With each child or youth placed in a home there comes a team of professionals all dedicated to working together to make sure that each child has their needs met, feelings heard, and long term goals driving their decisions. For many it can get confusing as to what role everyone is playing, and who is responsible for what. Let’s take a look at these roles and responsibilities in foster care.
- County Caseworkers: These individuals work directly with the county in which the custody of the child is held and work with all parts of the families. They meet with biological parents to help them with their treatment plans, they conduct searches for extended family members that could function as a kinship placement, and they report everything back to the court to make sure the judge is up to date on all things.
- Guardian Ad Litem (GAL): This is the legal representation for the children and youth in care. They visit the foster homes, speak with the children, and advocate for their needs. For children old enough to make requests or share their preferences, the GAL can advocate for what they want or help them understand the realities of the case from a legal perspective. While the GAL’s work to represent what is best for the children in court, they also work with the attorneys assigned to the family members to make sure everyone is up to date with legal matters.
- Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA): This is a role that is not necessarily guaranteed on every case, but a very beneficial one, if it is an option. The CASA can provide a variety of services from functioning as a mentor to youth, helping with transportation, or simply being an extra hand on deck if you need it.
- Parents Legal Teams: Each parent will have their own lawyers assigned by the courts, and these legal teams are separate from the legal representation of the children to ensure that all needs can be considered and reported to the courts. The parent’s legal teams will always fight for a return home of the children, and will share updates on the parent’s progress in court.
- Therapists: While in care children and youth will be in a variety of services and will have therapists that can keep the team up to date on progress and concerns. Therapists will often provide updates to be shared in court, and can also be available to help foster parents by offering suggestions and sharing methods that they are working on in therapy that the foster parents can try at home.
- Foster Care Advocate: While working with Nightlight you will be assigned a Foster Care Advocate who works directly with you and advocates for your needs as the foster family. They can help connect you with resources, offer training suggestions to help with your case specific needs, and partner with you to serve the children in your home to the best of your ability.
All of these roles are important in ensuring that children and youth are in stable and secure homes while they wait for permanency. Each individual will bring experience, wisdom, and ideas that will serve the children and family.