Foster parents play a very important role as a team member meeting the needs of the child in their home. Because of the foster parents’ daily interactions with the child, they have the most complete information about the child. It is important for you, as the foster parent, to share that information with the other service providers and with the judge who will be making life-long decisions affecting the child.
Since 1984, the law in Hawaii has stated that foster parents are to be notified about court hearings and are entitled to attend. Recently, the federal law has added that provision under the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA). The family court judges have stated, “Your attendance and input at the court hearing is extremely valuable to the judge…what you have to say is very important to us and will assist us in making appropriate decision in the child’s best interests…If you cannot attend, please feel free to write us, with the understanding that whatever you submit shall be given to all parties.”
The Department is required by law to send you notification prior to the court hearing. Unfortunately, that does not always happen. However, it is fairly easy to find out the next court date. If you do not know the date of the next court hearing, call the social worker, the guardian ad litem, or the Family Court Officer.
Listed below is the exact wording of the state and federal laws that address the issue of foster parent notification and attendance at court hearings.
Hawaii Revised Statutes:
Chapter 587A 14 (b) states that “The child’s current resource family shall be served written notice of hearings no less than forty-eight hours before a scheduled hearing; provided that no further notice shall be provided to a resource family that was given actual notice of a hearing while present in court, subject to a shortening of time as ordered by the court.
Chapter 587A 14 (d) goes on to say “The child’s current resource family is entitled to participate in the proceedings to provide information to the court, either in person or in writing, concerning the current status of the child in their care.”
The federal law says in 104.42 U.S.C. 675(5)(G): “The foster parents of a child and any pre-adoptive parent or relative providing care for the child are provided with notice of, and an opportunity to be heard in, any review or hearing to be held with respect to the child, except that this subparagraph shall not be construed to require that any foster parent, pre-adoptive parent, or relative providing care for the child be made a party to such a review or hearing solely on the basis of such notice and opportunity to be heard.”
Do your part as a member of the team: Document important information regarding the child and the case; write a court report or letter and send it to the appropriate parties; attend the court hearing; and speak up regarding concerns.