Wisconsin law gives foster parents certain rights. Foster parents are often the best advocates for their foster children because they are committed to the children and have current information about them. Unfortunately, foster parents do not always know their rights.
Under Wisconsin law, foster parents may have access to records pertaining to their foster children and the right to notice of all hearings in the case involving the child. They have the right to be heard at such hearings and to provide information to the judge. Sometimes, foster parents choose to be represented by counsel, so as to most effectively communicate their position.
If a child has been in a foster home for six months or longer, the placing agency cannot remove the child from that home without 30 days notice, except in an emergency. The foster parents have the right to a hearing at which they may present evidence. If the foster parents show that removal is not in the child’s best interests, the child may not be removed from the foster home.
It is important always to keep in mind that the purpose of foster care is to protect children. When a child is placed in foster care, there must be a permanency plan designed to ensure that the child is reunified with her family whenever appropriate, or that she quickly attains a home providing long-term stability. The key, from a child’s point of view, is that reunification should occur when appropriate, and that permanence for the child should not be delayed.
Sometimes the permanency plan involves two goals; for example, return to the parents’ home or adoption. This “concurrency planning” occurs when it appears that the parents may not remedy the problems that caused removal of the child. In that case, the child’s needs must come before the parents’ and the child remains in the foster home and frequently is adopted by the foster parents. With concurrency planning, if the first goal cannot be achieved, the process is already in motion to accomplish the other goal.