Here are a few thoughts about when and why foster parents might benefit from legal help.
Hire an attorney as soon as you decide that you want to adopt your foster child. Your child may be eligible for adoption subsidies which could impact his life for all the years of childhood. An attorney knowledgeable about the foster care system can make sure your adopted child receives all the benefits to which he is entitled.
Foster parents may also benefit from legal representation when important issues are being resolved at team meetings and in court. Decisions such as the placement or removal of children in your home, the medical and therapeutic services they receive, or their placement in school are areas where an attorney can help you present your case. Finally, should you face allegations of abuse, neglect, an attorney can present your case in an effective manner.
How Much Will a Lawyer Cost?
Fees vary. Some attorneys will ask for the full fee or a retainer fee in advance. If you are adopting a foster child, in most cases you are eligible for a payment of up to $1500 paid by the state which you can use to pay your attorney fees.
Who Chooses your Lawyer?
You do and your decision is an important one. It’s vitally important that you do your own independent research. You want someone who is familiar with Department of Child Services policies, state and federal laws, and who knows the people in the system. Based on your research, I recommended speaking with at least three attorneys about your case and ultimately choosing the attorney who you believe has sufficient knowledge and experience to handle your case and with whom you feel the most comfortable.
How Do I Find a Lawyer?
The Internet is a wonderful research tool. Also, the best recommendations usually come from adoptive parents who have already been through the adoption process and were pleased with the work of their attorney. Check with your fellow foster parents to find a good adoption attorney.
Peter A. Kenny, Adoption and Foster Care Lawyer
Executive Director of ACT (Adoption in Child Time)