foster parents uncertain of next legal steps - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 10 Old 05-07-2012, 12:24 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I am writing on behalf of my parents who are foster parent to 2 young girls. They are not really on board with the message board system so I am posting their story and questions.
My parents have been caring for these 2 bio siblings for much of the children's lives. They are now almost 6 and 2 and 1/2. The bio parents entrusted their children to my parents' care and as the bio parent's situation deteriorated my parents got certified as foster parents. The children were formally placed with my parents in December 2011. My parents are not biologically related to the bio parents - they just live in the same small town.
Both bio parents have weekly supervised 2 hour visits with the children. The bio mother does not seem especially interested in getting her children back. She does not consistently come. The bio father on the other hand has pressure/support from his mother and has been making some moves toward getting his children back. He consistently goes to the supervised visits but does not have unsupervised visits. So that the story is complete, a 3rd child, 6 month old baby is placed with the bio grandmother (mother of the bio father) - she is unable to care for the other 2 although she did attempt to have longer visits at some point this winter. She did one weekend with all 3 girls and then decided she was not able to do that.
My parents, the foster parents, have known these children their entire lives. The bio father would not be competent to care for his children on his own. He physically abused the bio mother and shows little interest in the actual process of parenting. The older of the children is afraid of him and is uncomfortable in his presence. The younger of the children gets little or no attention from him.
It seems to me that my parents have the best interests of the children in mind while the bio father is going through the process because of pressure from his mother. (of course you understand that I have some bias here) My parents would be happy to be a permanent home for the children.
The foster care worker suggested that my parents intervene in the foster care legal proceeding. I feel that they should not do this without a lawyer. I don't know exactly what it would mean but I understand that they would then have the opportunity to assert that they have a long term relationship and that their opinion might count for more than it does now when they are "just" the foster parents.
Additionally, there is a Citizen Review Board hearing coming up that my mother is apprehensive about. I think she is worried because she doesn't know exactly what decisions will be made.
Has anyone intervened in their foster children's cases? Were you successful? Has anyone done a Citizen Review Board hearing and how was it? Any suggestions and resources would be appreciated.
Feel free to get back to me if I didn't make sense. Thank you.

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#2 of 10 Old 05-07-2012, 03:31 PM
 
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Intervening is something that only certain states allow. I know heatherdeg on this board intervened in a former foster child's case, that child was in TX. In MI, i'm pretty sure we cant do it. Hopefully someone who has more knowledge will chime in. 

 

Can they afford a lawyer? If so they should absolutely get one, make sure the lawyer is experienced in child welfare cases.


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#3 of 10 Old 05-07-2012, 04:02 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the response. I am so glad to get responses from people who are more knowledgeable. They are in Oregon and I understand that it is allowed there. Or at least I would hope so since it was recommended by the case worker.
Another worry for them is that the bio father is likely to leave the state if he gets custody (if that is the right word) of his children back. I think that they are trying to walk that fine dance between really believing that they are the best people to care for the children, considering the years of relationship they have built (that route would involve hiring a lawyer and getting really serious about intervening) and not wanting to sever all ties with the bio father in case he gets his children back (they would then like to maintain contact with the children which has been possible in the past although of course they are much further down the road than before).
Thanks again

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#4 of 10 Old 05-08-2012, 09:25 PM
 
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This sounds like a tough situation. I'm not clear about how the system works in Oregon because I'm in Michigan. I would agree that meeting with an attorney experienced in foster care would be a good idea. We did this when we had our first foster child placed with us and we learned so much in half an hour. A couple other resources might be if the children have an attorney or CASA volunteer assigned to them. Here in Michigan, each child in care has a state-appointed attorney called a guardian ad litem who represents the child's best interests (not the parents' or foster parents', but the child's). That person might have some good advice. We don't have CASA volunteers in my community, but if your parents do maybe they could help. Also, is there a foster parent support group in their area? Or a state association of foster/kinship/adoptive parents?


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#5 of 10 Old 05-09-2012, 10:46 AM
 
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Yes, we intervened on a case in Texas (for a child that was originally with us in NJ).  I'm not sure you CAN do it without a lawyer and they're not particularly inexpensive.  If they were formally placed in Dec. 2011 then they COULD potentially wait out the 15 month mark of custody when the state would then move to terminate the parents rights (or rather, they should).  If the children have been with your parents more than 15 months and could somehow prove that (was the state involved in the initial placement?  were either or both of the parents working a case plan during that time or was it a "kinship placement"--which is a term that has nothing to do with relationship--where the parents weren't bound to work a case plan?) then it might be different.

 

Most states have a rule about how long a person/party can be involved in a child's life to intervene but it's usually relatively short (6-12mo) and sounds like your parents have met that standard.

 

Intervening can make them "a party to the case" which means they actually have some say in the proceedings.  But it doesn't guarantee that it will end as they want it.  Ultimately, the states like to keep kids with their bio parents.  Intervening now could actually wind up putting those kids with the bio-dad to "test drive" his parenting (this is a huge problem with domestic violence cases--it's not like drug cases where you can just test them to see if they're clean... kwim?).

 

If I were your parents, I would have them find out what the kids case plan goal is.  IS it reunification?  I think most states do concurrent planning now, so it might be "Reunification with a concurrent plan of adoption" by your parents--which means that they will work a case plan for reunification, but if the reunification doesn't happen they won't move the kids to another adoptive home and they will count all their time with your parents towards the live-in requirement for adoption instead of starting that clock when the RU fails.  Did that make sense?  Hoping so.

