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Adoption Blog: Fostering Love

Court Appearances and the Importance of Documentation for Foster Parents
Filed Under: Foster Adoption



Foster parents are sometimes required to testify in court. This was never mentioned during all the hours of education and training I've had to undergo to get and maintain my foster parent license. It's not that there is any special technique that foster parents need to know, or specific protocols that need to be followed, but I've discovered there are a few things a foster parent can do to make the most of court appearances.

Depending on the facts of the case and on the judge, foster parents might make somewhat regular appearances. For my first six foster children, I was never required to physically appear in court. I had to write several letters to the court for one child, stating my opinions as his caregiver, but those were delivered by the child's case manager. However, for my two current foster children (a half brother and sister who are part of a larger sibling group), I've had to attend several hearings, including two for termination of parental rights. Foster parents' observations are valuable, and they should expect to be involved in representing the interests of their foster children.

I've always tried to keep a good record of important events in my foster children's lives. As the frequency of my required court appearances increased, I learned how important it is to write EVERYTHING down. No matter how silly it might seem at the time, having a record of how your foster child acted after returning from visitations, when he started having nightmares, what birthday presents he did (or didn't) receive from his father, and how often you took him to visit his grandmother outside of the pre-arranged visits could all come in handy later. I document a lot of that information in e-mails to the children's case managers and guardian ad litem. I try to send a “weekly update” e-mail to everyone who might be interested; even if there is nothing important to report, I let everyone know that the kids are doing well.

I also keep every scrap of paper that has anything to do with the foster children: medical records, school papers, and reports from therapists. In the case of foster children, it's better to have too much information than not enough. I've been asked to provide information to the children's case manager, guardian ad litem, and even the court countless time. I was once asked to bring copies of all of my foster daughter's medical records to a court hearing, and it was so nice to know that I had everything in one place, ready to go.

It's been my experience that the court is less interested in my opinions about the child or the child's parents than in having me report provable facts. Were my foster daughter's immunizations up to date when she was placed in my home? How often does my foster son attend speech therapy and what kind of progress has he made since being placed in care? How do the children act after returning home from a visitation with their biological mother? The more information I have written down or filed, the easier it is for me to answer these questions. I always skim through my notes before I attend a hearing, just to make sure that I have everything fresh in my mind.

For the foster parent, court hearings may be opportunities to gain new information. Case managers get busy and might not remember to tell the foster parents every new development in the child's case. The case manager might omit mentioning something not out of neglect but because it simply doesn't seem important. For example, I heard something at one of the termination of parental rights hearings that seemed to everyone else like an inconsequential detail of an event that happened a long time ago, but for me, one of my foster son's strange behaviors suddenly made perfect sense. If I hadn't sat through the hearing, I'd have never understood what was bothering my foster son.

An important part of being a foster parent is advocating for the child. Foster children need their best interests represented not only at school or at the doctor's office, but in the courtroom, as well. Keeping good records for my foster children and being willing to testify about that information is an essential part of what I do as a foster parent.


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2 Comments

Adopting child through all adoption process is good for adoptive parents. But I saw that people have misconception that going for adoption through adoption process is hectic and take allot of time. It will require allot of documentation. Hope this article clear their these misconception.

By Judith Bell on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 8:46 am.

I’d like to add that though foster parents are rarely required to attend CPS meetings or court hearings, doing so can positively impact how you are perceived by the judge, the state’s attorney, CASA, the child’s attorney and the caseworker.  We’ve fostered ten children and adopted five. One of us has attended every single meeting and court hearing for each of their individual cases. Out of dozens and dozens of hearings, we’ve only been asked questions or testified a few times, but being a known quantity in court never hurts.  Sometimes just showing up can make a world of difference

By hdctx on Sunday, July 12, 2015 at 3:59 pm.

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ForeverMommy

ForeverMommy

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