I saw a reference to this on a different thread and decided to start a new thread instead of hijacking that one :)
If you have hired an attorney, please explain why? and how did it help your case? I was not aware that we had the right to do so - guess it varies by state. And, couldn't the state simply remove the child from your care if you did this?
I hired an attorney in my son's case. I was TERRIFIED he was going to be sent home to his bdad, who was still using cocaine.
Having my attorney file a motion to have me as intervenor in the case was hugely helpful. All the sudden, I wasn't being kept in the dark any more! I got the entire case file, with all the motions and paperwork on the case. That was a big deal for me emotionally, and I am glad I have those papers for when my son is old enough to see them.
But I could have filed as intervenor on my own (and now, I do). There was absolutely nothing my attorney could have done to prevent reunification if DSS and the GAL were in agreement about it. So on the whole, the lawyer was not such a good investment.
And no, the state cannot remove the child from care if you hire an attorney, at least not in our state. Here, every foster parent has a statutory right to become an intervenor (with a lawyer if you want to pay for one, otherwise, representing yourself). You can't be penalized for exercising your statutory right.
I now file as an intervenor for EVERY child on the day I am eligible to do so. I tell the SW and the child's parents before I do it, and I tell them I am doing it so that I can address the judge directly if I need to comment on the child's progress, on how visits are affecting him or her, and on any services that are needed. Unless I'm an intervenor, I can't speak.
I hired an attorney after my three children had been in care for 18 months and they still didn't have a permenant plan. Once I had an attorney, the case got on the fast track and it was done. Once you bring on an attorney, the county counsil (the social workers attorny), the childrens attorney, the social workers, and the judge, all know they have someone looking over their back. My attorney started calling them on all of the places they had fallen short. It was amazingly effective. He did it without direct threats, but the veiled threat were very effective. In my case, the county counsil had sent a different attorney to every case. The children's attorney had not returned a call in over a year and continually showed up to court unprepared. Once they knew I had someone watching that all changed.
I am in California and they have De Facto parenthood status (similar to the intervinor discussed above). When I got that, then my lawyer could go into court and present the arguments that the county counsil and childrens attorney should have been presenting all along but they were incompetent, ill prepared, or just didn't care. By hiring an attorney, we shamed them into doing their job.
The social workers tried to talk me out of it. They don't like it because again, they are now forced to do their job. Anyone can hire an attorney for anything. So as a foster parent, you have that right. As far as the foster care system taking the child because you hire an attorney, yes they can do it at any time, but with an attorney by your side, they better have a very good legally defensible position before they try.
As a foster parent, I was threatened every time I complained the the County that if I didn't stay in line they would remove the children. These are the tactics they use to controll you. An attorney help to even the playing field.
Having said all this, I would not recommend an attorney unless you have an unusual case or your case is dragging on way too long. It cost you money and it is a risk becuase I can almost guarantee you that when you do it, the system will be mad at you.
Hmmm... I have never found that DSS was upset with me in any way because I filed as intervenor or because I hired an attorney.
My social worker does jokingly call me "Mama Bear," though, and she warned one of my kids' caseworkers not to screw up the case or I'd be on her like glue. I'm VERY okay with that reputation. :-)
We hired an attorney to represent us at the termination trial of our little one. CPS was considering sending her to a grandmother she had never met and had declined her already. We had had her about 8 months then. The grandmother wasn't even certain she wanted to have a homestudy. Does that really sound like someone who needs a special needs child? Anyway, our attorney was able to get the judge to make us possessory conservators, which means CPS can't move her without going to court. Anyone would have to fight in court for her and basically prove we were unfit. It was the best decision we ever made even though it cost us a bit of money.
We hired an attorney once we had our fs in our care for 12 months, at the advice of the judge. He has been present at every court hearing since, including those for fd even since she was returned to bmom 14 months ago. His presence shows the judge and the other parties involved that we are not going away, and are still invested in the outcome of the case. I have never regreted it.
