April 23rd, 2008
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Categories: Court, The System

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.

The Permanency Planning Meeting for Your Foster Child
The Adjudication Hearing Placing a Child in Foster Care
The Parents’ Reunification Goals When Their Children Are in Foster Care

Photo Credit Julia fuller 2007

2 Responses to “The Review Hearing for Your Foster Child”

  1. jerben says:

    In reality, from my own personal experience, and apparently from the experience of many foster parents across the nation, the Dept. of Social Services, and in some cases the court/judge, discourage the foster parent from attending and/or speaking on the child’s behalf. As the most informed advocate for the “child’s best interest”, the foster parent should be the main source of information the judge MUST consider before making an informed decision. Afterall, the hearing is supposed to be about the health and safety of the child. In my own personal case, I was denied access to the Law Guardian, the DSS attorney, and I was told NOT to speak in court. I was also discouraged from attending the hearing and told that it was “only a lawyer’s meeting”. I later found mounds of information that federal mandates are in place that give foster families the RIGHT to attend and speak during these important hearings. I also discovered, sadly, that in the eleven years since these federal laws were passed, many states willfully deny these rights to their foster families still. This is the reason why quality foster parents are lacking in this nation, and why states are in continual fiscal crises; it costs millions to train, certify, and support foster families in this country. If more efforts were made to give REAL support for the foster families, and enforce their rights, then these foster families will be more inclined to stick around.

  2. relativefp says:

    We have encountered similar circumstances here. My husband and I are relative foster parents. It took nearly six months to get the adjudication hearing scheduled. Once it was adjudicated our case was “farmed out” to an agency. In our state Children and Family Services farm out their custodial cases to private agencies. They just oversee. Once the private agency took over our caseworker began discouraging me from attending the status hearing and Children and Family Services case reviews.

    Thankfully I spent a lot of time on my state’s Children and Family Services website reviewing the law and foster parent rights. I knew they were wrong to be discouraging me and I spoke up. I think I am a foster parent who doesn’t fit their mold – I don’t take their word for gospel.

    Maybe if I received REAL support from them I would be more inclined to believe them. We ask questions of our caseworker that we never receive answers for. We request services for my great-niece that may or may not be provided for. It took us nearly six months after adjudication to get counseling started for her. It’s no wonder people are discouraged. I’m just stubborn and demand to be heard. So I make myself the squeaky wheel, all in the interest of my great-nieces’ safety.

    It’s unfortunate that foster parents also bear the responsibility sometimes of finding this information for themselves. I understand that our caseworkers are overloaded. However, if foster families were provided with this information, they would be an asset that would save the caseworker time. As you say, who better to provide information to the decision makers than the people who live with the child every day.

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