The Foster Parents’ Bill of Rights is OFFICIALLY LAW!
The Foster Parents’ Bill of Rights creates guidelines for establishing a clear understanding between the Department of Children and Families and Massachusetts foster parents.
The newly established law outlines basic rights afforded to foster parents, rights regarding the provision of foster care, and rights regarding communication and information sharing between foster parents and the Department of Children and Families (DCF).
Basic rights of foster parents:
- To be treated with dignity and respect.
- To be free from all forms of discrimination in their role as a foster parent.
- To be free from any retaliation for asserting the rights outlined in this new law.
- To have information regarding the foster home (including all household members) be kept confidential.
Rights regarding the provision of foster care:
- To receive pre-service training.
- To accept and decline a placement and request the removal of a child from the foster home.
- To be provided reasonable access to a social worker, family resource worker, and DCF’s 24-hour emergency hotline.
- To receive a copy of and an opportunity to discuss a child’s DCF action plan.
- To be consulted regarding planning of visitation with the child’s birth family.
- To be afforded a minimum of 10 days of paid respite care per year.
- To file a grievance or request a fair hearing to review a decision made by the DCF regarding a child in their foster home.
- To request the content of their foster parent record.
- Communicate with professionals (therapists, physicians, teachers, etc) for the purpose of supporting the child.
- To request approval and support from DCF to connect with a child’s previous foster home
- To make routine decisions about a child’s daily activities, utilizing the reasonable and prudent parent standard. See reasonable and prudent parent section below.
Rights regarding communication and information sharing with DCF:
- To receive available information about a child’s health (including behavioral health), educational and other needs, and other relevant information, prior to placement.
- To be informed of the range and frequency of payments a foster home is eligible to receive, including additional financial supports and services (such as PACT, one time reimbursements, childcare, etc.).
- To receive adequate notice and an opportunity to actively participate in all meetings (including foster care reviews) regarding a child in the foster parent’s home.
- To receive adequate notice of all court hearings
- To receive, to the extent possible, adequate notice when a child is to be removed from the foster home.
- To be informed of the process and timelines for responding to allegations of abuse or neglect (51A) filed on behalf of a child in the foster home.
- To seek approval from DCF, to provide notes to assist future foster parents with the care and daily routine of the child.
Additional provisions of the new law:
Clarifies the Reasonable and Prudent Parent Standard
The Reasonable and Prudent Parent Standard is a federally required approach to normalizing decision making about a child’s safety, daily activities and routine focused on enabling a child to participate in developmentally appropriate family, recreational and social events and experiences.
The new law outlines factors to be considered when making reasonable and prudent decisions regarding foster children including:
- The child’s age, maturity, and developmental level
- The potential risk factors and the appropriateness of the extracurricular, enrichment, and social activity
- The best interest of the child base on information known by the foster parents
- The importance of encouraging the child’s emotional and developmental growth
- The importance of providing the child with the most family-like living experience possible
- The child’s mental and behavioral health
- The behavioral history of the child and the child’s ability to safely participate in the proposed activity
- Any special needs of the child and accommodation the child may require in order to safely and fully participate in the proposed activity
- Other relevant factors that may affect the child’s safety and well-being
This language will help to facilitate clear and consistent use of the standard to achieve its intended goals.
Updates to pre-service training requirements:
The new law specifies that that the following topics be included in pre-service training for foster parents
- Developmentally appropriate communication
- Positive discipline
- Child guidance
- Building self-esteem in children
- Federally-mandated pre-service and ongoing training on the reasonable and prudent parent standard.
Study on the adequacy and sustainability of the Daily Rate of Support:
Finally, the new law includes a provision requiring the Department, in partnership with the Secretary of Administration and Finance and the Child Advocate, to study the adequacy and sustainability of payments to foster parents for their care and support of the children in their homes.
Click HERE to see the full law