Foster Culture

October 14, 2007

A Foster Youth’s Team

The following is a list of the adults in a foster youth’s life that is living in a residential treatment center:

Case Manager-The person that handles the youth’s case for the state, they are supposed to provide resources, file papers on youth’s behalf, represent youth, visit with youth, lead Family Support Team Meetings, etc. This person is a STATE employee, the typical overworked, underpaid state employee. Often times, it is difficult to get these folks to return phone calls, emails or faxes. If they are responsive, it is usually because they are working more than 40 hours a week and doing this on their own personal time. Even a bleeding heart can only live like this for so long. Most don’t last too long.

Case Manager’s Supervisor-This person helps to oversee a child’s case within foster care, often oversees the case manager to make sure they are following procedure and sometimes returning phone calls. It is pretty known that if they case manager is not following up with phone calls, calling the supervisor is the next step.

GAL- Guardian ad Litem- The following information was copied as the legal termonology becomes a bit complicated. Imagine trying to understand this as a youth in foster care. I copied it from this website. The descriptions are specific to those in Missouri.

The exact legal role of a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) depends on the jurisdiction in which the GAL is appointed and on whether or not the GAL is an attorney. There are several quite different models for representation of children in court: (1) the Child’s Attorney; (2) the Attorney/GAL; and (3) the Non-Attorney GAL.

The Child’s Attorney. The ABA Guidelines for Representation of Children in Abuse/Neglect Cases suggest that an attorney appointed to represent a child should act as in any other attorney-client relationship, advocating only the child’s wishes without making any independent judgment of the child’s best interests. A child in Missouri may have an attorney in addition to a GAL, but Missouri statutes, case law, and GAL Standards make it quite clear that the GAL-child relationship in Missouri is not the same as an attorney-client relationship. (Note: In the original draft of the GAL Standards, it was suggested that when the GAL’s recommendations were not in agreement with the child’s wishes, the GAL should inform the Court so that the Court could consider appointing a separate attorney to advocate for the child’s wishes. This was in Standard 3.0 in the committee draft, but was not included in the GAL Standards approved by the Missouri Supreme Court.) Since they are distinctly different from Guardians Ad Litem, attorneys appointed or otherwise serving as a Child’s Attorney should not be subject to the GAL Standards. They should, however, pay special attention to Missouri Rules of Professional Conduct 1.14 (Client Under a Disability), 1.2 (Scope of Representation), 1.4 (Communication with Client), 1.6 (Confidentiality), and 3.7 (Lawyer as Witness). For further suggestions, see the ABA Guidelines.

The Attorney/GAL. Appointment of a Guardian Ad Litem is authorized by statute in dissolutions/modifications, paternity cases, adoptions, and certain cases involving allegations of abuse and/or neglect of a child. The Missouri Supreme Court Standards for Guardians Ad Litem clearly state that “a guardian ad litem, whether a lawyer or a volunteer, shall be guided by the best interests of the child and shall exercise independent judgment on behalf of the child in all matters.” (Standard 2.0.) If you are a GAL in Missouri and you have not read the GAL Standards, you need to read them right now. These standards make it clear that the days of the Attorney/GAL acting as a “potted plant” at the counsel table are over.

The Non-Attorney GAL. Two Missouri statutes (210.160.5 and 452.423.5 RSMo) authorize appointment of non-attorney volunteers “to assist in the performance of the guardian ad litem duties for the court.” This has been interpreted in some courts to allow the appointment of such non-attorney volunteers directly as GALs, and this is supported by Standard 1.0 of the Missouri Supreme Court Standards for Guardians Ad Litem, which expressly authorizes the appointment of CASA volunteers, sworn as officers of the Court, as GALs. When a non-attorney is appointed as GAL, the Non-Attorney GAL is subject to the same GAL Standards as Attorney/GALs. A Non-Attorney GAL should have access to the advice and assistance of an attorney when necessary. (See Standard 4.0, 210.160.6 RSMo.) For further legal issues concerning Non-Attorney GALs and CASAs, see below. Placement Worker- This is the person that coordinates the case of each youth within the residential treatment facility. They coordinate appointments with Mentors, therapists, outside agency support, case managers, family visits, court dates, etc. They are often responsible for making sure the youth’s case file is in accordance with the Children’s Division, Division of Family Services or any other state run procedures. There’s a lot of accountability to this position, as with the case manager’s. Often times it placement workers are also overworked and have a huge caseload, by caseload, I ma of course referring to the youth they are serving.

DJO-Division of Juvenile Officer-All teens in Missouri have a DJo assigned to them for some reason, I’m not clear as to the purpose, since not all youth in the system have had legal issues in their case.

Therapist-What else needs to be said. Sometimes the therapist has the dual role of placement contact.

Staff-In shifts, these are the folks that work one on one with the youth in their “dorms” or “houses” or whatever they might be called. They make sure they are up for school, they are using proper hygiene, take them shopping, sometimes on outings. are at the cafeteria on time, meet with visitors, etc.

Mentor/Big Brother/Big Sister – A volunteer who befriends a youth in need of extra one on one time with an adult.

IEP-The more I work in the system, the more I realize that a large percentage of foster youth have IEP’s for school. An Iep is an Individualized Educational Plan. I am going to write a blog and try to do more investigation on the correlation of IEP’s with youth in foster care, but as for now I will state the people within a school district that is in the child’s life if they have an IEP. Special Education teacher, Special Education Representative, Child Advocate, a person representing school Administration, Speech/Language/Occupational Therapist (if needed), Tutor, Mainstream teacher, Educational Surrogate, School counselor and whomever else may be involved with the Educational Team.

CASA-Court Appointed Special Advocate – An Advocate for the child, duh.

Adoption Specialist – If the teen is interested in being adopted, an adoption specialist is always involved.

DMH Worker-Department of Mental Health Worker – If the youth has a mental diagnosis, their is usually a DMH worker appointed to the child to make sure they are receiving proper Mental Health Care.

Imagine all the adults in the life of a foster kid. Imagine how every aspect of a foster teens life is effected by procedure, policy, service, standards, outcomes, permanency plans, program goals and personal goals. A teenager. A person who is in a time in their life, when, despite circumstances, they just want to hang out with friends, learn to drive, go to prom, wear the latest trends, have a boyfriend/girlfriend and live life. I’m not trying to superficially minimize the life of a teenage living in a more traditional setting, but these are some of the major things that occupy a teens mind. Something to consider in the investigation into Foster Culture.

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