"The child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love, and understanding….”
The Foster/Adopt Parent as Witness
Keeping a journal, as explained in Chapter Eight, is the number one way foster parents can help their attorney present a compelling argument. Foster parents should prepare for court by reviewing the written material in their journal entries. The Daily Journal for Foster Parents (2008) contains a helpful quarterly summary outline of important issues. This summary can be used to inform the judge at a court review hearing, to update the caseworker in preparation for a case conference, or simply to organize the parent’s own thinking about their foster child. See Appendix D for a copy of the summary outline. Other written materials might also be entered in the summary.
Courts are adversarial settings and can be intimidating. The foster/adopt parent may be concerned about being cross-examined. The attorney might reassure and counsel the foster/adopt witness in the following manner: “You are on the stand to express what you think is best for the child in your care. Keep it simple. Think of the child’s welfare and try not to worry about yourself. Don’t be rushed. Take your time to answer any questions. It’s okay to admit that you don’t know something. Don’t badmouth the birth parents or any other party. Stay positive in expressing your feelings about the child.”
The attorney should ask for a declaration of the foster/adopt parents’ commitment. The foster/adopt parents should make clear to the court that they understand adoption to be a promise of forever. They are offering the child a permanent home.
The foster parents’ attorney may choose to call members of the community who have observed first-hand the day-to-day interactions between child and family. While these witnesses cannot offer an expert opinion, they can be led through the bonding standards point by point.