This is a question I have been hearing a lot lately. Why? Because the Department of Children and Families (DCF) is moving to place more children in the care of relatives.
While placing children with relatives is a policy that should be supported and praised, the sad reality is that sometimes what is best for individual children gets lost in pursuit of a lofty policy goal. As a result, some foster parents are learning that children who have been in their care for extended periods of time are going to be removed. In some cases, the children have been with their foster parents for a year or more and are being placed with relatives with whom they have had little or no contact. Foster parents are rightfully worried about how these changes in placement will affect children. The impact of multiple placements on children in foster care can be devastating to their emotional well-being. Indeed, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued policy statements warning against multiple placements for children who have been abused and neglected, particularly when those children are young.
So, can DCF take your foster child?
Generally, the answer is yes, DCF has the authority to make placement decisions for children committed to their care. That does not mean, however, that foster parents have no ability to protect the children in their care. In fact, the law provides foster parents with rights. Absent an emergency, foster parents have a right to written notice 14 days prior to removal. Depending on the circumstances, foster parents may be able to have an administrative hearing to object to the removal. It is even possible in some cases for foster parents to present their case in court.
If you are a foster parent and DCF tells you they are removing a foster child from your care, you should contact me immediately. You have a very limited amount of time to take action to try to prevent the child from being subjected to multiple moves.