We were actually encouraged by the CW and DCS attny to hire a lawyer, but b/c they wanted to keep the kids with us and there were some issues pop up with another country claiming jursidiction. No one was really sure what the 'right/legal' thing was, so it was up to us to hire a lawyer who laid it all out that the US and the local court had the power to place the kids where they wanted, not this other entity. The judge and DCS were doing their job in this case, but there were lots of technicalities that made the case hairy. While our case is not over, I do not in any way regret hiring a lawyer for that particular case. In our other case, while I'd love to do 'more' to speed things along, our lawyer said to hold off or it might not be looked on as favorable with each situation has a different need. So far in the 2nd case, the bios are hanging themselves all on their own.
We hired an attorney and it made all the difference in the world. I don't know how it is in other states, but if DCFS moves to the kid to anyone other than bio-parent, you have the right to appeal and the kids stay with you until the appeal is heard. We were very upfront with everyone about the attorney and why we hired them and everyone was okay with it. It did change the outcome of our case for the better and we are very satisfied.
We hired an attorney once we knew we wanted to adopt A1 and A2. We also waited until they were with us a year and it appeared their case would/should go to TPR.
Our attorney got us established as Interested Party Status. We were no longer left out of court hearings and felt we had more input. When A1's TPR went to trial our attorney had the opportunity to cross question or call any witnesses if we wanted him too... but the DA did just fine.
I don't regret spending the money to hire an attorney, but glad I waited until I established the case was moving to severance and I knew I wanted to adopt the child.
For those of you who chose to hire attorneys, when would you say foster parents should hire an attorney? and, how much does it generally cost to do so?
I am not an attorney. I was a legal assistant for a long time before I became an attorney, and I volunteered as a CASA in California (Los Angeles) before I was a foster parent.
I think that there are definitely times you should hire an attorney (and I am not an expert on when, how much, etc.) but my advice for California/Los Angeles would be to get a GREAT recommendation for an attorney who specializes in children's law. In Los Angeles, it is a strange circle because different attorneys work in each judge's courtroom and switch between being attorneys for bios and the children.
If you just hire anyone, they may not understand the intricacies of the process. I have worked in civil law, and children's law (adoption) is very different. They really need to also understand the nuances of the children's court system. If someone just came huffing and puffing into the courtroom without understanding the protocol, that could damage your case. So, my two cents worth, is just to make sure you have an expert in this field.
Good luch!!
Does anyone know how long you should wait before hiring an attorney? We are in Texas, do we have de facto parenting laws here?
Any information or advice is greatly appreciated. Even if someone could tell me where to look to find the info.
I'm not an attorney, so please, don't take this as legal advice---at least not the kind worth more than what you're paying for it!
I'd say, don't hire an attorney if all you're going to be doing is fighting RU. The courts just don't listen to foster parents on this one most of the time. But you could use an attorney to fight to get a kid services, or to fight having the kid moved to another foster home, or to file for adoption on a kid that is already TPR.
And ditto to the advice to hire somebody who has worked in the system before. Not just any old attorney can do this kind of work. My advice would be to get the list of GALs under contract to the court you're working with, and then hire one of the GALs who is not otherwise affiliated with your case. They know the system, know the other attorneys, and can represent you in a competent and credible manner.
We are considering hiring at attorney, kids have already been TPR'ed, but now there are issues as to whether or not there are technicalities that exist that would threated the legality of an adoption.
Judge said that TPR is valid, they are even transferring us to the adoption unit, but.... there is still this one issue that is a gray area, and I do not want my family living underneath the cloud of a gray area when we could have an adoption lawyer review everything and see if we are OK before the actual adoption takes place.
(and from a financial standpoint, we are hiring and "adoption" attorney to check on the validity of everything because DSS will reimburse us up to $2000 of the cost of an attorney for adoption related costs and we couldn't really put out the money w/o knowing we would get it back, but we consider this to be important enough to dip into our Emergency Funds)