Understanding Foster Parent Rights
NEW HAMPSHIRE & FEDERAL LAWS
Current state laws and administrative rules limit the role of a foster parent in NH. At FOSTERING CHANGE: Alliance for NH Foster Parents we strive to retain foster parents and to bring attention to a foster parent's right to be heard, in accordance with the guidelines set forth in the Federal Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA, 1997) as well as timely permanency for all infants, children and adolescents in foster care. On June 25, 2018 Governor Chris Sununu passed a law to help foster parents advocate for children in care and collaborate with other members of the foster care team. To learn more about this law that went into effect on August 24, 2018, click HERE or see below. Scroll down to read specific NH laws.
THE HISTORY OF CHILD WELFARE & FOSTER CARE
In 1974, the U.S. federal legislature enacted The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) which required states "to prevent, identify and treat child abuse and neglect." Since then, CAPTA has undergone several amendments, including the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (CARA) requiring nationwide safe care for infants affected by all substance abuse. The concept of foster care, however, is believed to go back as far as biblical times based on the Old Testament and in the Talmud. In 1636 the first foster child was noted and by the mid-1800's the free foster home movement had emerged.
https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/about.pdf#page=2&view=Summary of legislative history
Massachusetts was one of the first three states in the U.S. to pay board to families caring for children too young for labor or service. During the early 1900's regulations became commonplace for foster homes. "Services were provided to natural families to enable the child to return home and foster parents were now seen as part of a professional team working to find permanency for dependent children."
It's been over a century since orphan asylums, almshouses, the orphan train movement and the inception of the Children's Aid Society and Children's Bureau paved the way for foster care today. Social reform and foster care have evolved tremendously in almost 120 years. In May 1970, the Children's Bureau published a draft list of "The Rights of Foster Parents." In the 1970's there was a "growing recognition that foster parents were critical partners in the work of providing support for struggling families. First locally, and then at a national level, foster parents began to organize their own advocacy groups. The Children’s Bureau supported this movement and invited feedback from readers, and the list became a topic of discussion at the first Bureau-sponsored National Conference of Foster Parents in 1971." To read more about the fascinating journey of foster care and about the history of the Children's Bureau, read: The Children's Bureau Legacy- Ensuring the Right to Childhood (2013).
Almost 50 years later some states have yet to recognize foster parents as valuable members of the child's welfare team, despite the fact that this was a customary role for foster parents back when foster care first began. Foster parent involvement in case planning and participation in meetings, legal proceedings and critical decision making for foster children, has been remarkably limited in NH. FOSTERING CHANGE: Alliance for NH Foster Parents strives for progressive foster parent rights similar to New York, California and many other states around the country that have already fostered change. Our commitment to protecting children and helping families in crisis alongside DCYF, includes advocating for a foster child's civil rights. It is our hope that by continuing to promote changes in the legislature, we will successfully encourage consistent practices that will put a child's safety and well-being at the forefront of permanency.
The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 granted foster parents in the U.S the right to be heard in court and notice of hearings. Since then some states give party status to foster parents after caring for a foster child for a certain period of time, at permanency hearings and under various other circumstances. NH foster parents are just beginning to be legally recognized as primary caregivers, key participants in meetings, and advocates for their foster children. In accordance with other states, NH legislature and the Governor are starting to recognize the importance of specific types of support and rights for foster parents, as well as recognition for being valuable members of a foster child's care team.
https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/about.pdf#page=2&view=Summary of legislative history
CURRENT NH FOSTER PARENT RIGHTS
An ACT relative to collaboration between the department of health and human services and foster parents.
170-E:51 Collaboration Between the Department of Health and Human Services and Foster Parents. The general court finds that foster parents providing care for children who are in the custody of the department of health and human services play an integral, indispensable, and vital role in the department's effort to care for dependent children displaced from their homes. The general court further finds that it is in the best interest of the department of health and human services to acknowledge foster parents as active and participating members of this system and to support them through the following foster parent rights, as primary caregivers for children in the care and custody of the state of New Hampshire.
