Once a relative child enters into foster care and is placed with you as a Relative Foster Care Provider, there are a lot of expectations, meetings, court dates, information, and case workers that you will be given throughout the time the child(ren) are involved in the child welfare system. A lot of information is given in a very short and stressful time period but it is important that, as the kinship caregiver to a child in foster care, you are somewhat familiar with the foster care system. You will be dealing with topics such as.
Also, agencies like MDHHS and other privately contracted offices provide many services to a large number of clients. There are things that you can do to help facilitate a positive and successful relationship with your local MDHHS or contracted agency. Visit our Working With MDHHS page to read about some tips to making your relationship with the agency a better one.
Typical Court Processes
The court processes and terms may be confusing or unclear to you. Your caseworker will be able to answer any questions you may have regarding what was discussed in the court hearings, what you can expect, the court process, etc. Additionally, a lot of caseworkers have a flowchart of the court process; ask your caseworker if they have a chart that can be provided to you. To learn more about the court process or to find a flowchart, visit MDHHS’s Guide for Caregiving Families.
Licensed vs. Unlicensed Foster Parent
Most times when the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) or a contracting agency places a relative child with you, it is required that you become licensed. This entails that you attend trainings and meet certain requirements. There are some circumstances, however, when it is possible for a caregiver to request a waiver in order to be an unlicensed foster care provider. If approved by MDHHS, these individuals do not have to complete the training hours. More detailed information about Licensed and Unlicensed Foster Parents can be found on our Legal Issues page.
Foster Care Payments
Monthly stipends are provided to caregivers once they are licensed as a foster parent. The stipend, referred to as a Foster Care Payment, is provided to the licensed caregiver to help provide for the child(ren) in their care. The amount of these payments is dependent on the child(ren)’s age as well as any specialized needs they may have.
Responsibilities of a Foster Parent
By agreeing to become a relative foster parent, there are certain expectations and responsibilities that are required of you. First and foremost, you will be responsible for providing a safe and appropriate environment for the child(ren) in your care. Additionally, you will be required to attend and complete the required training as well as any other requirements in order to become licensed (unless a request for a waiver is approved by MDHHS). It is expected that you will work with the foster care worker, agency, and court to follow all court orders and assist in any activities that are specified in the treatment plan. For more information about what will be expected of you as a relative foster parent, click here.
Foster Care Workers
Once a child enters the foster care system, they will be assigned a foster care worker. This person is responsible for making sure children are safe and their needs are being met. In addition to this, your foster care worker will work with your child’s parent(s) in order to make a plan for the changes that need to be made for the children to return home. They will report to the court any progress the parent(s) make and will make recommendations to the court regarding the child. Your foster care worker is person you should contact to discuss the child(ren) in your care in most circumstances.
Shortly after having a relative child placed with you in foster care, you should be contacted by a licensing worker. In addition to your foster care worker, this individual will work with you in order for you to complete the necessary actions required in order to be licensed. This is the individual you should contact with any questions regarding the licensing process, foster care payments, etc.
Lawyer Guardian Ad Litem
Each child in foster care is appointed an attorney or lawyer guardian ad litem (LGAL). This person is appointed in order to advocate for the child’s best interest. The LGAL is an attorney and is required to complete an investigation separate from the foster care worker to determine what is in the best interest of the child. They will meet with the child and find out the child’s wishes before court hearings and advocate for the best interest of the child in the courtroom.
Foster Care Review Board
The Foster Care Review Board is comprised of volunteers that meet once a month in order to review both randomly selected and requested cases of children who are currently in the foster care system. The Board reviews each case and provides its findings and recommendations to the court, the local Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) office, other contract agencies, and to other parties directly involved in the case. When a foster parent objects to a change or a proposed change in placement, they can appeal and request a Foster Care Review Board hearing. More information about the Foster Care Review Board can be found here.
The Office of Children’s Ombudsman (OCO) is an independent agency that investigates complaints concerning children who are under the supervision of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) or its private contracted agencies. The OCO investigates complaints about children involved in the child welfare system to determine whether the decisions and actions made by MDHHS and/or a private agency are in compliance with the laws, rules, and MDHHS policies and in the best interest of the child. As a general rule, the KCRC encourages you to try to settle any grievances and attempt to work out any issues with your caseworker first. If your caseworker is unable to provide you with the proper assistance, it may be appropriate to take further action. To learn more about the Office of Children’s Ombudsman, visit the OCO website.