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Kinship Navigator - Child in Need of Care/Foster Care

What is foster care?

When a child is removed from the home and placed in the custody of the state, no matter where they are physically living, it is called foster care. Once a child is placed in the custody of the state, it is the responsibility of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to select an appropriate care setting for the child. This care setting could be in the home of a relative or someone close to the child that has been approved and supervised by DCFS or with a family that is certified by the state as a foster home but not known to the child, or a group care setting (e.g. group home).

When is foster care used?

Foster care is used when the court has found removal from the child's caregiver or parent(s) is necessary to assure the child's safety and welfare and there is no other appropriate custody choice for the child.

How is it done?

After the child is removed from the home, the court will have the first hearing within 72 hours. At that hearing and the hearings to follow, the judge determines the best custody choice for the child. The court must always find that the custody choice is in the best interest of the child.

At first, you may not know that the child is in state custody. As soon as you know, it is critical that you contact DCFS to let them know that you are interested in having the child live with you or that you are interested in maintaining some level of relationship and contact with the child. DCFS is also required to notify relatives of a child's placement in foster care, assess a relative's interest, and make relatives aware that future placement consideration may be lost if they do not come forward initially. The law requires consideration of relatives, but the relative must be willing and suitable. Additionally, placement with the relative must be in the best interest of the child.

DCFS can place the child with you on a temporary basis. They will then determine if your home can be approved for the child on a long-term basis and whether you will be certified as relative foster parent to care for the child. DCFS will present to the court for approval the plan for the child to remain in their custody but to live in your home. The plan must be found to be in the best interest of the child.

How can I become a foster parent?

To get information on becoming a foster parent and the state requirements for foster parents see: /index.cfm?md=pagebuilder&tmp=home&nid=301&pid=374.

How long does foster care last?
When does the court order expire?

Foster care is designed to be temporary until the parents are able to have the children returned to them safely; they are adopted, or placed under guardianship or the legal custody order is changed by the court (See Fact Sheets on Adoption and Guardianship). The child may remain in foster care until they turn eighteen years old. Court involvement for an eighteen year old would be terminated. However, the child may be eligible for voluntary extended foster care services and supports until age 21 through DCFS.

Do I need an attorney?

Generally, you do not need an attorney. You may choose to get an attorney especially if you disagree with the plan for the child but you will not be appointed an attorney by the court. DCFS will be represented by an attorney. The parents will be appointed an attorney. The child will be appointed an attorney whose job it is to represent the wishes of the child.

What can you do for the child in foster care?

If a child that is in state custody is placed in your home you will expected to:

  • Provide for the daily care of the child which includes food, clothing (adequate, clean and in good repair), shelter, personal care, hygiene, and transportation;
  • Ensure safety and security of the child;
  • Ensure that the child attends school, if age appropriate and participates in other normal childhood activities;
  • Provide nurturing, reasonable discipline, and moral instruction;
  • Transport and accompany the child to all health, dental and mental health appointments and school meetings;
  • Participate in and support the child and family case plans and goals.You should receive notice of every meeting and court date for the child. As you spend the greatest amount of time with the child, you should speak up, share relevant information and voice any concerns you may have for the child.

For more details on the obligations of foster parents please see: /index.cfm?md=pagebuilder&tmp=home&nid=420&pid=194.

Can I enroll the child in school or give medical consent for the child?

DCFS will work with you including providing you with necessary documents to enroll the child in school, make education decisions and to obtain necessary medical treatment and medical decisions. Unless it is an emergency, you should consult the child's DCFS caseworker in any educational or medical decisions for the child.

Can I prevent the parents from visiting with the child?

No, DCFS will develop a plan for the family. Part of the plan will be visitation terms; how often, where the visitation will take place and the amount of supervision there must be during the visitation. The plan cannot be changed unless everyone including DCFS agrees to the change or the court determines the visits are harming the child. Parents still have the obligation to communicate with the child in the manner outlined in the plan.

Do the parents still have the obligation to support the child?

Yes, however any child support payments made by the parents go directly to DCFS.

Can I apply for benefits for the child or have the benefits the child receives put in my name?

Yes, you can apply for benefits on behalf of the child. DCFS will provide you with paper work that you will need to give to any place where you apply for benefits or to get benefits transferred. If you apply for Social Security benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), they may ask DCFS for more information. If you become a certified relative foster parent, you will receive a monthly board payment to help cover the child's needs.

If you receive Kinship Care or Foster Care payment and the child is also eligible for SSI, you will have to choose which benefit you wish to receive.

Is there any paperwork I have to provide the court?

No, the state will provide the court with all the necessary paperwork .

Remember, you should receive notice of every meeting and court date for the child. As you spend the greatest amount of time with the child, you should speak up, share relevant information and voice any concerns you may have for the child. If you have school or medical documents for the child, it is helpful to provide that information to DCFS and the court.

Are there any court costs that I will have to pay?

Generally, no. However, if you hire an attorney, they will discuss with you any possible fees and costs.