Gov. Greitens signed into law the Foster Care Bill of Rights – Chapter 210.564.3
1. (1) The Children’s Division and its contractors, recognizing that foster parents are not clients but rather are colleagues in the child welfare team, shall treat foster parents in a manner consistent with the National Association of Social Workers’ ethical standards of conduct as described in its Social Workers’ Ethical Responsibilities to Colleagues. Foster parents shall treat the children in their care, the child’s birth family and members of the child welfare team in a manner consistent with their ethical responsibilities as professional team members.
(2) The Children’s Division of family services and its contractors shall provide written notification of the rights enumerated in this section at the time of initial licensure and at the time of each licensure renewal following the initial licensure period.
2. (1) The Children’s Division and its contractors shall provide foster parents with regularly scheduled opportunities for pre-service training, and regularly scheduled opportunities for pertinent in-service training, as determined by the Missouri State Foster Care and Adoption Advisory Board. (Section 453.121 RSMo.)
(2) The Children’s Division and its contractors shall provide to foster parents and potential adoptive parents, prior to placement, all pertinent information, including but not limited to full disclosure of all medical, psychological, and psychiatric conditions of the child, as well as information from previous placements that would indicate that the child(ren) may have a propensity to cause violence to any member of the foster family home. The foster parents shall be provided with any information regarding the child or child’s family, including but not limited to the case plan, any family history of mental or physical illness, sexual abuse of the child or sexual abuse perpetrated by the child, criminal background of the child or the child’s family, fire-setting or other destructive behavior by the child, substance abuse by the child or child’s family, or any other information which is pertinent to the care and needs of the child and to protect the foster or adoptive family. Knowingly providing false or misleading information to foster parents in order to secure placement shall be denoted in the caseworker’s personnel file and shall be kept on record by the division.
(3) The Children’s Division and its contractors shall arrange preplacement visits, except in emergencies.
(4) The foster parents may ask questions about the child’s case plan, encourage a placement or refuse a placement without reprisal from the caseworker or agency. After a placement, the Children’s Division and its contractors shall update the foster parents as new information about the child is gathered.
(5) Foster parents shall be informed in a timely manner by the Children’s Division and its contractors of all team meetings and staffings concerning their licensure status or children placed in their homes, and shall be allowed to participate, consistent with section 210.761 RSMo.
(6) The Children’s Division and its contractors shall establish reasonably accessible respite care for children in foster care for short periods of time, jointly determined by foster parents and the child’s caseworker pursuant to section 210.545 RSMo. Foster parents shall follow all procedures established by the Children’s Division and its contractors for requesting and using respite care.
(7) Foster parents shall treat all information received from the Children’s Division and its contractors about the child and the child’s family as confidential. Information necessary for the medical or psychiatric care of the child may be provided to the appropriate practitioners. Foster parents may share information necessary with school personnel in order to secure a safe and appropriate education for the child. Additionally, foster parents shall share information they may learn about the child and the child’s family, and concerns that arise in the care of the child, with the caseworker and other members of the child welfare team. Recognizing that placement changes are difficult for children, foster parents shall seek all necessary information, and participate in pre-placement visits whenever possible, before deciding whether to accept a child for placement.
3. (1) Foster parents shall make decisions about the daily living concerns of the child, and shall be permitted to continue the practice of their own family values and routines while respecting the child’s cultural heritage. All discipline shall be consistent with state laws and regulations. The Children’s Division shall allow foster parents to help plan visitation between the child and the child’s siblings or biological family. Visitations should be scheduled at a time that meets the needs of the child, the biological family members, and the foster family whenever possible. Recognizing that visitation with family members is an important right of children in foster care, foster parents shall be flexible and cooperative with regard to family visits.
(2) Foster parents shall provide care that is respectful of the child’s cultural identity and needs. Recognizing that cultural competence can be learned, the Children’s Division and their contractors shall provide foster parents with training that specifically addresses cultural needs of children, including but not limited to, information on skin and hair care, information on any specific religious or cultural practices of the child’s biological family, and referrals to community resources for ongoing education and support.
(3) Foster parents shall recognize that the purpose of discipline is to teach and direct the behavior of the child, and ensure that it is administered in a humane and sensitive manner. Foster parents shall use disciplinary methods which are consistent with children’s division policy.
4. (1) Consistent with state laws and regulations, the Children’s Division and its contractors shall provide, upon request by the foster parents, information about a child’s progress after the child leaves foster care.
(2) Except in emergencies, foster parents shall be given two weeks’ advance notice and a written statement of the reasons before a child is removed from their care. When requesting removal of a child from their home, foster parents shall give two weeks’ advance notice, consistent with division policy, to the child’s caseworker, except in emergency situations.
