We’re stronger together.
Who We Are
When people support one another, there’s no limit to what we can do.
We are a group of concerned foster parents seeking positive change within a failing system. We all have stories to share with the common thread of how the system mismanaged cases, excluded essential information related to care during placement, delayed permanency, and failed to protect the children we love, hold and work hard to heal from trauma suffered.
We are the low rung on the foster care system’s ladder despite that we provide the first step towards alleviating the trauma many children have suffered. We ask for that to change, so that we as foster parents may become equal and contributing team members within the foster care system.
What We Do
Speak Up & Be a Source for Change
As foster parents, the current social work system does much to dictate what we can and cannot do in regard to the care of the placed child. But sadly, they do not always provide the necessary support for all those involved. In many cases, foster families do not have the authority to act, and are forced to follow rules that ultimately hurt the child.
By collecting stories, we are providing evidence of an organization that often lacks compassion, structure, and accountability. With this evidence, we educate the public, approach advocates and state representatives to make them aware of the inadequacies of the current system and set them on a path for change. There is power in personal experience.
Foster parents can consider us their resource for additional support. In addition to listening and sharing stories, we will work to connect families with lawyers and specialists to guide you through difficult situations. We are dedicated to making a difference in the lives of foster families across the country.
How to Share Your Story
Thousands of foster families are experiencing the same things you are. Foster Parents Speak Up serves as an opportunity for foster parents to share the stories of their experiences, both good and bad, without the fear of confrontation.
Call us at (414) 403-0150 and leave a detailed message; one of our representatives will return your call and help document your story.
YOU ARE SAFE TO SHARE
All Stories will be finalized following the review of an attorney to ensure stories follow state confidentiality laws.
As always, your privacy is one of our priorities. We respect your choice to remain anonymous.
GENERAL GUIDE TO WRITING STORIES ABOUT FOSTER CARE
By Lori S. Kornblum, J.D.
www. lorikornblumlaw.com Lorikornblum.email@example.com 10926 N. Port Washington Road, #296, Mequon, WI 53092 (414) 331-3165
This is general advice. For particular stories, I would need to review the stories.
Let’s say you are a foster parent or someone else, and want to write about an experience—positive or negative—that you have had. What do you need to avoid when publishing stories?
The two main areas of law are Defamation and Confidentiality. I’ll take those one at a time.
What is Defamation and how to avoid it
Defamation is written or oral language that is false, puts someone in a bad light and hurts their reputation. We’ve heard the terms “slander” and “Libel.” Technically, “slander” is spoken (oral) defamation and “libel” is written defamation.
Showing that something is defamatory requires three things:
- The statement must be false. Truth is an absolute defense to any statement published, even if it casts the person in a negative light. No proof of defamation exists unless a statement is objectively false.
The gray area is opinions. Lots of court cases say that opinions can be neither true or false. Your opinion about whether someone is a good or bad case manager, parent, foster parent, etc., is not a fact, so it can’t be true or false.
Compare the following statements:
- My case manager knows nothing about child protection laws.
- In my opinion, the case manager didn’t do enough to protect this child.
The first one (“a”) states a fact. If your case manager really does know about child protection laws, this is false, and can be defamatory. The second one (“b”) is an opinion, and is neither true or false.
- Publication. The second thing that a person must prove for defamation is that the statement is “published” to third parties. It can’t be your own private thought, even if written on a piece of paper that you carefully put away and do not intend to make public (for example, a diary). Once you communicate that thought to a third person, it’s published. Publication can be spoken, can be in the form of a letter, a posting on social media, a blog, a book, newspaper, etc.
- The statement must be defamatory. This means that it must tend to lower the person in the eyes of the community, harm their reputation, or deter other people from associating with them. Simply criticizing someone does not meet this threshold. Accusing someone of a crime that they did not commit is “per se” defamatory (defamatory in itself.) For example, if you say that someone committed murder, that’s defamatory, unless they did in fact commit murder.
6 ways to avoid defamation:
- Only publish things that you know to be true.
- Write from personal knowledge. Compare these statements:
- The mother failed her AODA tests 5 times.
- The case manager told me that the mother failed her AODA tests 5 times.
Only write “a” if you know this to be a fact. How did you know? Explain. If your information is based on what the case manager told you, then “b” is the correct answer.
- If you have opinions about how things are handled, state clearly that these are opinions.
- Do not accuse anyone of a crime unless they were charged with a crime and it’s in the public record.
- Change the names, addresses, dates and identities of everyone in the story so they cannot be personally identified. Thus, if there is defamatory meaning, you can’t cast that person in a bad light unless they self-identify. Some people do this by putting a a disclaimer at the top of the story: “This story is based on real experience, but is not intended to name any person or agency. Any resemblance to any real persons is clearly coincidental.”
