My name is Katelyn and I am a foster parent. My husband and I were approved through the RFA process in November 2017. Since December, we have had three young children placed in our home. Two have moved on to a kinship home and one has remained in our care for eight months.
We are very grateful that our foster child has a wonderful ongoing social worker who does so much to advocate for him. My husband and I feel it is our responsibility, as caregivers, to do our own research before court hearings to make sure we are doing whatever we can from our end to advocate for him as well.
Through our RFA classes, we received a lot of information about how foster care and dependency court work. We are so grateful that our classes were in-person because we made invaluable connections with our teacher and our fellow caregivers. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of building connections in your foster community, especially to get through those first couple months with a new placement. My husband and I continue to rely heavily on the connections we’ve made with other foster parents for advice and support.
I think frustration over not having a voice in court is a common feeling for foster parents. One of the many valuable things we learned about during our RFA classes is the JV-290 form. The JV-290 form allows current caregivers to submit information to the court. This form can submitted in advance of the six-month hearing and then at each subsequent hearing. Our instructor told us it is important to state facts, not opinions, regarding the activities, development, and health of the child in your care. She recommended that we include a picture of the child on each of the eight copies. It’s also helpful to attach brief, relevant letters from doctors, teachers, or therapists to give the court a better sense of the child’s needs or to help demonstrate the progress the child is making.
We had our first opportunity to turn in a JV-290 form a couple weeks prior to the six-month hearing. The judge and each of the lawyers took a moment during the hearing to look at the picture of the child and put a face to the name they had been discussing for months. We often feel helpless as caregivers when it comes to advocating for the kids in our care. Completing the JV-290 for the little one we’ve been caring for felt good because it allowed us to contribute to the court’s fuller understanding of the life of the child in our care. We hope any additional information will inform the court’s decisions regarding the child’s best interests. In addition, we hope taking the time to thoughtfully fill out and turn in the JV-290 gave the court a sense of who we are as caregivers.
My husband and I also turned in the JV-295 form to apply for what is called de facto parent status before our most recent hearing. De facto status is granted to people who assume the role of parent on a day-to-day basis for a child. We were told that the de facto status would give us more access to court records and family history, allow us to become a party to the case and have other rights in court. We are still learning about the benefits of de facto status but we are eager for any opportunity it might give us to advocate for the little on in our care.
My advice for foster parents is to fill out the JV-290 form before the six-month review hearing and at each subsequent hearing. Advokids has a webpage that provides more information about de facto parenting status.