What you MUST know about court hearings in the foster care system

to illustrate the difficulties of navigating the court system when it comes to foster care in bay county, florida.

On May 15, a court hearing was scheduled regarding the case involving H’s mother. On Thursday, May 9, there was a death in my husband’s family. The funeral was the same week as the hearing, which would prevent me from being able to attend the court hearing.

Mind you, this particular hearing was not one of much importance as far as hearings go. I knew what the judge was going to ask, in regards to H’s mother’s case plan. I knew the requirements had not been met (i.e. proof of a job and stable housing). I also knew that the court would simply reprimand her and set the date for the next hearing where there was a slight possibility concurrent goals* would be recommended at that point.

Because I knew this, because the hearing took place at 8:30 am on Wednesday morning in Panama City (2 hours and 1 time zone away) and because I had a funeral to attend, on Friday morning, May 10th, I sent an email to the case manager and the attorney asking for a call in number as I couldn’t physically be present for the hearing.

There’s a “process” for everything…

To be honest, I didn’t think this would be an issue at all. The foster care system provided a call in number for the permanency staffing meeting that I sat in on in March. Additionally, multiple system workers informed me, because we were in Tallahassee, requesting a call in number was pretty routine stuff.

So you can imagine my surprise when I got a 5 paragraph email from the attorney telling me, in so many words, because I asked 5 days and not 7 days in advance, it would be impossible to provide me with a call in number.

So, first of all, I’m not asking them to build a handicap accessible railing to the courthouse with 5 days’ notice. I’m asking for a call in number. This isn’t the kind of thing that takes days (or even more than a few minutes) to set up.

But no matter. I’m going to let this go. Instead I follow up and say “no worries. Who can I contact to get a transcript from the court reporter?”.

I mean, that’s why they have court reporters, right?

…yet logical requests still get denied

I get a second email that states (and I quote): There is not a mechanism for a foster parent to receive a transcript of the proceeding. 

I’m furious (which is part of the reason it’s taken so long to get this blog post up. Every time I’ve sat down to write it, my blood starts to boil and I walk away).

But I’m also exhausted. This is a child who came to us with 13 cavities. We are his third placement. I’ve been asking for weeks to get him an eye appointment and months to get him into therapy to help control his self harm behaviors, but to no avail. His grandparents, who desperately want him, have been waiting 8 months for the paperwork to go through so they can take him.

I. Just. Can’t. Fight. Another. Battle.

On Tuesday before court, I walk to the mailbox, like I do every night, to check the mail.

There an official looking envelop inside, postmarked May 11, 2019.

In it is a letter, signed by the attorney. The same attorney who emailed me and said I didn’t give enough time to request a call in number.

The letter says:

The following hearing is scheduled in your dependency case at the Bay County Juvenile Justice Courthouse…you have the right to attend the hearing…if you would like to talk and listen by phone, let your case manager or caregiver know and they will attempt to make arrangements.”

The date on the letter itself is May 9, 2019. 7 days before the hearing.

That’s right. The official letter from the foster care system telling me I had the right to request a call in number, was written 7 days before the hearing. It was sent 5 days before. And it arrived 12 hours before. The letter made NO MENTION of needing to request a call in number 7 days in advance. Yet somehow, my request, which I made 5 days in advance (due to a death in the family), was “impossible” to fulfill.

It’s been a month. I’m still furious.

Concurrent Goals

*A concurrent goal is put in place if it seems like the parent is not making progress on their case plan (which they must successfully complete to regain custody of their child/children).

The goal of the state is always reunification with the biological parent. But, if progress isn’t being made by some (un)specified amount of time, a second (aka concurrent) goal will be set by the court. Generally, it’s adoption or permanent guardianship by a relative or non-relative caregiver.

This is to ensure the child doesn’t remain in “limbo” for over a year. Although children from Bay County, where H is from, routinely stay in foster care longer than a year. On August 8, H will have been in the Florida foster care system for 1 year.

4 thoughts on “What you MUST know about court hearings in the foster care system”

  1. You’re a saint and you’re doing God’s work. Keep up the Good Fight. Protect that little boy with every ounce in your body and continue to love him as best you can and when you run of love, pray for it from above as that may be the only way you get through this. You are changing a life.

  2. This makes me absolutely sick and once again H suffers…absolutely sickening that he has loved ones that want him and the system isn’t moving to get him to this family. His life is sitting on someones desk and they just don’t care enough to get the paperwork going-sickening.

  3. Oh Lucy. This is maddening and sad at the same time. H is in the best place right now – keep focusing on that.

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