170-E:52 Foster Parents. When a child is placed in a foster home pursuant to a juvenile court order:
I. The foster parent shall be treated with consideration and respect.
II. The department of health and human services shall consult with the foster parent prior to the release of the foster parent's address, phone number, or other personally identifying information to the child's parent or guardian.
III. The department of health and human services shall make a representative of the department available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the purpose of aiding the foster parent in caring for the acute needs of the foster child.
IV. The foster parent shall be given timely notice of scheduled meetings and appointments involving the foster child. The foster parent shall:
(a) Be provided with a written copy of information pertinent to the care of the child.
(b) Receive reasonable notice of any changes to the case plan as related to the child.
(c) Be apprised of the number of times the child has moved from one foster home to another and, as appropriate, the reasons therefor, as related to the child.
(d) Have the ability to request a team meeting to address concerns specific to the child.
V. 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.
VI. 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.
Approved: June 25, 2018
Effective Date: August 24, 2018
NH foster parents are allowed to be heard in court based on the Adoption and Safe Families Act- see section 104G of the ASFA (1997). District court protocols relative to abuse/neglect cases and permanency planning indicate that, foster parents and pre-adoptive parents must receive notice of the review hearing and should be strongly encouraged to attend the review hearing and present information on the status of the child. Foster parents, pre-adoptive parents or relative caregivers should be invited to offer information about the child, rather than to advance a particular position. See CIP 10(2)(3) and 11(10).
NH foster parents may submit a report directly to the court and be invited to court review hearings..
NH foster parents are invited to participate in FAIR meetings.
NH foster parents are entitled to a current copy of the case plan.
NH foster parents can represent a child with special needs to make educational decisions on behalf of a long-term foster child if the rights of the birth parents have been terminated. A foster parent in this type of situation, acting as a parent, shall have the same right of access as the birth parents or guardians to all records concerning the child. See: Title XV educational Chapter for Special Education, section 186-C:14-a.
NH foster parents may be allowed to receive a copy of some or all of the court's order. The decision is within the court's discretion, but you may want to add a request to any foster parent permanency related report and cite Chapter 11, Protocol 13 of the NH Court Improvement Project.
A petition for termination of the parent-child relationship may be filed by the foster parents. Foster parents may file only when the following conditions are met:
(a) The child has lived in the foster home continuously for 24 months; and
(b) The foster parents have requested in writing the licensed child-placing agency to legally free the child for adoption, but that
the agency has not initiated proceedings, and there is reasonable cause to believe that grounds exist. See: 170-C:4 (2)a,b and
NH FOSTER PARENTS HAVE THE RIGHT TO:
Information about the child that will enable them as foster parents to make a decision about receiving the child into their family,
Refuse the placement of a child if they believe they cannot adequately provide for the child,
A case plan for the child,
An invitation to participate in the Family Assessment and Inclusive Reunification (FAIR) reviews,
An invitation to court review hearings and an opportunity to submit a written report about the child in care,
Training and education opportunities,
Foster parent liability insurance, and
Continuation of their own family routines.
REASONABLE AND PRUDENT PARENT STANDARD
In June, 2018 the law 170-G:20 was established in NH. This Reasonable and Prudent Parent Standard law states that: The rights of children in foster care exist within the context of the reasonable and prudent parent standard defined in 42 U.S.C. section 675(10). This means that foster parents, caretakers, and department staff must make careful and sensible decisions that maintain the health, safety, and best interests of a child while at the same time encouraging the emotional and developmental growth of the child. The rights established in this section are to be applied in accordance with the reasonable and prudent parent standard, in a context appropriate to the age and developmental level of the child, and in recognition of the fact that some of these rights may be considered privileges to be earned.
