For the past couple of weeks in the Legal Corner, we have discussed the adoption process, including its purpose and the major types of adoption in North Carolina. Throughout the adoption discussion we briefly touched on the topic of foster care.
This week in the Legal Corner, we will delve deeper into learning the various aspects of North Carolina’s foster care system.
In North Carolina, foster care involves providing temporary living arrangements for children that have been exposed to abuse or neglect, or children who may be dependent. Generally, in these cases the parents or relatives of the children are unable to care for themselves or the children properly due to certain circumstances such as drugs, alcohol or domestic abuse. When such cases arise, the issue is brought to the attention of the local Department of Social Services.
Once the Department of Social Services has to intervene on behalf of the child, a social worker is assigned to the case and will determine if the environment is safe for the child or children. If the social worker finds that the environment is hazardous or dangerous to the child’s well-being, then he or she will petition the court to have children removed from their current home and placed in DSS custody.
If the court agrees to remove the child and place him or her in DSS custody, the social worker will then find foster care or temporary living arrangements for the child. These living arrangements could be for a few days, a few months, and sometimes years depending on each individual circumstance.
Foster parents and families are required to obtain certain licenses and should receive additional training from the Department of Social Services in order to be considered as an option for placement. North Carolina law requires each foster parent to work through the licensing process and obtain a valid license before being allowed to care for other children.
Additionally, potential foster parents have to take at least 30 hours of training before receiving a foster care license. A valid license for foster care is issued by the North Carolina Health Department, and the Department of Social Services usually supervises and assists potential foster parents throughout the licensing process.
Once foster parents are appropriately trained and licensed, the Department of Social Services is then able to place any children in need within the foster parents’ care. When foster parents have children in their care, the state generally will provide certain benefits and resources in order to assist with the care of the children.
Some of the benefits include financial compensation for the foster child’s room, board, and other living expenses. Additionally, some foster parents are able to receive supplemental income if their foster child has certain special needs.
The purpose for foster parents and families is to provide temporary living care and living arrangements for children in need. However, the goal is always for foster parents and families to work with DSS and the biological parents in order for the child or children to be able to return home as soon as possible. Unfortunately, this is not always the case in a number of situations.
As always, anything involving state law or regulation can be complex. If you or someone you know has a question concerning the foster care process or is interested in providing a home for a child in need, contact an attorney and find out your options or your local Department of Social Services. Be informed. Be prepared.