A Voice In Court for Foster Parents
By Dawn Coppock, Attorney-at-Law
Effective July 1, 2023
Big addition to foster parent's right to participate in hearings.
T.C.A. § 37-2-415 (a)(17) – (Public Chapter 263) For some time, the court has been required to promptly notify foster parents of all court hearings regarding their foster child. They are permitted to attend "at the discretion of the court" which means unless the judge doesn't want them to.
The new provision says, "A foster parent who has served as the physical placement of the child for a period of nine (9) months or more shall be permitted to appear and actively participate in any permanency hearing or dispositional hearing for the child with regard to the best interest of the child." Now there is a right to "actively participate". T.C.A. § 37-2-416 – (Public Chapter 263)
(a) "The department shall notify the foster parents, if any, or any prospective adoptive parent or relative providing care for the child in state custody with notice of any review or hearing to be held with respect to the child. The foster parents, if any, of such a child and any prospective adoptive parent or relative providing care for the child shall be provided with notice of the right to be heard in any review or hearing to be held with respect to the child, except that this section shall not be construed to require that any foster parent, prospective adoptive parent, or relative providing care for the child who has served as the physical placement for the child for a period of fewer than nine (9) continuous months be made a party to such review or hearing solely on the basis of such notice and right to be heard. (b) Any foster parent who has served as the physical placement for the child for a period of nine (9) or more continuous months shall be permitted to appear for the sole purpose of presenting evidence with regard to the best interests of the child. (c) At each hearing, the court shall determine whether the department has complied with this section."
After the child is in the foster parents' care for 9 months the foster parents have a right to present best interest evidence.
Judges are just learning about these new rights. As of this post, these changes are not yet in the online version of the Code. For a while, the judge may not call on you. You may need to stand up and respectfully ask to be recognized. You can share a copy of this post with your social worker, GAL, Department lawyer or court staff as necessary to be recognized.
© Dawn Coppock 7.13.2023