(3) Recognizing the critical nature of attachment for children, if a child reenters the foster care system and is not placed in a relative home, the child’s former foster parents shall be given first consideration for placement of the child.
(4) If a child becomes free for adoption while in foster care, the child’s foster family shall be given preferential consideration as adoptive parents consistent with section 453.070 RSMo.
(5) If a foster child becomes free for adoption and the foster parents desire to adopt the child, they shall inform the caseworker within sixty (60) days of the caseworker’s initial query. If they do not choose to pursue adoption, foster parents shall make every effort to support and encourage the child’s placement in a permanent home, including but not limited to providing information on the history and care needs of the child and accommodating transitional visitation.
5. Foster parents shall be informed by the court no later than two (2) weeks prior to all court hearings pertaining to a child in their care, and informed of their right to attend and participate, consistent with section 211.464, RSMo.
The Children’s Division and their contractors shall provide access to a fair and impartial grievance process to address licensure, case management decisions, and delivery of service issues. Foster parents shall have timely access to the child placement agency’s appeals process, and shall be free from acts of retaliation when exercising the right to appeal.
The Children’s Division and their contractors shall provide training to foster parents on the policies and procedures governing the licensure of foster homes, the provision of foster care, and the adoption process. Foster parents shall, upon request, be provided with written documentation of the policies of the Children’s Division and their contractors. Per licensure requirements, foster parents shall comply with the policies of the placement agency.
For purposes of this section, “foster parent” means a resource family providing care of children in state custody.
Note: The phrase “kinship” no longer exists per 210.565.3. Now the phrase “relative” is used, even if it is a friend of the family.
Placement Order of Preference has been defined – Chapter 210.565.3
The following is the order of preference for placement:
Legislation obviously affects foster care, but did you know court cases affect them, too? Here are some cases from this year which could have a positive or negative effect on the outcomes of our cases:
In re BH, Jackson County – Require Multiple Reasons for TPR
Mother shot and killed 2-year-old sibling in an altercation between mom and dad. Mother was charged with 2nd degree murder. Due to this conviction, the court filed for Termination of Parental Rights (TPR). Mother believed the TPR was only due to shooting the sibling and appealed. For TPR, the court must have had multiple grounds for termination.
The court did, indeed, have other reasons, including failure to live in sanitary conditions due to the home having weapons, ammunition, methamphetamine, and other drugs through the house where the children slept, lab test of deceased child and live sibling showed high levels of meth and marijuana, and when mom was incarcerated she failed to provide financial support.
JPB MRS v. Greene County, 609 S.W. 3d 84 (2017) – Incarceration is Not Enough
Along these same lines, the father in this case challenged his TPR believing his rights were only terminated due to his incarceration. The court considered the fact that the father had never met the child, he only sent $2 for child support each month, he had only written 2-3 letters, and though the child was removed from mother in 2014, father would not be released until at least 2018, more likely 2021. Also, father was incarcerated due to being a chronic DUI offender. The court ruled that, while incarceration alone is not grounds for TPR, the duration of incarceration does impact the parent’s ability to appropriately care for the child for the reasonable foreseeable future.
SSS, LMV, and MTS v. CVS – “Abandonment” Grounds for TPR
This case is alarming and could have a negative impact on TPR’s in the future. This couple had a child together when they were very young. They lived in California at the time, but after splitting up the mom moved to St. Louis where she met a man and got married. She wanted her new husband to adopt their child, which required a TPR for the biological father.
Dad flew to St. Louis 3-4 times in the 6 months prior to filing for TPR, visiting 3-5 hours each day during his stay. He spoke to his daughter on the phone at least 3 times a week, to the point where the mom felt he was calling too often. Dad was very young and still lived with his mother, so the $400 a month in child support was paid by his mother (paternal grandmother).
The court determined the contacts between the father and child were not “meaningful” enough, and father failed to prove the money sent for child support came from his trust account. TPR was granted and the new husband adopted the child.
Changes in the Making…
ICPC – Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children
Whenever a child is achieving permanency out of state, ICPC comes into the picture. This can be quite time consuming, since this acts as a middle man between the agencies of each respective state. ICPC is currently being reformed with the intention of making this transition smoother, yet not all states have accepted the rewrite. Missouri has enacted it, yet bordering states Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Arkansas, and Tennessee have not. The changes will not go into effect until 35 states accept them, however. If you would like to learn more about ICPC, the proposed changes, and the progress, you can find more information here: http://aphsa.org/content/AAICPC/en/NewICPC.html
Odds and Ends…
Have you ever seen a situation where the state has legal custody of a child even though they are living with a non-offending parent, and the state cannot release jurisdiction until the parent gets an attorney?
