Across the United States, a number of states have enacted a Foster Parent Bill of Rights: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Washington.
Other states have various codes or policies that are somewhat similar in nature. Here are some general provisions gleaned from reviewing several states’ regulations pertaining to foster parents:
- Resource parents must be treated with dignity, respect and trust
- Prohibition on discrimination
- Respect for family values and beliefs
- Availability of standardized training
- Information about state laws and guidelines on the obligations of foster parenting
- Timely financial reimbursement
- Availability of professional assistance twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week
- Notification of issues that may jeopardize the health and safety of the foster family or the child
- The ability to request the removal of a child from the foster home without fear of reprisal
- The right to receive all pertinent information relevant to the care of the child
- Timely discussion with a case manager about the individual service plan concerning the child in the foster parent´s home
- Respect for foster parents’ input concerning the plan of services for the child
- Communication with professionals who work with the child in foster care including therapists, physicians and teachers
- Written notice of any hearing or review where the case plan or permanency of the child is an issue
- Fair and timely investigation of complaints concerning their foster home
- A comprehensive explanation of any corrective action plan relating to the foster parents
- To have an advocate present during investigations of abuse or neglect at which an accused foster parent is present
- Understanding that there is a need for occasional respite periods for foster parents
Foster Parent Rights Evolving in New Jersey
In a rights related topic, recently in the New Jersey Assembly, a bill was introduced that has an effect on foster parents. The bill is A-4295, which requires a resource family parent, relative, pre-adoptive parent or caretaker to be a party to reviews or hearings involving a child under the Division of Child Protection and Permanency in the Department of Children and Families’ care. The proposed law is sponsored by Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini, District 11 (Monmouth County) and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, District 37 (Bergen County). In 1997, The Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA, Public Law 105-89) was signed into federal law by President Clinton. This law promoted adoption, expanded health care for adoptive children, alleviated some hurdles in interstate adoptions and required that Permanency Hearings be held every 12 months. It also guaranteed that foster parents could be heard at hearings involving children in their care. New Jersey formally enacted the state implementation of ASFA in March 1999.
There is a significant difference in being able to be heard at the hearing and being a party to the proceedings. Being “a party” would impart additional direct rights to every foster parent, such as timely legal notice of calendar dates, the ability to have legal representation, the right to make formal motions and to be involved in nearly every facet of the court proceeding.
We at Foster and Adoptive Family Services are studying the topic. We strongly encourage you to share your opinion on this current issue. These questions are intended for your consideration, not as showing any particular leaning or bias in this policy matter.
Are there other fostering issues that you feel are more important for your State Government to look into? Please share them by leaving a comment below.