Voluntary Placements

Pregnant and Parenting Teens
4. Your Rights As A Parent In Foster Care

Voluntary Placements

If your baby is placed in foster care for any reason, you will be assigned a new attorney to represent you as the parent of a child in foster care. You should work with your baby's agency and your attorney on the plan to return the baby to your care. Call your attorney if you have any questions or problems during this process.

You should not be pressured or forced to agree to place your baby in foster care or to give someone else custody of your child, and you should NEVER sign an agreement to place your baby in care without first speaking to your lawyer. Remember that if you do not want your child to be in foster care, the only person who has the power to order your child placed in foster care is a judge, and the judge can ONLY order your child to be placed in foster care if a neglect or abuse case is filed against you and a judge decides that your baby would be at risk of being harmed if she lived with you. Always talk to your attorney if you feel you are being pressured to place your baby in foster care.

If you voluntarily place your baby in foster care, you should be aware that some young people find it difficult to get their children returned to them after they have placed them in care voluntarily. However, you have the right to ask the foster care agency to return your baby at any time. This is called "making a demand" for your child's return. If you decide to make a demand, call your lawyer right away.

If you make a demand for return of your child, the agency must hold a conference with you and ACS and must then return your child to you within 10 days. You have a right to have the social worker from your lawyer's office at this conference to help you advocate for your wishes. If the agency does not agree that the baby should be returned to you, then within 10 days of your demand, the agency must ask a judge to hold a hearing to decide whether it is in the baby's best interest to return to you or to stay in foster care. The agency may ask for such a hearing if it has concerns about, for example, whether you have a safe place for you and the baby to live or whether services are set up that would help you to take care of your baby.

Sometimes when these concerns are raised during the conference, you can develop a service plan to work out a solution to these issues and agree on a plan for the return of your baby without needing a judge to get involved. You should always talk to your attorney about any problems you run into when trying to get your baby returned to your care.