New information on allegations:
What if the team says “guilty?”
It’s going to happen sooner or later.
Maybe to you. You will be accused of something you did not do to a foster child. The investigation will end in a “substantiated”
Where do you go from here?
First, a finding of “substantiated”
isn’t a “death sentence.” You are important to your agency. If the allegation pertains to a license violation
(spanking a child, withholding a meal from a child, etc.) you may be given a warning and be asked to complete a course in
anger management or in de-escalation techniques or another training to help you with skills. TAKE THE COURSE. IT COUNTS FOR
Even if the allegation is more serious,
as long as the agency perceives that the child is in no danger, or (as in the case of a child who has been with you for a
long time—is pre-adoptive, etc) it is in the best interest of the child to remain in your home, the worker may recommend
that the child stay with you. A LOT
OF THIS DEPENDS UPON YOUR DEMEANOR DURING THE INTERVIEW AND WHETHER THE INVESTIGATOR PERCEIVES
THAT YOU MAY BE UNSTABLE. DO NOT BE BELLIGERANT DURING AN INTERVIEW, COOPERATE AND
TELL THE TRUTH…
But if the charge is more serious and they
do remove the children from your home you have several rights.
The federal government has a law called
CAPTA ( Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act)
which requires all states to keep records of child abuse cases. In some states these records are kept in something
called a “Central Registry” and in others the information is kept by counties, etc. BUT the collection of the
information is a requirement. And the government makes funds available to the states to accomplish this. In order to get the
money, the states must be in compliance with the federal mandates.
You have the right to an appeal.
You must be informed, at the time you are
notified of the results of the investigation, that you have that right, and how you may access it. Some states have trial-like
appeals where you may testify and call witnesses. Others simply allow for another review of the evidence on paper and inclusion
of new information.
The person who hears your appeal (if it
is a judge, he is probably a Judge of Administrative law) must be unbiased and have no conflict of interest in the case.
He must have the power to reverse the previous
There must be a procedure in place to expunge
your name from the child abuse records. In some cases, this is done immediately after an "unsubstantiated" finding. In other
words...if you win the appeal, they must take your name off the list. The problem here is the timing. In some states, it may
take years to remove a name from the records. THIS INFORMATION MAY NOT BE USED IN JOB REFERRALS, ETC. IT IS CONFIDENTIAL.
BUT IT CAN BE USED IF YOU RELOCATE AND DECIDE TO RECERTIFY. AND IF ANOTHER ALLLEGATION IS MADE AGAINST YOU, IT CAN BE USED
IN SUBSEQUENT INVESTIGATIONS. FIND OUT HOW LONG IT TAKES FOR YOUR AGENCY...OIR YOUR STATE...TO REMOVE YOUR NAME.
ALSO, a class action court case found that
foster parents may have “Liberty Rights.” This means that we have
the right to protect our ability to follow in our chosen profession (care of children) and we fall under the protection of
the “Due Process Clause” of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. This says that no person may be
deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. The American Bar Association has written these rights up
in plain English to assist states in making the rights available to foster parents.
In general, these rights include
appropriate standard of proof ( not just “some” evidence that child abuse occurred,
but a preponderance of evidence)
Proper notice, giving proscribed response times. Usually you must respond within a certain time
Access to information about the allegation. You will NOT be given the name of the person making
the allegation, but you should have information about the exact nature of the charge.
Prompt access to a hearing. But if there is a criminal case ongoing concerning the same incident,
the appeal will probably not be held until that case is determined
NOTE: If criminal charges
are pressed, you will be read your Miranda rights and afforded the above rights as a matter of course. If not, you may have
to be your own advocate.
If your state allows a court proceeding
for appeals, you may want to retain an attorney to represent you. This is especially true if the charges are serious and/or
may result in a criminal case being pressed against you.
IF THE ALLEGATION IS SEXUAL ABUSE
OR CHILD ABUSE RESULTING IN SERIOUS INJURY OR DEATH YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY GET LEGAL REPRESENTATION.
The attorney should be someone who specializes in child abuse allegation defense, because this area isn’t all black-and
white. There are a lot of nuances in the laws.
In most cases, you will probably
not need an attorney--the agency will probably work with you to retain your home. In cases where your freedom and your reputations
are at stake, though, you may want to consider legal representation. But if you do, remember that even if you get your license
back, the agency will or will not place children with you at THEIR discretion. Still,
if you are facing jail time or huge fines, I would choose to err on the side of freedom.
FIRST: DECIDE HOW SERIOUS THE CHARGES ARE
SECOND: MAKE SURE YOU UNDERSTAND YOUR AGENCY’S PROCEDURES ON FILING APPEALS---INCLUDING TIME LIMITS.
THIRD: FOLLOW THE PROCEDURES CAREFULLY,
INCLUDING FILLING OUT FORMS. (BE SURE YOU ANSWER THE QUESTIONS YOU ARE ASKED.)
FOURTH: TO FIND A LAWYER –
LOOK UNDER YOUR STATE’S BAR ASSOCIATION, THEN UNDER FAMILY LAW.
FIFTH: BE PATIENT—WITHIN TIME
FRAME GIVEN THE STATE OR AGENCY FOR RESPONSE
IN ANY CASE, BE YOUR OWN BEST ADVOCATE.
KNOW YOUR AGENCY/STATE PROCEDURES FOR APPEAL. DO YOUR HOMEWORK ABOUT LEGAL REMEDY AVAILABLE TO YOU. MAKE SURE YOU UNDERSTAND
EVERYTHING THAT IS SAID TO YOU. IF YOU DON’T, ASK TO HAVE IT EXPLAINED