We are still pretty new to this adventure (on our second placement) and I just got back from the initial 72 hour hearing for the kids just placed with us a couple days ago. I went to the hearing for our first placement as well, but that mom had been in the system for over a year, and it was a pretty quick in/out deal.
This was the mom's first appearance. It was pretty sad; both seeing the filth and neglect that the kids were in, which was obviously much worse than the parent pretended, but also the emotional state of the mom, who's situation is just a disaster. The social workers seemed surprised but pleased I was there; I understand they don't see foster parents often. I was surprised by the gratitude from the rest of the family there (if not the mom) for caring for the kids. They are obviously concerned about them.
I don't know if I will always go to hearings, but I wanted to go to get an idea of how that end of things worked. I was glad I went, now I am prepared for these guys to leave us at some point since at the time of placement the social worker did not know of any family, but now it looks like there will be family for them to (eventually) go to. Glad I was prepped for that news.
It was certainly a little awkward sitting in the waiting room with the family (social workers were in court for another hearing). Luckily, mom got there just in time (I was early) and was taken in to talk with the social worker. While her family was appreciative of my being there to reassure them that the kids were OK, I don't think she would have been - in her current state.
Anyway, wondering how many foster parents on here go to court hearings.
I'm still waiting on my license and placements, but I plan to go to all the court hearings (or as many as possible). The kids in my care are going to be treated as thought they are "mine," and therefore I'll want to know every detail I can about what's going on with their case(s). When we were adopting DS, I didn't "need" to go to any of his hearings, as he was placed as a pre-adoptive placement, but I went to every one, both to make sure I knew what was happening in case something changed, and to allow his birth family an opportunity to see him if they wanted to. Only his grandmother ever showed up, and she was grateful to see how he was doing and to get to know me a little bit. It gave her peace of mind to know that he was going to be with a family who cared enough to drive him across town each time to be involved in the process. It also let her feel like it was okay to let him go. She had asked for an open adoption (birth mom was incapacitated at the time so grandmother was the contact for the state) and we had agreed. By the time his adoption was finalized he was nearly 2, and she realized that it would be too painful for her to maintain contact. I'd much prefer to have the birth family decide during the proceedings to end contact than to have established an open adoption and then have them stop contact. I don't anticipate my foster situations to be exactly like this, but I have heard and read about so many cases where TPR is likely and the parents voluntarily terminated their rights once they realized what a great family the foster family was for their child. If TPR is imminent, I'd feel better knowing I did everything I could to help the birth parents feel better about it. If the family is going to be reunified or the kids are going to other family members, I'd still feel better allowing them to see what kind of people were caring for their kids.
That's just my newbie take on it. I'm curious to see if there's anyone here who thinks it's better (as a rule, I know specific cases will have very good reasons) NOT to show up for court as I'm not very good at considering the other side of the coin when it comes to this stuff.
Also a newbie, but the two times I've gone I think it was useful for all involved. It was certainly VERY useful for the mother to see that I was a nice, normal person and I that I supported the RU. Everybody was surprised to see me there, but happy to have me around.
I have never made it to a 72-hour hearing, but if I take another placement off the street, I'm going to try very hard to get there. I really think that my first foster son would have gone to his kinship placement a lot earlier if I had met them at the hearing and realized that they were both reputable and serious about taking in their relatives, and started being a squeaky wheel with the worker and her supervisor on their behalf. Once they finally got the worker's attention, they were approved in less than two weeks.
The downside of attending court is that you give up your anonymity, and that can be a bad thing if the biofamily is dangerous and the case ends up going to adoption. But realistically, anonymity is a pipe dream in most foster/adopt scenarios. Your name and information is all over paperwork everywhere.
I went to as many hearings as I could go to. There were a few that I was never informed about, two that I was told directly not to attend, and the rest I went to. So far, there have been more court hearings than home visits!
Here are some reasons to go to court:
- You'll learn more about the case than your caseworker is allowed to share with you directly
- No one can lie to you about what happened at court because if you're there, then you know what happened
- Sometimes you can ask questions or make statements that might help your child in the future
- It can help everyone humanize the whole thing. I've noticed a tendancy for the judges and lawyers to discuss the issues as abstract policy rather than looking to what's in this or that child's individual best interests
The downsides, as I see them:
- They can be stressful because of who you might see and what might get said before, after, or during court. And like Smithie said, there's a loss of anonymity
- The hearing times and rooms get changed at the last minute, which can make your schedule very chaotic. I can't imagine going to court for all my kids if, say, I fostered 3 or more kids from different families
- If you bring your foster child, sometimes the caseworkers will count the hearing as a "visit" with bio family members. That might be good for your schedule, but it's not good for your kiddo because the environment is so stressful it's hardly a real visit and it shouldn't count in the bio family's favor as a successful visit either. It's unfair to the child and it twists the process.
