Laws Regarding Foster Care

Foster care laws, including custody disputes, vary state to state. In Washington, foster care is governed by the Department of Social and Health Services’ (DSHS) Children’s Administration. It’s defined as a “temporary living situation for children and youth who have been removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect, abandonment or the death of their caregivers. A safe return home is the primary goal,” and there’s an emphasis on the word “temporary.”

Since a permanent, safe and appropriate home for the child is a top priority, Washington State allows for the transfer of legal custody of a child to a relative in lieu of foster care placement. Otherwise, custody is granted to the State’s social services department, which then has total responsibility for child placement. In some instances, children in foster care become eligible for adoption (whether by a family member or a non-related parent to be), in which case DSHS will undertake a complimentary home study for adoptive parents.

Keeping it in the Family

There are numerous reasons children may be put into foster care, and in some cases grandparents are given foster care rights while their own children (the parents of the child now in foster care) work towards providing a stable life for a family. A recent case in Enumclaw, Wash. made national headlines when the grandparents of one three-year-old were denied their plea to be foster parents because they allegedly weren’t making strong enough efforts to reunite the toddler with her teen mom.

It’s resulting in a custody battle that involves birth parents, extended family (the grandparents), DSHS and potentially other foster care parents who are already pre-qualified. These types of custody battles are fairly common in foster care situations, since a court may often need to decide who the best “parents” are for a child—and that includes who’s most likely to aid in reuniting the child with their birth (or adopted) parent.

Beyond the “Basic” Laws

There are scores of laws defining who can be a foster parent, how to quality, regulations to follow and what type of home environment you must supply. From reporting incidents when caring for a foster child to how many people can be living in the foster home, it’s not an easy task. However, when there are issues of custody thrown into the mix, that’s when only an attorney can help square things up.

In the case of the Washington grandparents seeking foster care custody of their grandchild, they were the only parties actively seeking custody. Should the mother of the child get involved or more interested parental figures, the laws aren’t as black and white. For example, according to WAC 388-148-1095, foster parents are required to keep all aerosol containers in a place inaccessible to children—such clear laws can’t be pinned to custody disputes.

Choosing the Right Attorney

Do you suspect a custody battle brewing with a foster child? Secure an attorney who specializes in custody issues and foster care. With an expert in your corner who’s best interests are also with the child, you can enjoy peace of mind and a quicker resolution.

Also see: Is Spanking Child Abuse?