Allegations of Child Abuse or Neglect Against a Foster Parent
It's not unusual for children and adolescents coming from hard places to make false allegations against a foster parent, hoping they will just be returned home to their birth family. Unfortunately if there are allegations made against you, your foster child will be removed from your home and will not likely return.
The biggest mistakes foster parents make when they are facing allegations are talking to too many people and not hiring an attorney. Even if the allegations against you are false, you MUST take them seriously and take action immediately!
Do NOT have ANY contact with your foster child involved in the allegations or his/her birth family,
your resource worker, a child's parent aide, CASA or CPSW.
The Alliance is the state chapter leader for the National Foster Parent Coalition for Allegation Reform (NFPCAR) and can provide you with some guidance. A helpful guidebook by the NFPCAR is called: Standing in the Shadows of the Law. This comprehensive resource book contains instructions for your protection and will help you and your attorney prepare your legal strategy. Foster parents also have the option of seeking counsel from a First Initial Response Team (F.I.R.S.T.) member. This team is made up of trained NH foster parents, often an officer of the NH Foster and Adoptive Parent Association (FAPA) who have knowledge of the protocols DCYF must follow and will explain the investigation process and maintain confidentiality according to state laws. The toll free number for F.I.R.S.T. is 1-800-792-0262.
According to A Resource Guide to Assist Families with Foster Care Adoption and Permanency Supports from DCYF: When a foster parent becomes aware of an allegation against them, the most important thing to do is to stay calm. Reports alleging child abuse and neglect in foster homes are referred to the DCYF Central Intake Unit. Experienced staff screen the report and a determination is made as to whether the report will be assigned as an investigation. The allegation is then forwarded to State Office and assigned to staff in the Special Investigations Unit (SIU). If the allegation is not referred to the SIU, there still may be a report made to the local DHHS District Office that the Resource Worker will discuss with you. Foster parents may not be aware of an investigation until a SIU worker contacts them. The case manager most likely is not the initial contact with foster parents regarding an abuse/neglect report.
Please keep in mind that an array of feelings is normal during the investigation of allegations of abuse and neglect in foster homes, even when the allegations are false. It is not uncommon to feel frightened, confused or even angry when someone accuses you of child neglect or abuse. You must also remember as advocates for children that these procedures are in place to protect children from any possible situations where mistreatment may exist. Also, do not forget that staff in the field of abuse and neglect is doing these investigations and they have many years of experience.
While foster parents may wish to discuss the allegations with their case manager or Resource Worker, he or she will not be able to discuss any specific information with them. They must allow the investigator to perform his or her role without interference. Sometimes the investigator will request assistance from the caseworker or Resource Worker under special or extenuating circumstances. In all instances, the investigator will direct the case manager and the scope of participation will be clearly outlined by the investigator. The allegations reported may rise to the level of criminal consideration. For example, all allegations involving sexual abuse are investigated jointly by DCYF and law enforcement. The police will be notified and made aware of the allegations. If the police decide to press charges, you will be notified by them and advised of your rights. Please note that criminal charges are separate from any authority or action that may be taken by DCYF (p. 9).Retrieved from: https://www.dhhs.nh.gov/dcyf/adoption/documents/foster-adopt-resource-guide.pdf
NH State Law 170-E: 52 V. says: The foster parent shall be given reasonable notice of any plan to remove a child from the foster home. The notice shall include the reason for the change or termination in placement, provided there is no concern for the safety and welfare of the child.
Most often however, DCYF and/or law enforcement will circumvent this law deeming the removal emergent for the safety and welfare of the child.
Click HERE to read the NH State Administrative Rule He-C 6446.27 related to removals from a foster home.
Go HERE to read the foster parent law