Rights of Foster Children and Foster Families

Adopted May 2013 – Community Concerns Commission – Revised August 2018

California State PTA believes stability is integral to a child’s quality of life and that the state has the primary responsibility for the well-being of children in foster care.

Every foster care child has the rights belonging to all children. Because society has temporarily or permanently separated them from their parents and other family members, society is responsible for providing special safeguards, resources, and care to all foster children.

California’s foster children are often bounced from placement to placement, and from school to school. This lack of stability often causes education-related problems, including a loss of school credits, interrupted academic progress, and delayed high school graduation.

California sets minimum high school graduation requirements for students. However, many school districts set graduation requirements beyond those required by the state.  A foster child relocated during high school can be faced with additional graduation requirements at the new school district and not have enough time to complete the additional courses and graduate on time.  California State PTA believes that foster youth with multiple high school placements should be afforded accommodations as necessary to be able to earn a high school diploma that falls short of local district course requirements but takes into account the courses taken by the student, and meets or exceeds state graduation requirements.

California State PTA supports the foster child Bill of Rights as listed in Welfare and Institutions Code (Section 16001.9). California State PTA believes that the foster family has the right:

  • To live in a safe, healthy, and comfortable home where they are treated with respect;
  • To be free from physical, sexual, emotional, or other abuse, or corporal punishment;
  • Not to be subject to police custody or arrest for ‘normal’ domestic disturbances;
  • To receive adequate and healthy food, adequate clothing, and, for children in group homes, an adequate allowance;
  • To receive timely, high quality medical, dental, vision, and mental health services;
  • To be free of forced use of medication or chemical substances, unless authorized by a licensed physician;
  • To freely contact family members, unless prohibited by court order:
  • To freely contact social workers, attorneys, foster youth advocates and supporters, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), and probation officers;
  • To visit and contact brothers and sisters, unless prohibited by court order;
  • To contact the Community Care Licensing Division of the State Department of Social Services or the State Foster Care Ombudsperson regarding violations of rights, to speak to representatives of these offices confidentially, and to be free from threats or punishment for requesting this access or making complaints;
  • To make and receive confidential telephone calls and send and receive unopened mail, unless prohibited by court order;
  • To attend religious services and activities of their choice;
  • To maintain an emancipation bank account and manage personal income, consistent with the child’s age and developmental level, unless prohibited by the case plan;
  • Not to be locked in any room, building, or facility premises, unless placed in a community treatment facility;
  • To attend school and participate in extracurricular, cultural, and personal enrichment activities, consistent with the child’s age and developmental level;
  • To work and develop job skills at an age-appropriate level that is consistent with state law;
  • To have social contacts with people outside of the foster care system, such as teachers, church members, mentors, and friends;
  • To attend Independent Living Program classes and activities beginning when they meet age requirements;
  • To attend their own court hearings and speak to the judge;
  • To have storage space for personal possessions;
  • To review their own case plan when they reach 12 years of age and to receive information about their out-of-home placement and case plan, including being consulted on changes to the plan;
  • To be free from unreasonable searches of their persons or belongings;
  • To the confidentiality of all of their juvenile court records consistent with existing law;
  • To have fair and equal access to all available services, placement, care, treatment, and benefits, and not to be subjected to discrimination or harassment on the basis of actual or perceived race, ethnic group identification, ancestry, national origin, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, mental or physical disability, or HIV status; and
  • Beginning at 16 years of age, to have access to existing information regarding the educational options available, including, but not limited to, the coursework necessary for vocational and postsecondary educational programs, and information regarding financial aid for postsecondary education.

The California State PTA believes that foster families have the right:

  • To be treated with dignity, respect, trust, and consideration as a primary provider of foster care and as a member of the professional team caring for foster children;
  • To be provided a current explanation and understanding of the role of the Child Welfare department and the approved role of the members of the child’s birth family in the child’s foster care with updates as the case plan evolves;
  • To continue their own family values and routines; that every effort will be made by the Child Welfare department to work with the family to place a child who can participate in and benefit from established family customs and routines;
  • To be provided training and support by the Child Welfare department for the purpose of improving skills in providing daily care and meeting the special needs of the child in foster care;
  • To be provided training by the Child Welfare department for obtaining support and information concerning a full understanding of the rights and responsibilities of the foster parent(s);
  • To review, prior to placement, written information concerning the child and to have a voice in determining if such child would be a proper placement for the prospective foster family. For emergency placements where time does not allow prior review of such information, the Child Welfare department shall provide information as it becomes available;
  • To obtain all biographical and medical information on a child prior to or at the time of placement;
  • To refuse placement of a child in the foster home or request the removal of the child from the foster home without reprisal;
  • To obtain timely financial reimbursement;
  • To help plan visitation with a child’s parents and siblings;
  • To receive notice of Child Welfare department plans or court proceedings affecting a child’s placement;
  • To have priority consideration when a foster child becomes available for adoption, and;
  • To be provided a fair and timely investigation of foster home complaints and an ability to appeal decisions of the placement board.
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