How to get my grandchildren out of foster care
Having your grandchildren placed in foster care can be an incredibly difficult and emotional situation. As a grandparent, you may feel helpless and wonder what you can do to get them back home.
The good news is that in many cases, grandparents have a good chance of obtaining custody or becoming the foster parents themselves. Here are some tips on navigating the system and increasing your chances of reuniting with your grandchildren.
Understand the reasons for removal
The first step is understanding why your grandchildren were removed from their parents in the first place. There are several potential reasons:
- Neglect or abuse – This includes physical, emotional or educational neglect. The home may have been found unfit or unsafe.
- Parental drug use – If the parents have a serious, untreated addiction, the children may be at risk.
- Incarceration – If the parents are in jail, there may be no suitable caregiver for the children.
- Abandonment – If the parents have left the children without making proper arrangements.
- Death of parents – If the parents have passed away, the children will need a new guardian.
Knowing the background will help you understand what steps need to be taken before the children can return home.
Hire a lawyer
Navigating the foster care system is complex, with many legal requirements. Having an experienced family law attorney on your side is highly recommended. An attorney can advise you on the best course of action and represent you in court. Look for a lawyer who has specific experience with custody and child welfare cases.
File for custody
In many states, grandparents are given priority over other relatives when it comes to obtaining custody. Speak to your lawyer about petitioning the court for custody. You will need to provide extensive documentation that you are able to appropriately care for the children.
The court will want evidence that you have adequate housing, income and living conditions. Letters of reference and completion of parenting classes can also help your case.
Seek visitation rights
Even if you are not yet granted full custody, request visitation rights so you can spend time with your grandchildren. Maintaining a close bond will demonstrate to the court your meaningful relationship.
Supervised visits are likely initially, but you can build up to overnight and weekend visits. Document each visit by keeping a log and taking photos. This shows your active commitment to the children’s wellbeing.
Address any allegations against you
If there were any concerns raised about your ability to care for the children, take steps to correct them. For example, if your home was considered unsuitable, work on making repairs or renovations.
If substance abuse was an issue, get treatment and random testing. Improving any deficiencies will show the court you are now able to provide a healthy environment.
Complete foster care certification
Some states allow grandparents to become the actual foster parents for their grandchildren. This involves completing foster parenting classes, a home inspection and background checks.
You will also need to demonstrate you can facilitate visits with the birth parents. While there are significant requirements, this option allows you to become their legal caregiver.
Work closely with the caseworker
The children’s caseworker can be an excellent resource. Establish a positive relationship and communicate frequently. Ask what steps they recommend you take to improve your chances of reunification.
Express your desire to have the children placed with you rather than strangers. Send updates on the progress you are making.
Attend all court hearings
Ensure you are present for all custody and status hearings. This shows the judge you are committed and engaged. Be prepared to speak about your qualifications, commitment and family relationship.
Dress professionally and remain calm and respectful, even if you disagree with arguments. Having legal counsel to represent you is very beneficial.
Participate in services
Most parents and caregivers are required to participate in reunification services such as parenting classes, counseling and drug testing. Complete all programs recommended, even if not mandatory.
This demonstrates your willingness comply with expectations and do whatever it takes to continue caring for the children.
Provide a safe, stable environment
If the children are placed in your care temporarily or permanently, it is imperative you provide a safe, nurturing environment meeting all their needs. Keep up with medical appointments, enroll them in school and engage in activities.
Maintain routines, discipline and boundaries. Document your ability to reliably meet their physical and emotional needs.
Be patient and persistent
The process of getting your grandchildren out of the foster system can take many months. Expect setbacks and frustrations, but keep moving forward. Hire an experienced attorney, utilize resources and demonstrate at every step your capability to safely parent. With concerted effort and patience, you have an excellent chance of being reunited.
Getting grandchildren out of foster care and back under your care is certainly challenging. But being proactive, utilizing resources and demonstrating your committed ability to parent will give you the best chance of success.
With dedication and time, you can work through the process and help provide your grandchildren the stable, loving home they deserve.