
To make decisions in a child’s best interest, judges need good information, and foster parents ideally can provide that. Thus, foster parents having a complete understanding of how to participate in court goes a long way toward ensuring a safe, loving home for the child.
Here is a priority list foster parents should know in advance of a court appearance.
  • Be prepared. Foster parents are the voice for the child and must do everything they can to ensure that the child is heard in court. Do not come to court unprepared. The more information you bring, the better.
The judge largely depends on the foster parents’ testimony to decide what’s in the child’s best interest. The idea is to have enough information so you can answer the judge’s questions in a clear and beneficial way. To prevent being overwhelmed with documents days before court or scrambling for information, the best way to prepare is to begin keeping a journal well in advance. Taking notes about what happens in your foster child’s life creates an organized record, showing progress, behavior patterns and how they express themselves in different situations. Include school records and doctor’s appointments as well as notes about interactions between the child and their birth parents. Include highpoints, lowpoints, and milestones in the child’s development while in your care.
  • Know your rights as a foster parent. Foster parents should receive notices of all hearings. If you are not getting them, contact your social worker and/or a juvenile department clerk.
Foster parents also have a legal right to attend review hearings, usually held every six months, until the foster child receives permanency or the case is closed. They also have a right to attend permanency hearings and post-termination of parental rights (TPR) hearings. Permanency hearings have to be held before a child reaches one year in foster care, then every six months. Post-TPR hearings are held every six months until the child is in a permanent home.

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