NH FOSTER PARENT REQUIREMENTS
NH foster parents are required to support the safety, permanency, and well-being of foster children to help reduce their risk of exposure to circumstances that might cause further trauma (NH He-C 6446.02). NHDHHS and DCYF expect that Foster parents affirmatively show a commitment to the purposes of foster family care and to the National Foster Parent Association (NFPA) Foster Child Bill of Rights. See also: NH He-C 6446.04(g)(4), .16(c), .29(c)(5), .29(d)(10).
FOSTER CHILD RIGHTS IN NH
In June, 2018 the Foster Care Children's Bill of Rights (170-G:21), was passed into law in NH. It states: A child who is placed in a foster home or other out-of-home placement pursuant to a juvenile court proceeding under RSA 169-B, RSA 169-C, or RSA 169-D shall have the right:
I. To be supported in a healthy growth and developmental process from early childhood to adulthood and to be protected from all forms of abuse.
II. To receive appropriate and team recommended treatments, including counseling, medical care, and dental treatment, within a reasonable period.
III. To receive support from department staff, and his or her foster family or residential provider in maintaining positive contact with significant people, such as relatives, friends, teachers, and community supports, including assistance with obtaining contact information, transportation, and reasonable visitation opportunities.
IV. To develop a support group, which may, when appropriate, include department staff, foster parents, residential staff, therapists, and other individuals with responsibility for case planning.
V. To be treated with courtesy and respect by department staff, foster parents, residential staff, and providers without regard to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, or disability and to participate in activities associated with his or her religious beliefs.
VI. To participate in "normal" activities consistent with his or her age and developmental level, such as opening a bank account, celebrating birthdays, participating in graduations, and obtaining an identity card, unless restricted by the child's treatment plan, case plan, or the availability of financial resources.
VII. To receive notice of any meetings regarding the child's case and to have opportunities to resolve potential barriers to participation, such as a lack of transportation or conflict with the child's academic schedule.
VIII. To receive information about decisions that affect the child's life and to be notified of changes that affect his or her case plan, treatment plan, permanency, safety, stability, or wellbeing, and to have his or her voice considered in these decisions.
IX. To be informed of all assistance that the department offers foster children related to permanency planning, education, employment, housing, and wellbeing.
X. To receive assistance in acquiring life skills, education, training, and career guidance to accomplish personal goals, prepare for the future, and to become a self-sufficient adult after the child's transition from care.
XI. To have an achievable transition plan when the child leaves care that is created by the foster child with the help of his or her support group.
XII. To attend and participate in court hearings to the extent permitted by the court and appropriate given the age and experience of the child.
XIII. To utilize technology, such as social networking sites and cell phones, based on the child's level of maturity and responsibility and taking into account the environment in which the child is living, the support of his or her treatment team, the financial costs involved, and the child's ability to maintain privileges.
XIV. To be informed of the process for contacting the child protective services worker's supervisor, or other department staff, the guardian ad litem, and the office of the child advocate.
XV. To be informed by the department of the rights set forth in this section and to receive assistance in obtaining and enforcing them.
FOSTER CHILD RIGHTS IN THE U.S.
Multiple states throughout the country have laws recognizing a both formal and informal rights for foster parents, with California and New York being the most progressive models for foster care reform in the U.S. Most states have a section in their policies, handbooks, or standards that address and clarify the rights, roles and responsibilities of foster parents, however some states are utilizing the rules of the court to clarify a foster parent's involvement in hearings and permanency. It's encouraging to find that universally, foster parents seem to be requesting reviews and proposals to better clarify foster parent rights and responsibilities, while other states have recently passed or pending legislation. There is also a growing trend for states implementing conflict resolution procedures and appeal or grievance procedures for foster parents ranging from a fair hearing process to conflict resolution through the state's ombudsman or advocacy group. Click HERE to see a list of foster parent rights by state, as well as additional information about some of the more liberal rules and laws supporting a foster parent’s role as valuable team members and primary providers to children in need.
The National Foster Parent Association believes:
Even more than for other children, society has a responsibility, along with parents, for the well-being of children in foster care. Citizens are responsible for acting to insure their welfare. Every child in foster care is endowed with the rights inherently belonging to all children. In addition, because of the temporary or permanent separation from, and loss of, parents and other family members, the child requires special safeguards, resources, and care.
