Once a child has entered the foster care system a review hearing must be held every 90 days. Information must be submitted to the court at these review hearings about the parents’ progress towards the reunification goals. The reunification goals are established at the beginning of the case, usually when a foster care worker is assigned to the case, after the adjudication hearing. I will cover reunification goals more thoroughly tomorrow in another blog. The child has goals established to achieve while in foster care, as well. The child’s progress towards those goals is reviewed at these hearings, too. Review hearings may conducted by a magistrate.
The child is assigned a court appointed attorney before the adjudication hearing. The attorney for the child is called the Guardian Ad Litem frequently referred to as the GAL. The parents can each request a court appointed attorney if their income is low enough to qualify. The parents also have the option of hiring their own attorneys or representing themselves in court.
Who can or who does attend the review hearings. There is the magistrate or the judge and a court recorder always present. The parents are present. The lawyer for each parent is present and usually sits next to his or her client. The parents, whether still together or separated, do not usually sit next to each other. The GAL for the child is present to represent the child’s best interest. Children do not usually attend these hearings, however some teenagers do. The assigned foster care worker is present. If the child is placed through a specialized agency, then that worker may be present as well. These are the people who sit in front of the magistrate.
Other people may attend and sit in the audience. These people usually do not testify or speak, they are usually there to observe. The foster parents may attend and observe the proceedings. Sometimes, extended family members attend, such as aunts, uncles, and grandparents. These hearings are usually open to the public. However, the court usually asks the people present to state their names. Therefore, if you are a foster parent who prefers to remain anonymous then it might be best if you did not attend.
The worker will not usually request a permanency planning hearing at these review hearings until the 12 months have passed. However, if there are unusual circumstances, the worker may request it prior to the 12-month period. The magistrate usually congratulates the parents, or children, on their progress towards the goals. A pep talk may be given to encourage them to work harder. The magistrate may warn them of the possibility of termination if they are not making progress towards their goals.
Photo Credit Julia fuller 2007