From a foster parent – I recently had a teen placed with me. This teen was removed for stupid reasons, cannot be placed with kin for more stupid reasons, she wants to be with her family, family is safe and caring and there is really no reason she should have been removed (except poverty=neglect and racism). She was placed with me so that she could keep in contact with family and do visits since they’re in the same city as I am. CPS or DCFS or whatever are saying that she cannot have unsupervised contact with anyone in her family, and there is one person in particular she is not to have any contact with at all. But these people are not dangerous and she wants to spend time with them.
My question is, how should I allow or not allow contact with these people ? I have already said that the family members, besides the one prohibited one, can spend the night here and be here whenever I’m here, because that’s allowed. But I’m wondering, do you all think I should allow unrestricted contact with these people, even if CPS says it’s not allowed ? Any difference in advice for the prohibited family member ? If I allow unrestricted contact and we get caught, the consequences for her are much greater than for me. She, at least for now, seems willing to follow the rules and won’t have contact, if I tell her she can’t. But I hate to tell her she can’t, when there’s really no danger, as far as I can tell. I’ve hinted to her that she’s allowed to go out on her own, and she doesn’t have to tell me where she’s going, so that’s what we’re doing for now. One time I drove her to her family member’s house and stayed outside in the car while she went in, so she had privacy with them but I was still kind of there. My thinking is that I don’t want her sneaking around trying to see them, and I don’t want her to feel guilty for wanting to be with her family, and if she hadn’t been removed (which she shouldn’t have been), she’d have full access to them.
Some responses –
From a Guardian Ad Litem – My feedback is a pretty strong no – I LOVE what you’re doing here, and honestly if I were the CASA on your case and knew about this, I’d strongly consider keeping your secret. But these conditions are non-optional in my area (and we have stupid arrangements too, but I’ve never had one quite this bad) and you are going to be at very high risk of losing the placement (and possibly your license) if they find out about this. This child is unlikely find another placement as child-centered as you, and in my area she might end up sleeping in the social worker’s office for days or weeks. I think you tell this young person that you are willing to do everything within the limits of the system to help, but you agreed to respect these constraints. You’re enforcing them because you value the child and their safety/stability of your placement, NOT necessarily because you feel they’re just. That distinction will not be lost on a teen.
From a Kinship Carer – You are playing a dangerous game, if you knowingly allow unsupervised contact. Her next placement will very very likely not be so kind. Whatever the stupid reason that the one person is totally no contact, abide by it. For the others, having them over while you are in another room is wonderful. Sitting outside in the car is likely not enough to constitute “supervision.” I’ve been in your position. It is very frustrating to spend hours and hours discreetly “supervising” (from another room) so as to not interfere and to allow the family normalcy. But weigh your light level of supervise vs what most placements would do and continue to follow the rules as lightly as you can. And hope that the family does their tasks, so she can go home sooner rather than later.
From an Adoptive Parent – If you do not follow DHS visitation plan restrictions that will be seen as failure to protect…she will likely be removed…and your home will likely be closed…sometimes they will accept she “snuck out” but if they decide otherwise – it is likely teen will be labeled a flight risk and it is likely that they will remove her. She will find herself in a shelter unable to see anyone…I had a teen who would run away often. There were a few times they made her go to a shelter or another home and would not allow her back with me…ultimately however, she did age out of my home.
From a Kinship Guardian – I feel like letting a trusted teen go out does falls within reasonable and prudent care (especially if you’re told a destination. Even one that turns out to be inaccurate) , but if it comes up that you probably knew the forbidden family was being visited against case rules, you run the risk of losing your license. It’s up to you to decide if that risk is worth it. Your heart is absolutely in the right place.
From an Adoptee – Even the child knows she should follow the rules. You need to follow the rules. Be a good example. We may not always like the rules but we will hate the consequences of not following them a whole lot more.
From a Foster Parent – Being a foster parent sucks. So many rules and hardly ever in the best interest of the kids. She mentions LINK>Life360. which I had never heard of. Life360 offers advanced driving, digital, and location safety features and location sharing for the entire family.
Another one recommends – I would not stretch the confines of the foster care plan. Stick to the rules. If she wants to go home – her best chance of getting there is by sticking to the rules.
Another Foster Parent writes – Do not violate court order. She will be removed and you will lose your license. Continue to advocate with her caseworker and GAL. Know that she will probably try to go around the restrictions. As long as you are not actively encouraging or enabling it, then it is OK. We have had that happen before. We had teenagers use their phones to be in contact with people they are not supposed to be in contact with. They typically understand that this is what teenagers will do, but if they find out that you are facilitating and encouraging it, it’s all over. And the next foster home may not be as understanding as you are. What we have done is supervised visits where we could see, but not hear them. Depending on the level of supervision required. Then we are able to advocate strongly that visits can move to unsupervised because of how well they are going. We’ve been able to get visits, moved to unsupervised within a visit or two.
An Adoptive Parents asks a question that was on my own mind – how old the teen is in this situation ? Are you trying to run out the clock for a 17 year old or is she 13, with many critical years ahead ? Also is there a reunification plan in place ? Because never mind your own license, you are aiding and abetting something that undermines the actual reunification of the child with her family. You could be ruining the family’s chances to reunite ! Your heart is in the right place but you have to play by their rules and learn to play the game to speed up reunification. And that’s what I would be telling your foster child too. Learn to play the game, voice the frustration with the system, find ways to take back control where you/she can within the confines of the limitations they’ve imposed, find ways to help the family reunite and focus your frustrations and energy there, rather than trying to sneak around it.
From a Foster Parent – Contact the teen’s GAL and encourage them to advocate for family placement/more contact/etc. While it took a while, I’ve seen this work in the long run. That and continue to encourage visitations with family and then report back to everyone (CPS, foster care, GAL, etc) how well things are going and your thoughts on reunification. You can help the teen to advocate for themselves as well. Depending on their age, they could maybe write a letter to the judge or even speak for themselves in court.
Another Adoptee writes – Honestly this is where you ask her, if she would like to help fight the broken system with you by her side. This type of case (poverty, racism) should be investigated further and should be fought head on, to make changes, instead of sneaking around the system.
A Foster Parent writes – In the system, life is a long hard road. You need to model pushing back against injustices, without breaking the law. The foster care to prison pipeline is hard to avoid – the last thing she needs is a shove. Push reunification and push unsupervised visits, but also chill.
Lastly from one more Foster Parent – Great foster parents, in my opinion, bend rules – but don’t break them. They also advocate/ask hard questions and push people like the caseworker and GAL or CASA to be able to defend why the rules are currently what they are. For instance, maybe supervision is required. Zoom has an option to record, so we just sent the link to the caseworker for documentation, though I doubt they ever opened it. It was still far from ideal, but it allowed a bond to continue and allowed us to show consistent appropriate contact which, I believe, allowed boundaries to be moved more quickly. Try to think out of the box with the rules given to you. Can she have contact with the person who is allowed absolutely no contact, if it’s in a therapeutic setting ? Are you willing to provide transportation ? Those types of things. It is still your legal obligation to follow the rules and keep your teen safe. I certainly wouldn’t risk your license to do so, or risk adding the additional trauma of a move, or a possible change of placement further from friends and family, etc.