Emergency Removal of a Foster Child-The Foster Parents' Rights

By Pollack, Daniel | Policy & Practice, August 2013 | Go to article overview

Emergency Removal of a Foster Child-The Foster Parents' Rights


Pollack, Daniel, Policy & Practice


With 1,200 children entering foster care each day (Children's Defense Fund, 2010, p. xv)1, it's bound to happen-seemingly, the foster home and the foster child arejust~tí/>t a good match for each other. Let's envision three scenarios:

1) The foster parents notice that the foster child appears to have an unusual fascination with fire.

2) The medical needs of the foster child are far more demanding than the foster parents feel they can handle.

3) The foster parents think there may be sexual activity between the foster child and their biological children.

In the above situations, if the foster parents request the emergency removal of the foster child from their home, how quickly must the agency respond and what legal procedural safeguards must be followed?

We constantly live with potential danger. Generally, a public human service agency may remove a child from his or her home in order to protect the health, safety, or welfare ofthat child. Following removal of the child, the appropriate court conducts an emergency removal hearing, often no later than 24-48 hours after the child has been taken into custody. At this dispositional review, the court makes a determination to ascertain if the child should be removed for an indefinite or extended period of time and be placed into foster care. Such placement takes into account such things as the child's age, health, and developmental needs. With more than 400,000 children in foster care, some of these children will unfortunately be harmed in foster homes that were meant to protect them from further abuse; and some foster children may themselves be abusive or dangerous to others in their foster home.

Connecticut provides that "in the case of an emergency removal, the department shall provide notification to the foster parents, the child's attorney and the child's guardian ad litem

* in writing

* at the time of the removal, or as soon thereafter as possible

* of the reasons for the decision to remove the child

* of the provider's right to request a removal hearing if the provider disagrees with the removal" (Connecticut Department of Children and Families, 2012).2

Just as Connecticut provides for the immediate removal of a foster child when the agency deems the foster home too dangerous, it also provides that, "when foster parents/caretakers request that a child be removed from their home, the child's worker or the worker's supervisor shall meet with them and the child on the same day in the case of immediate removal request or within five working days in nonemergency situations" (Connecticut Department of Children and Families, 2012; emphasis added).

Attorney Harvey Schweitzer, coauthor of the book Foster Care Law, notes that public agencies "will almost always remove foster children quickly when there is obviously imminent or actual harm to the foster child or others in the foster home. A very different situation occurs when the risk of harm seems manageable and the agency knows that it has no readily available home for a child with extraordinary needs. …

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