Separation From Your Baby In Foster Care
If you are a young mother in foster care, you have the right to live with your baby. A caseworker cannot tell you that you must be separated from your child because no mother-child placements are available. If you find yourself in this situation, you should call your attorney, who can go to court to get an order from a judge requiring that the agency place you and your child together. However, as a practical matter, even with an order like this in place, you may find yourself temporarily separated from your baby until a joint placement is found. If this happens to you, call your lawyer right away!
A baby born to a young mother in foster care is not automatically in foster care. Your baby can only be placed in foster care if you voluntarily agree, in writing, or if a neglect or abuse case is filed against you and a judge decides that there is an immediate danger that you may harm your baby or fail to keep your baby safe. You should ALWAYS talk to your lawyer before signing a legal document that places your child in foster care!
Unless there are concerns about your ability to take care of your baby, your baby will live with you and be in your custody. This means that the baby is your responsibility, not your foster parent's responsibility or your group home's responsibility. While you can get help from your foster parent or the staff in your group home, it's your job to make sure your baby is safe, is kept clean, is fed, and sees a doctor regularly.
If you are worried about your baby being removed from your care, the first thing to do is call your lawyer. In addition, when you first tell your caseworker about your pregnancy, you should discuss preventive services that the agency can offer you to help you prepare for parenthood. These can include parenting classes, support groups, mentoring, mental health services, educational support, job training, and assistance with obtaining child care and housing. There is also a special group at Lawyers For Children for pregnant and parenting young people. To learn more about LFC's Pregnant and Parenting project call 212-966-6420.