No parent has a child with the thought that their child will be taken from them at any point. However, this happens several times a day to parents and they are faced with an immense amount of uncertainty and a feeling of lost hope. If you find yourself in this position, you will need to know what your rights, as a parent, are and what to do to make sure those rights are protected.
Reasons a Child May Be Placed in Foster Care
There are a variety of reasons a child may end up in the foster care system, and most times we see that it is due to the child’s parents being unwilling or unable to take care of the child. Whether that looks like a parent who struggles with addiction or mental illness, or due to concerns of abuse in the home. Also, on the other side, a parent may decide it is in the child’s best interest to voluntarily relinquish their rights to their child(ren)and allow social services to take custody.
Length of Time You Can Expect Your Child to Be in Foster Care
The time a child is in the foster care system varies. The child may be placed in foster care while a parent, or parents, work on the issues necessary in order to be a good parent, which typically is around six to eight months before the child is allowed to return home. However, there is no exact time given as each case is different. Before a child is released to the parent, the parent must prove that they are fit to care for the child and will protect the child.
Or it could be for a longer period of time while a permanent home for the child is located. This could take months or years, depending on where in the process the termination is and the prospective adoptive parents.
What Your Rights Are While Your Child is in Foster Care
If you are not giving up rights to your child, it is important to know what rights you still have. You are still able to get updates on your child’s well-being and have contact with the child. Child Protective Services (CPS) will establish a visitation that they feel is in the child’s best interest. That could be anything from having a volunteer with the agency supervise your visitation in their office for an hour a week to a visit in the community with an approved supervisor for a few hours a week. While you will not be privileged to the information on where your child is staying, you will be allowed the opportunity to meet the foster parents your child is staying with.
Along with those rights, you also have the right to stay informed regarding your child. That means learning about any health or illness issues, their development, behavior, and any progress in school or daycare. You will be notified of any trips that the family is planning on taking with your child, any emergency care your child may need, help to create a plan for success from your caseworker, you have the right to receive services that will assist you in bringing your child home, you have the right to be notified of any court date and/or proceeding, and you have the right to have an attorney.
If your child is in the foster care system, you have responsibilities too. You have to keep an honest and open line of communication with the caseworkers. You have to follow the plan that is given to you, you have to show up to appointments and classes, court appearances, and complete services. You will need to cooperate with Child Protective Services and stay in contact with them. If you need help, they can assist you, all you have to do is ask them. Also, make sure you encourage your child to cooperate with CPS, it will not only help your case, but it will also help your child adjust to their new routine.
What to Expect – Child’s Emotions
While you may have feelings of anger and resentment at the agency for removing your child, it is important to remember that your child has feelings as well. They may be upset with you and may plead to come home with you. It is important to acknowledge those feelings but to also own up to those concerns and be honest. There is a fine line that must be walked. While you may want to blame others, that will only cause more confusion in your child. Also, make sure you reassure your son or daughter that you love them and never meant to hurt them, they did nothing wrong to cause this. A lot of children tend to blame themselves for the situation they are in.
This may be one of the most difficult periods of your life and the fear of the unknown may debilitate you to the point where you do not know how you will survive. But know you will get through it and life will get better, as long as you stay on track. Do not forget that you have parental rights and your rights have NOT been terminated. Contact an attorney to immediately to assist you with any issues or questions you may have. Let us help you and your child.