Foster Parent Court Reports
COURT REPORT GUIDELINES FOR NH FOSTER PARENTS:
1. Reports should be sent to the court at least 14 calendar days before the scheduled hearing. The address for the court should be included on the invitation letter you received from the District Court to attend your foster child's hearing.
2. The comments you submit to the court should not advance a particular position or plan for the child. They need to focus on the status of the child in your care.
3. Foster parents should discuss their general observations about the behavior of the child while in their home and the relationship of the child with any members of his or her family.
4. Include in your comments any information in your opinion, affects the health, safety or well being of the child in your care.
5. You may also want to discuss:
• visits and/or connections between the birth parents and the child;
• visits and connections with siblings and extended family;
• educational and social issues;
• medical and/or mental health considerations concerning the child; or
• other comments or concerns.
According to NH state law 170-C:E(52)VI and pursuant to RSA 169-C:14, the foster parent shall receive notice of all court proceedings, may submit written reports, and, at the court's discretion, may attend such hearings and provide oral reports of the child's behavior, progress, and developmental, educational, and healthcare needs. A Resource Guide to Assist Families with Foster Care Adoption and Permanency Supports NH, foster parents are invited to submit a letter or report to the court. Below you will find guidelines and links for foster parent court reports.
For additional information, DCYF recommends that licensed foster parents go to the NH Judicial Branch Circuit Court Family Division website:
Consistent with the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA), foster parents, pre-adoptive parents and relative caregivers may submit a letter or report to the court, whether or not that person plans to attend the permanency hearing. Similar to the NH Judicial Branch Circuit Court Family Division website and the NH foster parent manual, Protocol #10 indicates that written comments should be filed with the court at least fourteen (14) days in advance of the hearing. Upon receipt of such information, the court should determine who will be responsible for mailing the letter or report to all parties of record. The court may either photocopy the letter/report and mail it to all parties or may choose to send a copy of the letter/report to one of the parties and require that it be photocopied and mailed to all other parties.
The written comments submitted to the court should not advance a particular position or plan for the child but should instead focus on the status of the child(ren) in care. A letter or report may address the following:
(a) general observations about the behavior of the child(ren) while in a foster parent's, pre-adoptive parent's or relative caregiver's home and the relationship of the child(ren) with any members of the family;
(b) visits and/or connections between the biological parents and the child(ren) as well as any visits and connections with siblings;
(c) any educational, social, medical and/or mental health considerations concerning the child(ren) or any special problems experienced by the child(ren); and/or
(d) any other information that in a foster parent's, pre-adoptive parent's or relative caregiver's opinion affects the health, safety or well-being of the child(ren) in their care.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND:
Your court report will be seen by all parties of your foster child's case. This includes the judge, the CPSW and DCYF attorney, CASA/GAL, the birth parents and their attorneys. Your report will become a permanent part of your foster child's record. It's imperative that you follow the guidelines put forth by DCYF and the courts. If your court report is subjective in nature it could be expunged from the record- initiated by the judge or through a request to the court or a motion filed by a party to the case.
- Always include a cover letter with your report addressed to the court clerk. Each courthouse has the Family Court Clerk listed on their website.
-Send two original copies to the court. On one copy write in red ink in the upper right-hand corner: Judge's Copy.
- If you send a photocopy of pictures, keep in mind that only the judge will have a color copy as others will get black and white photocopies. Do not send original pictures and absolutely do not send any videos.
- Sometimes court reports can get "misplaced" if they are not given directly to the court. Always send your report directly to the judge as indicated in NH statutes, court policies and the foster parent manual. You may also bring it to the clerk's office in the courthouse. Be sure to get a receipt from the clerk. Normally someone will photocopy your cover letter and stamp it with the date.
Powerpoint presented by Anna L. Elbroch & Susan Meagher at the 2018 NHFAPA Conference
DOCUMENTATION FOR COURT & CASE REVIEW ONLINE COURSE:
Granite State College offers a free 12-hour online training course for NH foster parents and relative caregivers for the state.
Children in foster care are also involved in the court process. As primary caretakers for these children, caregivers have valuable firsthand knowledge regarding the children’s behaviors, patterns, school performance, responses to visitation, etc. that are essential to developing case plans and determining permanency through court proceedings. The caregivers’ ability to accurately document and communicate this information through the proper channels is essential for judges who need to be informed when making decisions regarding children in care. Caregivers should also be aware of liability issues and how proper documentation may provide them with some protection.
Judges make critical decisions regarding the lives of children in care and rely on parties to the case providing them with valuable accurate and objective information and observations in order to make those decisions. Caregivers are a great source of information regarding the children as they are their primary caretakers. Learning to document and communicate detailed and objective information can be vital to developing appropriate case plans and may be included in court reports. Understanding the court system and the roles and responsibilities of those involved in the process helps foster/adoptive/relative/residential caregivers better advocate for children in their care. Accurate information regarding children, their behaviors and needs, is essential to developing appropriate case plans.
Your role as a foster parent is to provide the court with current and accurate information regarding the child in your home. You may provide oral or written information to the court. Any information that you provide will be shared with all parties on the child's case.
Upon completion of this course, participants will be able to:
Identify cognitive, behavioral, social, physical, and emotional strengths and challenges of each child and youth in care.
Understand court processes and the roles and responsibilities of court personnel including: guardian ad litem, court appointed special advocates, prosecuting attorneys, judges, and court investigators.
Be aware of the legal rights, protections, and responsibilities that pertain to caregivers, children and youth in care, and primary families.
Be aware of protocols including the caregiver's responsibility in court.
Assist in the preparation of testimony.
Learn how to testify appropriately in court hearings.
Be familiar with the agency’s policies regarding reporting: reporting the adjustment of the foster family and the child or youth in care; reporting emergencies; vacation planning; respite care; record keeping; training and grievance procedure.
Describe the roles and responsibilities of children or youth in care during court processes.
Objectively document pertinent information regarding chid(ren) in care.
Communicate objective observations regarding child(ren) in care during assessment and planning conferences.
Understand the child or youth’s rights and how to implement agency procedures regarding confidentiality.
Learn how the family case plan guides child or youth care activities, foster family activities, and the provision of services that meet the child’s or youth’s physical, emotional, medical, and educational needs.
Learn how to participate in case planning and case coordination activities with services delivery team members.
Create objective reports including information about cognitive, behavioral, social, physical, and emotional strengths and challenges for children and youth in care.
Retrieved on June 4, 2018 from Granite State College online course: Documentation for Court and Case Review (Spring 2018).
Foster care is meant to be temporary and the Alliance wholeheartedly supports reunification when children can return to a drug-free and healthy environment. The ultimate goal of our organization is not to prevent reunification, it is to promote safe, child and family-centered care in NH as we support one another and work with other community organizations to build resiliency and develop and implement strategies for a transformed child welfare system.