Every Child in Foster Care Has the Inherent Right:
Article the first
....to be cherished by a family of his own, either his family helped by readily available services and supports to resume his care, or an adoptive family or, by plan, a continuing foster family.
Article the second
....to be nurtured by foster parents who have been selected to meet his individual needs, and who are provided services and supports, including specialized education, so that they can grow in their ability to enable the child to reach his potentiality.
Article the third
....to receive sensitive, continuing help in understanding and accepting the reasons for his own family's inability to take care of him, and in developing confidence in his own self-worth.
Article the fourth
....to receive continuing loving care and respect as a unique human being...a child growing in trust in himself and others.
Article the fifth
....to grow up in freedom and dignity in a neighborhood of people who accept him with understanding, respect and friendship.
Article the sixth
....to receive help in overcoming deprivation or whatever distortion in his emotional, physical, intellectual, social and spiritual growth may have resulted from his early experiences.
Article the seventh
....to receive education, training, and career guidance to prepare for a useful and satisfying life.
Article the eighth
....to receive preparation for citizenship and parenthood through interaction with foster parents and other adults who are consistent role models.
Article the ninth
....to be represented by an attorney-at-law in administrative or judicial proceedings with access to fair hearings and court review of decisions, so that his best interests are safeguarded.
Article the tenth
....to receive a high quality of child welfare services, including involvement of the natural parents and his own involvement in major decisions that affect his life.
National Foster Parent Association, Foster Child Bill or Rights. Ratified in Congress Hall, Philadelphia April 28, 1973.
Reaffirmed during the National Focus on Foster Care Conference, Norfolk, Virginia: May 4, 1983. Retrieved from: http://nfpaonline.org/page-1105707
Contact the OFFICE OF THE CHILD ADVOCATE when a
foster parent's or foster child's rights have been violated in NH.
The mission of the Office of the Child Advocate is to provide independent and impartial oversight of the New Hampshire child welfare and juvenile justice systems to promote effective reforms that meet the best interests of children.
Office of the Child Advocate receives complaints about a child or children who are in, were in, or were screened out of the care, supervision, custody, or control of DCYF. Complaints can be submitted by phone, on our website (coming soon), in writing, or in person.
Before submitting a complaint, you must exhaust all reasonable remedies within the DCYF and DHHS system, including contacting caseworkers, supervisors, directors, and the DHHS Ombudsman.
If you would like to submit a complaint, please provide as much information as possible. Click HERE to view the type of information you should include with your complaint.
According to a recent news article:
A new state official responsible for protecting New Hampshire children wants them and the adults responsible for them to be able to contact her directly at the Office of the Child Advocate if they're having issues with the Division of Children, Youth and Families.
The only people currently allowed to initiate investigations by the Office of the Child Advocate are the Governor, Commissioner of Health and Human Services, Senate President, Speaker of the House, or the Oversight Commission on Children's Services. Director Moira O'Neill wants children, parents, foster parents, teachers and healthcare providers to be able to do the same.
O'Neill said if someone contacted her office to question DCYF practices — which they already have — she still takes action, though it's not legally required for her to do so. She provided examples of the the types of problems people could reach out with: A child in an unsafe foster home assigned a social worker who isn't intervening; a foster parent who isn't receiving state help with an uncooperative child; or DCYF employees dealing with departmental issues.
"It comes down to state government being accessible to everyone," O'Neill said. "People really need to understand that they should contact us if all other remedies for DCYF problems have been exhausted."
To contact the Office of the Child Advocate call: 603-271-7773 or toll free at 833-NHCHILD
The office is located at 121 South Fruit St. in Concord.
Want to see answers to foster parent frequently asked questions and helpful tips? Click HERE.
Foster care is meant to be temporary and the Alliance whole-heartedly 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: value centered family preservation.
Recruit a friend to be a foster parent today! Click HERE to learn more.