This is a difficult situation, so I will explain how this can happen. Say a mother and father get divorced, and the mother is granted full custody of the child. Later, the mother is hotlined for abuse or neglect and the child is removed. The child can be immediately placed with the non-offending father, but the divorce document prevents him from having legal custody. He needs to hire a private attorney and file a motion to amend the previous dissolution of marriage to give him the legal custody of the child. Until he does that, the state keeps legal custody of the child. If the father cannot afford an attorney, the case can drag out until the child is 18!
A House Bill has been passed called the Trauma-Informed Schools Initiative. This is great news because it creates a program for helping schools identify signs of trauma as well as differences between trauma and learning disabilities. So often traumatized children are misdiagnosed with ADHD and such.
The link below is a 25 minute training video, and I have attached documents with additional information.
Signs of Safety
The speaker we had at our September Peer Support Meeting was Jennifer Mckenzie who is a Children’s Services Specialist with Children’s Division. She is charged with training on the Signs of Safety program. Signs of Safety is a new approach to casework that focuses on the safety of the child, involving the family in their plan toward reunification, and giving the caseworker and team tools to engage the family and child in their plan for success.
How does this apply to us as CASAs?
It is helpful for us to have an understanding of Signs of Safety for various reasons. When working with caseworkers, one of the things we need to understand, is that they are charged with the task of showing that all reasonable efforts have been made to reunify the family. They use a strengths-based approach as a base to start with. With Signs of Safety Mapping every meeting begins with “What are the strengths and positives in the family?” or “What’s working well?”. They then proceed to “What are our worries or concerns?” and finally to “What needs to happen for this child to be safe in the home with their parents?”. There is an opportunity for the parents to be a part of this conversation and contribute to it rather than just being told what to do.
Scaling is used as a way to think about progress or lack thereof. It basically is just having each team member think about safety in terms of a scale of 1-10. 1 being that it is in no way safe for the child to return to the home and 10 being that conditions are ideal for the child to return. This gives a visual way to see if the team scores have gone from a 3 to a 5 based on what the family has done since the last hearing that there is progress being made.
A real advantage to using Signs of Safety in court is by putting safety of the child as a priority in case planning, the court can use that as a way to determine best interest of the child instead of just relying on whether or not a parent has completed court ordered services. As we know, there are situations where a parent has complied with services but the home situation is still not safe for the child or situations where maybe a parent hasn’t complied with all services but that the team feels that the home environment is safe for the child.
It is important for us to have an understanding of Signs of Safety so that we can better know how to participate as a member of the child’s Family Support Team. There are various tool that are used with Signs of Safety that can be useful with our work with our CASA children. If you are interested in learning more about those tools, please sign up for our Fostering Futures course on December 2!
Thank you all for reading this and for all you do as a CASA Volunteer!
If you would like to read a recent research project about the evolution of the child welfare system, current developments, and successful programs in other regions, please click on the link below.
Our program is funded by the Victims of Crime Act, which is part of the reason why we collect your monthly advocacy reports. We have to account for the time spent providing services to the victims of crimes. The act was passed in 1984, and is actually a really amazing concept! It is funded through fines, penalties, and forfeitures collected from persons convicted of offenses. Then the money is given to organizations like ours who help the victims of crimes. Transferring the money from criminals to victims - how cool!
At July’s Peer Support Meeting, the area Chafee worker, Holli Gillam, spoke about the benefits of the Chafee Program. I have attached their brochure to this for further reading.
In 1999, the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Act was passed to provide funding for foster youth remaining in care up to or beyond the age of 18. It was created with the goal of assisting youth to achieve independence in early adulthood, providing funding for a high school diploma, vocational training, life skills training, budgeting, substance abuse prevention, preventative health (including alcohol and tobacco avoidance), job placement, and career assistance. It also created the Educational and Training Vouchers Program (ETV) for Youths Aging out of Foster Care, which provides up to $5000 annually for college tuition. Not only does the Chafee Act prepare foster children for the transition into adulthood, but it rewards their own efforts towards independence.
Last year Governor Jay Nixon signed the bi-partisan House Bill 1877 which changed sections 210.110, 210.180, 211.031, and 211.036 RSMo to create more accountability for child sex offenders, create a task force to study the prevention of abuse and neglect in Missouri, and add language which allows foster parents the "prudent parent" legal standard in order to create some normalcy for children in foster care. Let me explain...