When Your Child Is In Foster Care
If your child has been removed from your care, you may be feeling scared, powerless and angry. Often, once a child has been removed from the care of his or her parents, it is a long and difficult process to get that child returned home. The biggest priority for the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), the judge, State’s Attorney and Guardian ad Litem is to protect your child, do what is best for your child, and if possible, reunite your family. In some cases, once a child has been removed from his or her home, it is not likely that the child will ever be returned.
One of the most beneficial things you can do right now for yourself and your child is to be cooperative and honest with DCFS and the court. This may be hard to do, especially at first, when you are trying to adjust to this situation. Another priority is to advocate for yourself and for your child. Let your caseworker, your lawyer, and the court know what your child’s needs are and what you need. If it is important to you to be reunited with your child, let the people involved in your case know that you are going to try your hardest to do whatever it takes to have your child returned to your home.
The law requires that DCFS make reasonable efforts to help you get your child back and that your and your child’s case be resolved within a certain period of time. You have a limited time to engage in and complete the services that are required of you.
You have an opportunity now to receive support and help, to make positive changes in your life. In order for your child to be returned to your care, you must change the conditions that caused your child to be placed in foster care. It is best to do what the judge, the caseworker, and the Service Plan tell you to do. If these requests do not make sense to you, talk to your lawyer.
In order to provide you with assistance, support and services, DCFS needs to know where you live and how to contact you. It is important for you to keep in contact with your caseworker. Tell your caseworker if you are going to move, and try to notify her or him before you move.
Your Rights as the Parent of a Child in Foster Care:
You have the right to ask the lawyers, caseworkers and the judge questions.
You have the right to a lawyer. If you do not have the money to hire a lawyer, the judge will appoint one for you. Write down your lawyer’s name and telephone number.
Regarding the home in which your child is placed, if you know of a relative (including godparents) who would be appropriate to care for your child, tell your caseworker. If the worker refuses to place the child with a relative, ask your lawyer if you can challenge the placement decision.
You have the right to and should make every effort to participate in court hearings.
You have the right to a visit with your child within 14 days of when DCFS takes Protective Custody. Your initial visit will be supervised. If visitation does not occur, contact your caseworker and lawyer.
Through your lawyer, you have a right to testify in court, bring in your own witnesses, and have your lawyer question the people who testify against you. If at any time you do not understand what is happening, or think there is a problem, tell your lawyer.
You have the right to be provided with services that will help you with your case.
If you are in jail or prison, it is likely that the facility in which you are housed offers services that will be helpful to you, such as parenting classes, high school or community college-level classes, substance abuse treatment and counseling. If you participate in and successfully complete services while in prison or jail, you should get credit for having completed them.
You have the right to appeal some of the judge’s decisions. Make sure you contact your lawyer if you want to file an appeal.
You have a right to examine court files and records.
You have the right to copies of the judge’s orders regarding your case.
You have the right to understand and get help with what you need to do in order to get your child home with you. Your caseworker has a responsibility to work with you and to assist you in making the necessary changes to get your child home.
Note: This information was prepared as a public service by the Illinois State Bar Association. Every effort has been made to provide accurate information at the time of publication. For the most current information, please consult your lawyer. If you need a lawyer and do not have one, visit our lawyer referral page.
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