- Stick to what is relevant to your story. The reasons why a child was removed originally from a home may or may not be relevant.
The second major area that you should consider is confidentiality. All children’s cases are confidential, under Wisconsin Statutes, Chapter 48. You cannot reveal any personally identifying information about any of the parties in the case.
A breach of confidentiality is significant and can be a crime.
5 ways to avoid a breach of confidentiality:
Your ultimate goal is that nobody reading your story can connect it to you or a particular case. You cannot disclose any personally identifying facts. Even if the case about which you write is a real case that was published in the media or a court case, you can say, “This case is based on a real case that went to trial. The names are changed to protect the innocent.”
- Change all names. Change the names of everyone in the experience, including your own, to names that do not sound anything like their real names.
- Write under a pseudonym/
- Use only first names. Do not use any last names or initials.
- Change all places, or use **** instead of places.
- Exclude all dates. If you believe a date is critical, you can use general seasons, like winter, spring, summer and fall. If you need to describe how long something occurred, you can say, “6 months later.”
Exception to confidentiality: The only exception to this rule is if cases are in the public record. You can republish the public record, without commenting about any additional details. Remember, cases that appear on the Department of Children and Families website as egregious incidents are carefully written to avoid personally identifiable information.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or comments! Remember, this is just general advice. For more specific guidance on a particular story, you would need to have an attorney review it.
What Every Wisconsin Foster Parent Should Know about Changes in Placement of Foster Children
By Lori S. Kornblum, J.D.
www. lorikornblumlaw.com Lorikornblum.firstname.lastname@example.org 10926 N. Port Washington Road, #296, Mequon, WI 53092 (414) 331-3165
Suppose you are a foster parent, licensed in the State of Wisconsin. You hear rumblings that your case manager is planning to move a child or children, either back to a parent, or to a family placement, or to another foster home, perhaps to be with siblings. What does this mean? What are your rights?
- What is a Change in Placement?
A Change in Placement is simply a move of a foster child from one placement to another placement.
- What laws govern Changes in Placement?
In Wisconsin, we have two statutes, or laws, that govern Changes in Placement. The first is Wisconsin Statutes section 48.357 (Wis. Stats. §48.357). That statute is the general Change in Placement statute under the Wisconsin Children’s Code (Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 48). All laws relating to child protection are under Chapter 48.
The second statute indirectly concerns changes in placement, Wisconsin Statutes section 48.64 (Wis. Stats. §48.64). That is the statute that allows Foster Parents to challenge a Change in Placement indirectly, by challenging the removal of a child from their care.
- How do these statutes relate to each other?
The two statutes are similar in that they both allow challenges to changes in placement.
However, they are very different in their outcomes and in the rights that Foster Parents have to challenge them.
Challenging a Change in Placement under §48.357 brings the matter into the circuit court. If the judge decides that the agency or department should NOT change the placement, the child either stays in your placement or is returned. That is, section 48.357 gives the person deciding the case (the judge) the power to prevent the move of a child or return the child.
Challenging a Change in Placement under §48.64 brings the matter into the Administrative arena. A foster parent has the right to a “fair hearing,” which an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hears. This can be a contested case with evidence. However, at the end of the case, the ALJ only has the power to determine whether the Department or agency had sufficient information and facts to have moved the child. The ALJ has no power to prevent a Change in Placement or to return a child.
- Do Foster Parents have the right to file a Change in Placement?
The short answer is “no.” Only certain persons, including the agency in charge of the case, can file.
- Do Foster Parents have the right to object to a Change in Placement?
Yes, Foster Parents can object to a Change in Placement. Foster Parents have the right to receive the notice of Change in Placement, and must file a written objection if they object.
- What are the timelines for objecting?
Anyone who receives notice of a Change in Placement has 10 days to file a written objection with the court. That deadline is 100% firm. The court cannot change the deadline because a notice got lost in the mail, or because a person forgot to send it. The statute is structured so that in the ordinary case, the agency will file the Notice of Change in Placement before moving the child. If nobody files an objection within 10 days, the agency can move the child at 10 days. If someone files an objection, the court sets a hearing and the agency cannot move the child unless there is an emergency.
The exception is when there is an emergency. For an emergency Change in Placement, the agency can move the child and file the notice within 48 hours. Anyone receiving notice still has the right to object within 10 days, but the court would need to move the child back if the court decides against the agency.
- What are the Foster Parent’s rights at a hearing contesting a Change in Placement under Wis. Stats. §48.357?
