Foster Parents Need Legal Standing

James Kenny, PhD's picture

A significant voice in court is necessary for foster parents if they are to provide the judge with the personal knowledge of the child that they possess. The federal Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) granted them the right to be heard but this has often been misunderstood or overlooked. Frequently, it has proven difficult to get the attention of the judge.

All the other significant parties, including the caseworker, the birth parent, the prosecutor, the CASA (court-appointed-special-advocate), and the GAL (guardian-ad-litem) have legal standing. Not the foster parent. Foster parents may come to court represented by an attorney and file a “motion to intervene.” But with or without an attorney they may not be heard. Foster parents in Indiana have obtained legislation giving them the right to be notified of all court hearings, the right to present oral and written evidence, and the right to cross-examine all witnesses. More is needed.

To achieve a significant voice in court, grant legal standing to long-term foster parents, those who have had the child in their home for a year or more. This allows them to speak out in court as an equal party. After one year, the system has already failed to meet the deadline for permanence mandated by ASFA. Legal standing would give a significant voice to long-term foster parents: those who have intimate daily knowledge of the children in their care, who adopt 70 percent of foster children who are adopted, and who care about these children more personally than institutions, agencies, welfare departments, or courts.

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