- Report Published -
|Foster Parent Bill of Rights|
|Department of Social Services|
|SJR 107 (Regular Session, 1994)|
|Senate Joint Resolution 107 requested that the Department of Social Services "study the need for a Bill of Rights for foster care providers."|
The study determined that foster parents in Virginia do have some statutory protections, training, assistance, liability coverage, appeal procedures, and other supports. However, inclusion of language for a bill of rights and corresponding responsibilities in the foster parent handbook would give recognition to the important role foster parents play in the lives of foster children. This can and should be achieved by administrative rather than legislative means. The department should also examine appeal procedures for foster parents. Reasons for these conclusions are:
• Most foster parents are active members of the foster care team, which generally includes the foster care worker, foster parent, birth family, an significant others, but 22% of public and 10% of private providers report not being treated as team members.
• Everyone involved with planning for the foster child needs to know their roles and responsibilities, and the bill would help clarify the role of foster parents.
• Although most foster parents seem generally satisfied, there is inconsistency across the state regarding knowledge of and access to services and involvement in information sharing and service planning.
• Although some excellent training is offered in some areas of the state, access to needed training is inconsistent.
• The state's appeal procedures for foster parents, and often local alternatives for conflict resolution, are confusing.
• Knowledge of the state's provision for property damage and liability coverage is lacking.
• Foster parents can better meet the needs of children if well informed and encouraged to participate in planning. Stating rights and responsibilities for all foster parents should increase quality of care for children.
Key elements of a statement of rights and responsibilities for foster parents should include:
• treatment with respect, dignity, and as a team member;
• a clear understanding of the roles of the agency, birth family, and foster family;
• training opportunities;
• all relevant background information on a child to be placed in their home;
• participation in service planning, decision making, and information sharing;
• knowledge about insurance coverage or other protections;
• access to supportive services for themselves and the children in their home; and
• procedures for conflict resolution with other team members.
Caring for children who cannot be with their birth families is an enormous responsibility. Children coming into care have more severe problems or conditions than in years past, particularly because more is being done to maintain children in their own homes and prevent foster care. Foster parents fulfill a critical role in serving Virginia's troubled children and their families. Clearly defined rights and responsibilities would support them in this role.