Attorneys are an important part of the foster care team. They vary widely in terms of how much they actually interact with a particular child, but their function is vitally important when your child’s case goes to court. As a foster parent, it may be hard to imagine presenting an opinion in court about a child you hardly know or have perhaps rarely even seen, but attorneys are regularly called upon to do this. They are not hands-on with children or with birth parents. Their function in a foster care case is strictly related to the legal goings-on.
That being said, attorneys can and do listen to what foster parents and other team members have to say when they attend staffings or team meetings. Their opinions and recommendations for a particular foster child comes from a perspective that is very different from the perspective offered by foster parents or social workers. Attorneys look at the law to consider the best way to care for the personal interests of a child. Although they are concerned about the well-being of a child who is in their care, they are always cognizant of the legalities surrounding a particular case.
Attorneys who represent foster children have their eye on the goal of reunification at all times, but also must consider the law and whether the law dictates that reunification is prudent. Again, this is an entirely different point of view than what the foster parents have toward their foster children. It may seem cold at times and perhaps flippant as well, but as a foster parent who is a part of a team of people who are working for the best interests of a family, you need to develop an appreciation for each team member’s different way of looking at a case.
Foster parents tend to be very emotional about their foster children. They get attached to their foster children and naturally advocate on the child’s behalf, but lack the other information that foster care team members bring to the table. Certain details about the birth parents, laws protecting children in specific situations, precedents that have been set in similar cases, and how a particular judge is likely to view any given situation are all pieces of the puzzle that only the attorney can really understand. Though it’s true that some attorneys don’t do their jobs properly or just simply don’t care, many of them do in fact take their job very seriously and spend a fair amount of time thinking about what to say when they appear in court to represent your foster child.
As with social workers, attorneys typically are concerned about what the birth parents are doing to get their children back. Foster children are generally considered safe in the foster home and so when attorneys go to court to represent a particular child, they go thinking about whether or not reunification is possible or timely yet. The goal, of course, is always to reunify unless reunification is absolutely impossible or dangerous for a child. Keep this in mind when working with your foster child’s attorney.