The Rights of Foster Parents
Most foster care arrangements are temporary: foster parents care for a child until the child is adopted, returned to his or her family, or reaches the age of 18. And although the relationship may be temporary, foster parents can have an enormous impact on a child's life and well-being.
Court and child placement decisions will almost always be made with the child's best interests in mind, and the requirements of foster parents are based on those concerns. But what may get overlooked are the rights of foster parents, with regards to both foster care placement procedures and with respect to the children themselves.
Foster Parent Bills of Rights
Several states have enacted a Foster Parent Bill of Rights designed to acknowledge and protect the dignity of foster parents, require notice regarding any child placement decisions, allow participation in planning visitation with a child's biological family, and give foster parents priority consideration if adoption of the child is an option.
While these statutes can vary from state to state, they have many provisions in common. Most of the laws give foster parents the right to:
- Be treated with dignity and respect as a member of the child's professional welfare team;
- Receive proper training and continuing support throughout the foster term;
- Receive a child's relevant biographical and medical information prior to or at the time of placement;
- Receive notice of placement department plans or court proceedings affecting a child's placement;
- Refuse a child's placement in the foster home or request the removal of the child from the foster home without reprisal;
- Timely and adequate financial reimbursement;
- Assist in planning visitation with a child's parents and siblings;
- Communicate with any other professionals working with the foster child, like therapists, physicians, and teachers;
- A fair and timely investigation and adjudication process regarding foster home complaints as well as an ability and forum to lodge their own complaints; and
- Priority consideration if and when a foster child becomes available for adoption.
General Rights and Power to Consent
Outside of specific state law, foster parents generally have the same rights and similar power of consent as parents. There are some exceptions however. In most cases, foster parents don't of the legal authority to consent to marriages, military enlistment, driver's licenses, and non-ordinary medical treatment. A foster parent's power to consent can also be limited by a court order or even the child's natural parent, if the child was placed in foster care voluntarily.
If you have questions about how to foster a child, or what your rights as a foster parent may be, a qualified adoption attorney may be able to help.
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