what does it take to be a foster parent in New Jersey?
October 3, 2005 7:07 AM   Subscribe

Are any of you foster parents, and more specifically, do any of you foster children from within your family? Could you give me some advice? Assume this is all consensual among the family members.

I'm googling information for NJ, and it's mostly just call this office and training, etc. So, that's my next step. But I'd like to hear from people who have done it themselves. What parts of the process were the hardest or the most frustrating? What do you wish you knew ahead of time?

Also, parenting tips for a troubled seven year-old boy? Besides counseling, of course.
posted by FunkyHelix to Human Relations (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Most frustrating: when they go back to less than qualified parents. Troubled 7yo: when they are the meanest to you is when they are the most frightened; when they are the most defiant is when they most want your guidance and firm rules.

Are you fostering through the system?
posted by LadyBonita at 7:45 AM on October 3, 2005

This thread might be of interest to you.
posted by orange swan at 8:15 AM on October 3, 2005

Response by poster: Are you fostering through the system?

Is there another way? I'm just in the first stages of figuring this out. It's my cousin's kid. She wants him out, and I'm willing to take him. Beyond that right now is just me googling and making phone calls.
posted by FunkyHelix at 8:25 AM on October 3, 2005

My parents fostered my mother's half-sister's daughter for a year. My cousin was already in the foster care system, and the home she was in wasn't working. She told her case worker she wanted to live with relatives, so he hunted around and dug us up. Since Mum and Dad had already fostered four children some years earlier, it was pretty much a snap for them to get approved to have my cousin.

But it seems to me that if your second cousin is not already in foster care, there's no real legal need to work through the system. Simply move the boy into your house, and just use whatever resources such as support groups that are out there to assist you in parenting him. I have seen this done, and if the parent(s) are in agreement it's fine. Unless of course you can't support the kid, and need the (disgustingly mingy) foster care payments, in which case you'll need to go through the system.
posted by orange swan at 8:32 AM on October 3, 2005

Response by poster: What about being able to make decisions for the child instead of the parent? Would something notarized from her giving me that power work, or is this definitely something to be worked out by a lawyer?
posted by FunkyHelix at 8:38 AM on October 3, 2005

Response by poster: Okay, after talking to our insurance company, they will not cover this child under guardian care or fostering. Only adoption, which is not an option at this time. Therefore to get him covered with some sort of medical care, it will have to be done through the system.

We can't afford to cover a child out of pocket. One serious injury or illness would bankrupt us.
posted by FunkyHelix at 8:59 AM on October 3, 2005

Hmm, well, a quick search turned up this from the New Jersey Administration of Estates Act:

3B:12-39. Delegation of parent's or guardian's powers regarding ward's care, custody or property; limitations

A parent, other than where custody of a minor has been awarded by a court of competent jurisdiction, with the consent of the other parent, if the latter is living and not a mental incompetent or a guardian of the person of a minor or mental incompetent, by a properly executed power of attorney, may delegate to another person, for a period not exceeding 6 months, any of his powers regarding care, custody, or property of the minor child or ward, except his power to consent to marriage or adoption of a minor ward.

So, it sounds like to keep things perfectly within the bounds of the law, you should see an attorney and get the guardianship of the kid delegated to you. After a six month trial period, you could look into getting a more permanent arrangement.

You probably could get away with an indefinite informal arrangement as long as the kid was well cared for and his behaviour within reasonable bounds. You would need to let the school know, and the child's pediatrician, and I'm sure they would have dealt with this kind of situation before and would tell you what, if anything, you should do in terms of making arrangements.

But I think if it were me, I'd see an attorney. It probably will be relatively easy to arrange this, and you want to be on the safe side since Children's Aid is getting really interventionist and draconian these days (can't blame them given the vulnerability of children and the amount of abuse out there, but sadly it does make things tougher for parents who are just trying to do the right thing).

On preview: wouldn't the child continue to be covered under the parent's health insurance?
posted by orange swan at 9:04 AM on October 3, 2005

Response by poster: They don't have health insurance. They're under Medicaid. Would that continue? I need to make more phone calls. Thanks.
posted by FunkyHelix at 9:11 AM on October 3, 2005

No experience in NJ. Children in New York get Medicaid through foster care.

Also, in NY if you WANT a child to be placed in care the parent requests a "voluntary placement" which the city can accept or reject. The parent must then work towards goals established towards reunification. If there has been an abuse / neglect allegation the placement is involuntary.

Otherwise outside foster care families go to family court and award guardianship or petition for custody, then I think you are eligible for public assistance for the child (or TANF?) - I don't know about health insurance, but both probably depend on your income.

Parents in New York can sign a "surrender" in family court to give up the rights to their kids and a "conditional surrender" to create a contingency of adoption by a specified person. This takes time and lawyers of course. Other states have open adoption and other options - don't know about NJ. I don't think you need to be in foster care to do this - seek a lawyer.

Keep in mind that foster care involves an agency which will be providing case-planning for your family (making decisions about the child's needs and requiring you to attend appointments / meetings) and arranging mandated visitation with the parents under state guidelines, plus making monthly home visits, and complying with federal ASFA timeframes (terminating the parent's rights after a certain number of months(22?)) etc. The agency will inspect your home and require safety regulations, everyone in your home will have to be fingerprinted and cleared of criminal charges / child abuse, and the agency will have info on any future arrests or charges in your home, all of which will be addressed. It's a lot of intervention for potentially a long time if this is voluntary and you're looking for an informal situation.

I am not a foster parent or a lawyer and suggest you seek one. I have worked with kinship foster parents and some of them resent the high level of agency intervention into their family's business and develop an antagonistic relationship with the agency.

Worst case scenario: your lack of compliance can cause an ugly court battle if the agency decides you are a poor resource and wants to move the child. Also agencies are mandated reporters so they can and will call in a child abuse / neglect claim on you if they suspect anything or your home is unfit. Or if the child decides they want to be moved and the agency listens, they could go to a non-kinship home. This sometimes happens with teenagers.

Best case scenario: you are compliant and a good home and things go smoothly - you receive a monthly board rate for caring for the child while s/he's in care, then adopt with identical federal subsidy - in New York it's until the age of 21, but it's 18 in most states. The rate is not much, but if the child has special needs and the state approves it could be higher. It all depends.

This is based on experience in New York. Again, not a lawyer.
posted by Marnie at 10:07 AM on October 3, 2005

Are you fostering through the system?

Is there another way? I'm just in the first stages of figuring this out. It's my cousin's kid. She wants him out, and I'm willing to take him. Beyond that right now is just me googling and making phone calls.

Yes, there are several ways (one being informally taking in your niece or nephew or whoever for a short time). Another being that you do things privately through an attorney (temporary gaurdianship or whatever). The 'system' is your state child welfare/foster system (different names in different states) and you might have to qualify as a foster parent first (possibly after the fact, but they will be watching you).

If you are looking for more resources and guidance then the system is the way to go. But understand that you will be under their dumb thumb and will have to play by their rules. In the state system you will be paid (& child support collected from the parents) and the child will have medical and counseling covered by the state because the child will be a ward of the state (versus being YOUR child).

IMHO a private deal through an attorney is the best way to go and shouldn't cost all that much. It protects you (state can't just take the kid from you, parents would have to go to court unless you agreed). If you have insurance any child in your care should qualify under your policy.

Is this going to become a permanent plan? Remember you can have your heart ripped out if your cousin decides she wants her kid back. Thank goodness for people like you who step up to the plate.
posted by LadyBonita at 12:06 PM on October 3, 2005

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