A Foster Parent has very limited rights at a hearing on a Change in Placement. A Foster Parent only has the right to make an oral statement at the hearing, and submit a written statement. The Foster Parent does not have the right to discovery, meaning the Foster Parent does not have the right to see any evidence that the agency has supporting the Change in Placement. (Wis. Stats. §48.357(2r))
- What are the Foster Parent’s rights at a hearing under Wis. Stats. §48.64?
A Foster Parent has broader rights under §48.64. This is a full-blown due process hearing on the suitability of the Foster Parent for that child(ren). Thus, the Foster Parent has the right to any evidence on which the agency is relying. However, the Foster Parent only gets that evidence a few days before the hearing. In addition, recall that even if the Foster Parent wins the hearing, the child is not returned.
- Given these statutes, what should a Foster Parent do who objects to a Change in Placement?
These are the steps that I would recommend taking:
- File a written Objection to Change in Placement in court for each child affected, in each court that has a case. Remember that the standard is “best interests of the child.” If you are disappointed that a child is removed from your home, but you know that the child is going to be placed with siblings and the placement is good, then you might not want to object.
Also state in your Objection that you are filing this “pursuant to Wis. Stats. §§48.357 and 48.64, and you are requesting the court to take jurisdiction over the case under Wis. Stats. §48.64.”
Why this language? Wis. Stats. §48.64 states that the court “may” hear cases under that statute. If the court decides to hear both cases together, you have the benefit of having a full contested hearing before the judge who is going to make the orders, and has the power to keep the child in your care. You have much more of a chance if someone else, such as a parent, or Assistant District Attorney or Corporation Counsel or GAL, agree with you. You have almost no chance if you are standing alone, especially if the removal of the child affects other children who have cases in other courts.
- File your Objection to Change in Placement immediately, because you only have 10 days. The Objection can be very simple, such as “I, the Foster Parent,” object to the Change in Placement.” The Objection also can be very detailed, such as explaining why you object. In my experience, filing a more detailed objection is better because then you show that you are looking for the best interests of the child. If you have information that the child is being physically, sexually abused or neglected in the home to which the agency is proposing to move the child, write that information in your objection. If you have photos, hospital or doctor records, police reports, etc., attach copies of them.
- Also file an administrative appeal with the Department on Administration, Division of Hearings and Appeals, under Wis. Stats. §48.64.
- Contact the GAL (Guardian ad Litem) in the case to find out what they think, and to tell them what you know.
- Contact the Assistant District Attorney in the case or the Assistant Corporation Counsel (depending on your county) case to find out what they think, and to tell them what you know.
- Notify other people who may have information, such as the CASA volunteer. The CASA agency should get the notice.
- Be prepared to file and give a comprehensive written statement in court. You have one shot at this. My experience is that people who only intend to speak orally often forget what they intended to say (attorneys included) and walk out of court feeling disappointed because they were unable to relate everything they knew. The only way to prevent that is to have a written statement. Make enough copies for everyone—the judge, the Assistant DA or Assistant Corp Counsel, the GAL and the agency.
- The court may or may not make the decision immediately. Usually they do.
- Does a Foster Parent need to hire an attorney to do this?
Whether to hire an attorney is a personal question, and I can’t give you legal advice. However, some things to think about:
- Why is the child being moved?
- If the child is being moved to be placed with siblings, or to go to the home of the parent, you probably don’t need an attorney unless you can point to specific problems in those placements. The problems need to be really severe. The chances of winning these contested hearings are minimal. If the problems are really severe, you should connect with the GAL and the Assistant District Attorney or Corporation Counsel to see if they also object. If they object, they will handle the case and your job is to supply information and be a witness.
Email your licensing worker and ask specifically, “is this child being moved due to any problems in my home or with my foster care?” You want affirmation that your home is OK. That way, if the agency retaliates against you by revoking your license, you have good evidence.
- If the child is being moved due to perceived problems in your care, my suggestion would be to get an attorney. You need to know what those problems are and figure out whether your foster license is in jeopardy. You have the option to resign your foster care license before the agency revokes it, and reapply with another agency, if you think the problem is that severe.
- Do you feel comfortable going to court and dealing with the legal issues? Some people do, some don’t.
- How much will it cost to hire an attorney?
If the issue is solely a Change in Placement, even review of the Foster Parent’s records and appearing in court can cost several thousand dollars (in the range of $4000-$5000).
If the agency revokes a Foster Parent’s license, or refuses to renew it, the Foster Parent has the right to a Due Process hearing on that revocation or failure to renew. The combined total of these cases may cost upward of $10,000.
The good news is that under the laws, if an Administrative Law Judge determines that the removal of the child(ren) and/or revocation of the license was not substantially justified, your attorney can apply for Attorney’s Fees to cover these costs retroactively. Nothing is guaranteed, but this is a help.
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