New Jersey Foster Care Attorneys
Handling DCPP and Foster Care Cases for Parents and Families in Newark, Morristown, New Brunswick, Elizabeth, Hackensack, and other NJ Areas
Foster care, also known as resource care, is essentially where we place children who have been abandoned or abused by their natural parents. Sadly, if an infant is turned over to the police or worse, found, the child needs to be placed in a safe environment where the child’s welfare and interests can be served. Likewise, if a young child is being raised in an abusive environment or his or her basic needs are being neglected, the child must be removed and placed in a loving and nurturing environment. Ergo, New Jersey’s foster system was created. Parents and individuals often find themselves engulfed in the foster care system when DCPP initiates an investigation or takes action to protect the mental and physical health of a child.
These cases are highly complex, requiring the skill and assistance of a knowledgeable attorney in New Jersey fostering laws and legal proceedings involving the Division of Child Protection & Permanency. At our firm, we handle these types of child abuse, neglect, and foster care situations on a regular basis. To get help with your foster care case or other DCPP related issues, contact us online or by calling (908)-356-6900 today. Our experienced lawyers offer free, absolutely confidential consultations at any time to best serve your needs.
How does Foster Care Work in New Jersey?
Our foster care system is made up of foster parents or resource parents. As foster or resource parents, your job is to fill the shoes of the natural parents. Which means, you should be providing food, clothing, and shelter for the children. Plus, parents should also be assisting with medical care and education. In general, foster or resource parents should be providing a loving home where the child feels welcome and safe and moreover, where his or her basic needs are being met and their best interests are being served.
However, it is important to keep in mind, even though foster parents are taking on the responsibilities and duties of parents, they are not the child’s legal parents. Except in cases where the child is adopted, the natural parents still have their legal rights. As such, the foster have some limitations regarding their care. Plus, the initial goal when a child is placed into the foster system is reunification with the natural parent. Consequently, foster parents should be working with the Division of Child Protection and Permanency to achieve this goal.
Not every case ends with the child being reunited and as time goes on, the plan of reunification may change. Nevertheless, when a child first enters the system, the foster parents are typically working with the DCPP (previously DYFS) to reunite the family.
How to Become a Foster Parent in NJ
To become a foster parent, you can contact the Division of Child Protection and Permanency. A person cannot be precluded from serving as a parent due their gender, race, sexual orientation, culture, or religion. However, an applicant does have to pass a thorough background and he or she must undergo training through the Division. On top of that, the applicant’s home must also be inspected to determine if it is a safe and appropriate environment for a child.
How does DCPP Assist Foster Parents?
“It takes a village to raise a child.” This saying is especially true with respect to foster care. Sadly, many children placed in the system have undergone very traumatic events and many others have significant special needs. For many parents, caring for these types of children poses a challenge. Nevertheless, the Division can assist foster parents. For example, if the child is showing behavior concerns at the home or in school, child protective services can assist with providing counseling or treatment. Also, if the child has some special needs that must be addressed, DCPP can help by providing proper medical care and treatment.
Who is Responsible for a Child’s Medical Care in a Fostering Situation?
It is not unusual for children to become ill or suffer an injury. Foster parents are responsible for being alert for any medical concerns and transporting the child to and from medical treatment. Surprisingly, a resource parent cannot be held responsible for providing medical care. The reason for this is because the natural parents still have legal rights and thus, only the biological parents can technically consent on behalf of the child regarding medical treatment. However, in most cases, the Division obtains consent from the natural parents or obtains a court order granting DCPP custody and thus, the authority to act on behalf of the child.
Essentially, the authority is granted to the Division of Child Protection, not the foster parents. Nonetheless, it is still incumbent upon the resource parents to notify caseworker and child protection employees if there are any medical issues regarding the children. Furthermore, it is the responsibility to the foster parents to transport the child to and from any doctor appointments. In a similar vein, the same obligations apply for dental care and any possible mental health concerns. Also, it is worth noting, before a child is placed into foster care, the child undergoes both a medical and dental evaluation. If the child is still in foster care after a year, the child must undergo another medical and mental health evaluation and a dental check-up.
Ensuring Foster Children’s Education
Receiving a proper and well-rounded education is crucial to any upbringing. In addition to schooling and learning math, reading, and science, a school environment also provides many other social skills that a child needs to develop. Despite this clear and obvious need, schools used to be averse to accepting foster children because in many cases, the child was not technically a resident of the district. Nevertheless, this issue was solved through both Federal and State legislation. Specifically, through the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 and the New Jersey Education Stability of 2010, the Division is mandated to coordinate with local schools to ensure that a child remains in the same school.
As a foster parent, you are responsible for ensuring that your child attends school and is enrolled within 72 hours. Also, it is important to note, children placed into foster care cannot be home-schooled. Foster parents can register a child in school, consent to the child school activities and trips, and sign report cards and permission slips.
Can You Foster and Have a Full Time Job?
In most modern day homes, both parents work and they both work long hours. Our foster system is aware of that but does not want to discourage working individuals from becoming parents. As a result, the Division can and will assist with child care issues. Specifically, if a resource parent is employed outside the home, DCPP will develop a plan to provide for child care.
Does a Foster Child get to See and Speak to their Natural Parents and Siblings?
With the exception of adoption, foster parents are not the child’s legal parents. In most cases, the natural parents still have their legal rights intact and have the right to see and speak to the child. Please note, in some serious cases involving abuse and neglect, a Family Court may suspend parenting time. Nevertheless, in the majority of cases, the natural parents have the right to spend time with their children. To that end, it serves the child’s best interest to maintain a relationship with their parents. Accordingly, through the Division, a visitation plan should be established so the parents can visit their children.
Also, many foster children have siblings. Similar to maintaining a relationship with their natural parents, it also serves the foster child’s best interest to see and play with their siblings. Surprisingly, many brothers and sisters are separated when they enter the foster system. It is not unusual for foster parents to not have the room or capacity to care for multiple children. Also, the foster parent may have another child or children in the home already and so they can only take in a single child. Nevertheless, it is important to the child’s development and overall welfare to maintain a relationship with his or her siblings. Thus, it is incumbent upon child services to develop a visitation plan where the foster child can spend time with his or her siblings.
We can Help with Your Foster Care Case in Bergen County and throughout NJ
If you are currently dealing with foster care issues, want to become a foster parent, or your children are currently in foster care after being taken away by DCPP in New Jersey, our attorneys can help. With a lengthy track record representing parents and individuals in child welfare and fostering situations, our legal team is well-equipped to assist you. We have multiple offices located throughout the state to offer the most comprehensive assistance for your case involving child services, whatever your particular needs may be. Contact us at (908)-356-6900 if you would like a free consultation and to discuss potential representation in Bergen County, Essex County, Middlesex County, Ocean County, Hudson County, or another New Jersey county.