Vol. 12, No. 2 • June 2008

Making an Appearance at a Court Hearing

On July 3, 2006, when President Bush signed the “Safe and Timely Interstate Placement of Foster Children Act of 2006,” all foster parents and pre-adoptive parents or relative caregivers in the U.S. were guaranteed the right to be notified of any court proceedings with respect to the children in their care, and the right to be heard in those proceedings. This law does not make foster parents a “party” in court, nor does it give them “standing” in court, but it does mandate that if you choose, your voice and your important, vital knowledge of the child will now be heard by the judge.

Thanks to this new law, many foster parents are finding themselves in a courtroom for the first time to attend an official hearing. Incredibly, most court hearings often last less than 10 minutes. With such little time before a judge it is critical for foster parents to be properly prepared and ready to state their position before entering the courtroom.

In general, foster parents should focus on providing first-hand, factual information and not offer opinions about other people involved. It is generally best to refrain from offering opinions about the case worker, the child’s birth parents, attorneys, or others.

Helpful information for the court includes visits between the foster child and the child’s parents or other family members such as:

  • Dates of visits

  • A brief, factual description of the child’s behavior before and after the visits. Carefully describe only the child’s behavior or appearance unless a child welfare agency has specified supervision of birth-parent visits as part of your role as a foster parent. In that case, follow the instructions of the child welfare agency on reporting child and birth parent interaction.

  • A brief descript-ion of any arrangements for sibling visitation.

  • Dates of contacts between the child and the child’s parents or other family members including telephone calls, letters or email.

  • In general, foster parents should not comment on the reason for a child’s behavior or appearance.

Source: Deihl, 2006

Copyright 2008 Jordan Institute for Families