When can Foster Parents be Heard?

Although a foster parent is not a party to a child welfare proceeding, there are ways he or she can be heard. A foster parent has the right to be heard at all post disposition procedures, permanency planning hearings, and post-termination hearings. This means that the emergency removal hearing, adjudication, and termination trial are the only hearings in which a foster parent is not legally entitled to be heard. Courts differ in whether they will allow a foster parent to speak on the record or whether they choose to read the foster parent’s statement in chambers instead. You should prepare both and give the written statement to your caseworker to submit to the court before each hearing.

Before Termination: Navigating a Complex System and Protecting your Rights

We receive a lot of questions about when and how our office can assist foster parents. Many foster parents foster for the sole purpose of providing a temporary home for children in need. Other foster parents foster for the purpose to adopt.  This is often a demanding and heart-breaking journey because, as a foster parent, you must support reunification up until the point the parents rights are terminated–a difficult task once you’ve learned to love your foster child. Wile our office assists foster parents in navigating the child welfare system after termination as they seek to adopt a foster child, we do offer some services before termination, to ensure that the foster parent’s rights are being protected and respected. Please click Foster Parent Representation to see a PDF version of a chart which outlines the services we provide before the termination of parental rights.

What You Can Do If Your Child is Restrained or Secluded at School

If your child is being restrained or secluded at school, you may have legal recourse. Unfortunately, Michigan is behind the times, and has not implemented a law prohibiting the restraint and seclusion of students. However, due to immense public pressure after two special needs children died while being disciplined with restraints and seclusion, the Michigan State Board of Education did adopt a policy in 2006 which outlines what restraint and seclusion should not be used for, the manner in which it should be used, the time and duration of the restraint or seclusion, the staff requirements, documentation requirements, and practices that are prohibited, even in emergency situations.

The policy adopted by the State is not binding on schools; however, many schools have voluntarily adopted the policy or one that is similar. Although it may seem daunting that these schools are bound not by law but a voluntary policy, you do have recourse if your child is being restrained or secluded in an inappropriate manner. If your child is being restrained or secluded repeatedly, for reoccurring behavior, the school may be denying your child FAPE (a free and appropriate public education) which is a right afforded to all children per federal law.

Additionally, if there is a situation in which your child is being restrained or secluded for reoccurring behavior, the State has the policy that the school must do the following: “conduct a functional behavioral assessment; develop or revise a positive behavior support plan (PBS) to facilitate the reduction or elimination of the use of seclusion; develop an assessment and planning process conducted by a team knowledgeable about the student, including: the parent, the student (if appropriate), people responsible for implementation of the PBS, and people knowledgeable in PBS; and develop an emergency intervention plan.” If your school has adopted the State’s policy, your child may be entitled to these steps.

It is important that if your child is restrained or secluded, once or multiple times, that his or her mental and physical health are safe-guarded. If your child’s school is restraining or secluding your child, we can help you navigate the education system to ensure that your child and his or her rights are protected.

Lt. Calley Calls for Input from Parents of Children with Special Needs

Our office’s Education Consultant and Advocate, Bev McBrien, attended a meeting with Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley last night in Benton Harbor. As Bev sat in attendance, the Lieutenant Governor listened for two hours as parents shared their experiences and frustrations in trying to get their kids’ special needs met. Bev got the impression that he really understands the struggle that parents face, as he has a daughter with autism, and is genuinely interested in gathering as much information and input as possible for the upcoming revisions to Michigan Special Education Regulations.

Lieutenant Governor Calley has a survey available for special education parents , where he asks for blunt assessments of what’s happening in the system.  So far he has received 1,200 surveys completed online.

We are encouraging everyone to take the time, as little or as much as you want, to complete this survey that could help shape future policy in our state. The opportunity to have your voice heard via the survey ends in August.

Original Post June 17, 2015.