If you have a husband, try to get him to go to the hearings. My husband went and the judge was really impressed that the foster dad was that involved in the process. It also showed the relatives that we were a married couple and had a conversation from the fc's kin about having us adopt the child.
Yes! Go to court! But, try to meet the child's parents at a different time if you can- like before a parent visit.
Be sure to request a copy of the reports that everyone else got.
Anonymity is pretty out in our community as well; just the consequences of a small town. Our last placement came from a neighboring county, and we still ran into bio mom at an IHOP.
The more awkward thing for us is that my sister was a meth user for some time, and many of her past friends (she has been clean for 7 years now, and doesn't associate with her user friends) have kids in the age range for our license. The baby of a friend of hers was removed a few months after we got our placement. We probably would have been called if we had an opening, and the mom of these kids is the same age as my sister... the meth world is a small world.
Anyway, that was a tangent. Glad to hear that you all go - we'll stick with it. It really made me sad to hear that FPs don't go so much; I think it would be important for me to go just to keep a human face on the situation. It would be really easy to villainize the bio-family, but that doesn't serve the kids at all. Both times, so far, going has been really helpful in having some empathy and understanding for the situation.
We do not have a placement, but are a possible placement for my cousin's child (currently placed with maternal grandmother, who nobody in the family feels is fit). We will be going to the court hearing this coming thursday.
With my last two foster children, i went to every court hearing as soon as the trial started (our tpr trial lasted five months, so many opportunities to show my face in court!) I would have gone to earlier ones but no one told me about them. By law you are supposed to be notified, as its your legal right to attend as a foster parent. But sometimes those notices didnt come. When i asked the caseworker when court was she said "oh you dont have to be there!" i said no really, i'd like to go "But its not necessary!"...she really seemed to want to keep me out of court. I insisted. I dont think the judge even knew i was the foster parent until i went several times. I wasnt asked to address the court until the trial was over and we were just having "updates" every three months, then she would ask me to stand and tell her how the children were doing. Our judge was a really stern type judge, wouldnt take any crap from any lawyers, i thought she was "mean"...but she was really nice to me! I got the distinct impression foster parents rarely go because when the children's lawyer introduced me to the prosecutor he was all sorts of shocked "OHHH you're the FOSTER PARENT?!?!" Everyone would smile at me like i was some visitor from a foreign land. ;)
As others have mentioned, court is often the only way you'll find out information. Legally the caseworker can't tell you everything, but it all comes out in court. Plus, you will find out the "truth" of where the case is headed, the caseworker may tell you the children are going home or that you will be able to adopt, but you may get a totally different picture of the situation in court. i REALLY regret not going for my first foster (now adopted) child, but there were so few court hearings (TPR took place before he was even four months old) and my first placement and i just had no idea.
Where i live, it is generally frowned upon to bring the children to court esp if they are only supposed to be having supervised visits at the agency. I did bring my daughter once (because she asked her GAL if she could go and he was like "suuuure no problem!" i really did not want to take her but she was curious about "court" since it had been such a huge part of her life for so many years.) But this was after the trial, rights were already terminated, and it was just a quick "update the judge on the case" kind of thing. She was 8 yrs old and suddenly turned shy and wouldnt talk to the judge.
Sitting through the trial actually gave me a more realistic (and more negative) view of the birthparents. The bmom and i had bonded fairly well during visits and we'd sit together and talk outside of the courtroom (once i even gave her a ride somewhere after)--dad never spoke to me---but seeing both of them testify (they both did poorly, seemed to be shady and lying and the judge was NOT impressed) gave me a more well rounded view of them. Bmom would tell me one thing, then testify to something else on the stand.
I will never ever forget when the judge gave her final ruling in the case. I'm glad i will be able to tell my children exactly what she said and why she TPRd the parents. Even though it was the right decision it was heartbreaking (mom walked out during the verdict, dad stood up and begged for his child, it was awful)...i cried. Its such a bizarre thing to be happy in knowing the judge is essentially letting you keep your children that you want to adopt, but to be heartbroken knowing that decision is destroying two other people.
I really try to go. As with pp, they were impressed my DH was there, too. My younger DD's bio mom and dad showed up to them, also and it gave us time to chat and let them ask us questions.
Carly, mama to DS C (5th grade), DD Miss M (07/09, fostered 1/10, adopted 08/10), and Little Miss C (11/10, fostered 01/11, adopted 11/12). Foster Son, Mr. A, age 11 placed 10/13.
My angel babies , ~01/08~ (twins), ~09/08~, and ~01/09~.