Foster parents in Massachusetts are legally guaranteed the right to be heard in court during any review, hearing or proceeding held with respect to the children in their care. Nonetheless, they are often discouraged from attending court hearings and presenting evidence.
MAFF and MSPCC have partnered with Access to Justice Fellow Paula Mackin to educate parents on exercising their rights. Mackin, a retired volunteer attorney with 35 years of experience in child welfare law and civil rights is conducting training to prepare foster parents to present factual, succinct and objective evidence designed to support the child’s best interests. The training will explain how and when to speak in court and what to expect in terms of cross-examination. You can reach out to Paula Makin with questions about the Opportunity to be Heard Project at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are unable to attend a training, the below materials provide the basic information and tools you will need to successfully present your evidence in court. Mackin is also arranging for continued assistance from both foster parent mentors who have experienced the court hearing process and pro bono lawyers provided by the Senior Partners for Justice, a program of the Volunteer Lawyers Project.
A Beginner’s Guide to The Courtroom: Advocating for the Child in Your Care
By Paula Mackin, Esq., Access to Justice Fellow
Entering a courtroom is intimidating, even for seasoned lawyers. As a foster parent, you might not be able to afford a lawyer of your own. The positions taken by the lawyers for DCF, the biological parents and the child may not be what you believe to be in the best interests of the child. If this is true, you should consider participating in these important court proceedings, even if you do not have your own lawyer…[MORE]
Guide to Presenting Evidence in Court
If you plan to attend a court hearing and present evidence, please download these documents which explain and provide examples of how to write an affidavit and a notice of intention to attend a hearing…[download]