FOSTER CARE

TAKING CHARGE
OF MY RIGHTS

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Do I have the right to see and talk to my family?


Yes. Your worker will set up ongoing visits between you and your family, including any siblings that you have. The connections that you have with your family are to be supported as long as your safety and well-being needs are being met.




Do I have the right to refuse placement in agency custody?


No. As a minor (under the age of 18), the state has an obligation to intervene on your behalf, especially when there is a concern for your safety. Your parents or guardians also have this right.




If I’m in foster care and I have a child, do I automatically lose custody of my child?


No. Your caseworker will work to make sure that you have the skills and resources necessary to care for your own child(ren) while you’re in foster care, and post-permanency. It is important that you also do your best at advocating for what you and your child(ren) need.




Does everyone at school have the right to know that I am in foster care?


No. Your being in foster care is confidential and should only be told on a “need to know” basis. No one has the right to know this information and it should not be talked about to any and everyone, even amongst the school staff.




What does the law say about my medical and mental health care?


While in agency care:

  • You have the right to free, quality medical and mental health care that meets your needs.
  • Your caseworker is responsible for ensuring that the services are in place.
  • Your foster caregiver(s) are responsible for getting you to and from the providers/doctors as needed.
  • If you are prescribed any medications, you have the right to comply or refuse to comply.




Do I have the right to access birth control as a youth in agency custody?


Yes. As a youth in foster care, even minors, you have the right to consent to and be provided with birth control. Your physician cannot disclose that you are on birth control with anyone unless you consent to the disclosure.





Can I expect any privacy when it comes to communication? Unless a court order says otherwise,

  • You have the right to private phone conversations;
  • Social media accounts;
  • Unopened mail and;
  • Engaging with family and peers outside of foster care
You also have the right to talk privately with your caseworker. The things you discuss with your caseworker will be kept in confidence, unless the information shared involves your safety or the safety of someone else. In this case your caseworker would have the right to share this information with another helping professional. Your caseworker can only share information that your family has given written permission to disclose.




Can I have and express my own religious or spiritual beliefs?


Yes. It is your right to practice the religion of your choosing. You cannot be forced to practice religion or attend religious service.




Can a birth parent ask that the adoptive files be sealed?


  • Adoption records are automatically sealed until the adopted child reaches the age of 21.
  • Birth parents can refuse to allow adoption information to be released, or they can file a ‘Release of Information’ allowing the records to be opened when the child reaches adulthood.
  • If the adopted child is between 18 and 21 years of age, the information is released, upon request, to the adoptive parent.
  • If the adopted child is 21 years of age or older, the information is released to the adopted child directly.
It is always possible that new legislation might change the age restriction, so birth parents should keep informed of the current laws.




Will I be able to find my birth parent(s) if I decide to search?


Usually, you are only able to find a birth parent(s) who wants to be found. Under current Ohio law, birth parents must file a ‘Release of Information’ with the Ohio Department of Health Office of Vital Statistics, they can indicate whether or not they want their identifying information to be released.





MY RESPONSIBILITY

AS A YOUTH IN CARE

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What might cause me to go into agency custody?


The court has 3 main reasons for placement:

  • County Public Children Services Agencies (PCSA—see Glossary) can place you in their custody if there is an identified safety issue that places you at risk for harm.
  • A court can also order you into the custody of a PCSA if there are behavioral issues that present a concern for your safety.
  • Your parents/legal custodians can also agree to place you in agency custody for a limited period.
It is important to understand that if you are placed into foster care, even if placement is a result of your behaviors, that there are underlying factors contributing to your placement and that you are not the cause for your placement




Will my extended family know that I am in agency custody?


More than likely, yes. If you came into agency custody due to an emergency or court order, your relatives will be notified within 30 days about your placement in foster care. This may also happen when you enter into foster care. When they receive the notification, they will be asked to contact the caseworker/agency using the contact information on the notification.




I can pick where I live when I go into agency custody, right?


Not exactly. The county child welfare agency has a responsibility and obligation to place you in the least restrictive setting that is also in your best interest, your safety still has to be considered. You are allowed to ask questions about the decisions being made regarding your placement.




I have concerns about my foster home; what can I do?


You have the right to a placement setting that is

  • safe;
  • clean and;
  • in appropriate condition
  • This includes you
  • having clothing and food provided to you;
  • your foster family not smoking inside the house or near you so as to avoid your exposure to secondhand smoke;
  • pets being properly cared for and registered and;
  • dangerous items and chemicals being safely stored and properly labeled.
If you have concerns about your foster home, you have the right to let your county agency know.




Can I be placed somewhere else if my current placement just isn’t working out?


You have the right to a placement that is

  • safe,
  • meets your health and safety needs, and
  • prevents you from having to experience multiple moves.
When things are not going well between you and your foster parents, caseworkers must first try to help resolve the issue(s) to prevent disruption. If your foster parents cannot meet both your safety and well-being needs, another placement option should be explored.




I left my foster home. Can I just continue living on my own?