 

If the case plan is actually adoption, your parents don't need to hire a lawyer.

 

Sad to say, but it doesn't really matter what is motivating dad.  :/  Even if he's only doing it because everyone else wants him to.  A dear friend was in a VERY similar position to your parents with 3 children she'd had for almost their entire lives and mom got them back despite the fact that mom clearly wanted my friend to keep them.  The mom got a LOT of family pressure over it.  Thankfully, she's doing well with the kids; but it was really painful.  At the end of the day, the parents motivation is way less the issue than them following through on what is asked of them by the courts to ensure the kids are safe and healthy in the parent's care... kwim?  I watched one go back to a parent that really just viewed her kid as a meal ticket/additional qualification for state benefits.  Sad, but true.  But she did what they told her to do to ensure that the kid was safe and healthy.  They also usually assign a "safe person" in the family--so if this father's family wants him to have the kids, they will undoubtedly be very willing to live with him and act as that "safe person" (someone who clears a background check that can be trusted to ensure the kids are safe, and call it in if they aren't--although that last part is questionable a lot of the time :/  )

 

Also, if the kids are returned to dad in your case, it's not likely he'll be able to leave the state right away.  It happens sometimes, but usually either the state wants to supervise for a period of time and makes them stay or they transfer supervision to another state.  That's how our case got into court: mom left NJ with permission but then failed to follow-up under the terms of supervision.  It was about 8mo post-RU that they let her move but continued supervision.  They re-removed the child 7 weeks post-relocation in TX.  :/

 

Not sure any of this helps.  But my thoughts are with your family.  It's a tough process.


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#6 of 10 Old 05-09-2012, 08:47 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Heatherdeg, Thanks for your in-depth thoughts. They were very useful.
My understanding is that at least one of the goals of the case plan is reunification. If working a case plan means that the parents have been told by the judge to do certain things before getting their children back then that is what they have. I don't believe it is a kinship placement.
I know what you mean about the whole issue of the courts not being necessarily interested in what is best for the children but instead in fulfilling the requirement that children be placed with bio parents if it is safe. A pretty low standard...but I can also see why it is that way.

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#7 of 10 Old 05-09-2012, 09:03 PM
 
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No--they're not interested in the motivation of the parents.  They DO want what's best for the children, but yes--it's a lower standard than we realize sometimes.  I was trained as a CASA worker and they go into this concept called "minimum sufficient level of care" and it essentially means that the kids are safe, have access to healthcare and have access to education.  But beyond that, all bets are pretty much off.  "Safe" covers things like safe from physical abuse, physical danger (like unable to get out of the house in a fire) and safe from illness being inflicted on them by the environment they live in (so, animals defecating in the house for example).  I have to be honest: I don't think that's a bad thing.  None of my kids went home to places that could touch the environment I gave them and that's fine.  I know that ultimately, they are much happier with their biological relatives in conditions that are infinitely less optimal than being at my house without them.

 

The thing is, I know the kids that have lived with me--even for a short time--are changed forever.  They know what kind of life is possible because they lived it even if only for a short time.  But they LIVED it.  They EXPERIENCED it.  And now, nobody can tell them it's a fairytale... kwim?  That's huge in terms of shaping the adults they become.

 

Hugs to your family.


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#8 of 10 Old 05-10-2012, 10:58 AM
 
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 I know the kids that have lived with me--even for a short time--are changed forever.  They know what kind of life is possible because they lived it even if only for a short time.  But they LIVED it.  They EXPERIENCED it.  And now, nobody can tell them it's a fairytale... kwim?  That's huge in terms of shaping the adults they become.

 

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#9 of 10 Old 05-10-2012, 11:24 AM
 
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If one of the case plan goals is reunification, then the parents still have the opportunity to complete the case plan. Your parents should find out if the parents have made any progress on their case plan and when the case plan expires. I do think they should speak up and be heard, if that is feasible. Intervening in a formal sense is not allowed in my state, but the judge would certainly allow them to be heard in court. Have they talked with the case manager about wanting permanent guardianship (to adopt the court would have to terminate the parents' rights which is much more difficult to do)? I have worked in child welfare for many years and would be happy to discuss this further with you-- just PM me. Best of luck!

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#10 of 10 Old 05-14-2012, 12:56 PM
 
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Yes, intervene whenever possible! I am a parent to an adopted foster child.  I fostered a child for nearly 3 years before finally given the opportunity to adopt.  We have an open adoption which may be something your parents want to consider, if available in your state.  How it works is both bio-parents have to sign their parental rights over.  In my case both parents were willing to do this after some negotiations, and the open adoption includes 4-6 visits per year and I must provide pictures and updates on the child on a regular basis. I did consult a lawyer and honestly he told me there was nothing he could do until the state was ready to terminate the bio-parents rights.  States move to terminate rights when the bio-parents are not completing the reunification case plan put together for them by the social worker.   The attorney did assisted me with the open adoption proceedings and negotiations.  Throughout the years I was a foster parent I obtained letters of recommendations from teachers, daycare providers, family members and doctors attesting to the fact that the child would be better off in my care this all contributed to the states termination case.  I also kept in constant contact with the social worker assigned to the case.  Good Luck to your family!!!  They are doing a great thing caring for these children! 

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