Foster care is a temporary way of caring for children who can't remain in their own homes because of concerns about safety, abuse, or neglect. States are responsible for the safety of children in foster care. Half of the time, foster care placements are with a child's relatives. Other times, placements are in the homes of non-relatives as well as group homes, institutions, or homes of parents wishing to adopt.
Placement with a Reliable Relative Is Preferred
The government stays out of family life unless there is a problem. When someone calls child services to report child abuse or neglect, a case worker must investigate immediately. If a child does not seem to be safe in your home, the case worker can recommend temporary removal of the child from your care until the situation can be investigated more thoroughly. If a reliable relative can care for the child, the caseworker will try to place the child with that person. If no relatives are able or willing, the case worker must place the child in foster care.
Placement in Foster Care Requires a Court Order
Each state has its own procedures for removing children from their homes. In an emergency, the case worker may remove the children immediately. The caseworker must then present the case to a judge and ask for a court order after the fact. Depending on where you live, the hearing could occur within 24 to 72 hours after the removal. If your child has been removed from your home for any reason, a good attorney will help you make your case. If the judge does not agree that it is in the best interest of the child to be removed, your child will be returned to you. If the judge agrees, the child remains in foster care.
The Goal of Foster Care Is to Reunite Families
When children are placed in foster care, the goal is to return them to their families as soon as possible. In fact, in 2009 about half of the children in foster care were reunited with their families within a year. If the unsafe conditions in your home environment can't be cured, however, the state can ask the judge to end your parental rights. Some children end up staying in foster care until they reach the age of 18. Others are adopted or eventually returned to their homes.
A Family Law Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding removal of a child from a home and placement in foster care is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a family law lawyer.