No. Until agency custody is terminated, your county agency still maintains responsibility for your safety and well-being, which includes knowing where you live and that you’re safe. If you ran away from your foster home/placement or are homeless, no matter how long it has been, there is help available. You should reach out to your county worker or a local homeless shelter for assistance.




Now that I am in agency custody, do I have to do everything they tell me to do?


Yes. As a minor, you are expected to follow rules and other expectations written into your case plan. It is important that you follow through on things specifically for you written into your case plan as your case plan is a court order. This is your primary responsibility as a youth in foster care.




If I have a problem with my caseworker or county agency, what can I do?


County agencies typically have grievance procedures—(See Glossary) that allow you to file a formal grievance or complaint that will be followed up on. It is important that you are persistent if you are experiencing a serious issue with your caseworker.




Once I have done everything I was supposed to do, do I have the right to leave foster care?


If you are at least 18 and graduated from high school, you have the right to leave foster care. However, if you are a minor, even if your case plan goals are complete, you must still remain in agency custody. Your parent(s)/previous legal custodians—(See Glossary) must still complete their case plan activities in order for you to leave foster care.




What happens once I age out of foster care?


Upon emancipation, you have the option to receive ongoing support via the state supported program known as Bridges. You must choose to enroll in the program and your county caseworker can help you with this. If you have not heard about the Bridges program, be sure to ask your caseworker as there are program requirements.





GETTING SUPPORT:

As a young person in foster care, you have the right:

  1. To know your rights in foster care, to receive a list of those rights in written form and to know how to file a complaint if your rights are being violated.
     

  2. To be told why you came into foster care and why you are still in foster care.
     

  3. To live in a safe and healthy home where you are treated with respect, with your own place to store your things and where you receive healthy food, adequate clothing, and appropriate personal hygiene products.
     

  4. To have personal belongings secure and transported with you.
     

  5. To have caring foster parents or caretakers who are properly trained, have received background checks and screenings, and who receive adequate support from the Agency to help ensure stability in the placement.
     

  6. To be placed in a home with your brothers and sisters when possible, and to maintain regular and unrestricted contact with siblings when separated (including help with transportation), unless ordered by the court.
     

  7. To attend school and participate in extracurricular, cultural, and personal enrichment activities.
     

  8. To have your privacy protected. You can expect confidentiality from the adults involved in your case.
     

  9. To be protected from physical, sexual, emotional or other abuse, including corporal punishment (hitting or spanking as a punishment) and being locked in a room (unless you are in a treatment facility).
     

  10. To receive medical, dental, vision and mental health services.
     

  11. To refuse to take medications, vitamins or herbs, unless prescribed by a doctor.
     

  12. To have an immediate visit after placement and have regular visits ongoing with biological parents and other relatives unless prohibited by court or unless you don’t want to.
     

  13. To make and receive confidential telephone calls and send and receive unopened mail, unless prohibited by court order.
     

  14. To have regular contact from and unrestricted access to caseworkers, attorneys, and advocates and to be allowed to have confidential conversations with such individuals.
     

  15. To be told by your caseworker and your attorney about any changes in your case plan or placement and receive honest information about the decisions the PCSA is making that affect your life.
     

  16. To attend religious services and activities of your choice and to preserve your cultural heritage. If possible your placement should be with a family member or someone from your community with similar religion, culture and/or heritage.
     

  17. To be represented by an attorney at law in administrative or judicial proceedings with access to fair hearing and court review of decisions, so that your best interest are safeguarded.
     

  18. To be involved, where appropriate, in the development of your case plan and to object to any of the provisions of the case plan during case reviews, court hearings and case planning conferences.
     

  19. To attend court and speak to a judge (at a certain age, usually 12) about what you want to have happen in your case.

  20. To have a plan for your future, including an emancipation plan if appropriate (for leaving foster care when you become an adult), and to be provided services to help you prepare to become a successful adult.
     

https://www.fosterclub.com/article/your-rights-foster-care

 

GLOSSARY:

Adjudicatory Hearing - a hearing held in juvenile courts during which a judge or magistrate will determine whether or not the facts presented at court are true or not. There is no finding of guilt or innocence.

 

Emancipate - the legal term used when a youth has reached the age of 18 and is no longer under the care, supervision or custody of the child welfare system.

 

Entitlement - a government program that provides benefits to any individual meeting certain eligibility requirements.

 

Grievance Procedures - the process by which complaints or wrong-doings are filed, processed and followed through on within an organization in an effort to resolve conflict.

 

Legal Custodian - person(s) who a court has granted legal authority and responsibility to for the purpose of making caring for a youth and to make major decisions for the youth (i.e. medical, education, religious, education, etc.).

 

Medical Proxy - a person who has been identified and legally documented to be able to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become unable to do so.

 

Opt-In - to decide/choose that you want to do or participate in something.

 

Permanency - the experience of unconditional belonging and connectedness as experienced by youth; what permanency looks like in practice can only be defined by the young person

 

Public Children Services Agency (PCSA) - an agency that provides child protective services and placement of children/youth in foster care or other approved placement settings.