Children In Foster Care

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There are too many children in foster care. Despite federal legislation (the Adoption and Safe Family Act) among other legislative directives) designed to reduce the number of children in care, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2010) indicates that of the 285,000 children exiting care in 2008, only 52 percent were reunified with their parents or primary caretakers. Although ASFA also has statutory guidelines designed to reduce the amount of time required for the courts to decide permanent placement for children that have been removed from their parents, children exiting foster care in 2008 spent an average of 21.8 months in state custody (U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services). These outcomes create several questions for…show more content…
One caveat to these examinations is that many of them look at factors like e.g., race, family composition, poverty; they did not focus on the processes and/or structures of the juvenile dependency court system itself. The present study attempts to overcome this caveat by examining a process factor—involvement of the parents and their respective legal representatives at early decision-making hearings—that may increase the rate at which a child will be reunified with his/her parent. However, prior to examining these questions, the study begins with a discussion of judicial decision points in a child dependency case, factors that promote reunification, and effects of legal representation. Judicial Decision Points Juvenile dependency case outcomes involve a complex interaction of decisions made by the executive and judicial branches, at different times. Pursuant to federal and state laws, there are five main hearings in a juvenile dependency court case: preliminary protective, adjudication, disposition, review, and permanency planning. Preliminary Protective…show more content…
ASFA statutes mandate that the permanency planning hearing be held no more than 12 months after the child has been removed the home. The importance of this hearing should not be understated; however, it has not been included in the current discussion for two reasons. First, researchers believe that the presence of the mother, father, and/or parents’ legal representation at the permanency planning hearing will likely have little bearing on the outcome. The decision made at this hearing is often a result of a culmination of work (compliance with court orders, progress toward case goals, participation in court ordered services, etc.) done by the parents before and after the earlier four hearings. Similarly, the decisions made at this hearing are too closely linked to the decisions made at other hearings and therefore poses a statistical limitation for

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