Do I Have the Right to Be Heard as A Foster Parent/intervenor?
Last year, we posted an article discussing a new decision by the Colorado Supreme Court affording foster parents and intervenors the right to participate in termination of parental rights hearings. That case, A.M. v. A.C., has become an important decision in protecting the rights of foster parents and intervenors in dependency and neglect cases.
The Colorado Children’s Code has a provision allowing certain relatives and foster parents who’ve had a child in their care for more than three months, and who have knowledge about the child, the right to intervene in the dependency and neglect case involving a child.
Legally, an intervenor is a third party who is not initially named as a party to a legal case, but who can become a party to the case after the case has begun.
Before the A.C. case, foster parents and intervenors were not allowed to participate in contested hearings, including termination of parental rights hearings. They could not call witnesses, could not cross-examine other parties’ witnesses, and could not make opening or closing statements.
This prevented foster parents from being heard by the court and prevented the court from hearing the foster parents’ information regarding the best interests of the child.
Since the ruling, we have represented several foster parents and intervenors in termination of parental rights hearings in dependency and neglect cases. Our full participation in these hearings has allowed the court to hear evidence about the specific needs of the child as well as evidence of what it takes to care for each child on a daily basis.
This evidence has been important in the court getting a full picture of the child’s life and has led to better court decisions about the child’s best interests.
The Department of Human Services is not required to present evidence of the child’s needs and/or care at a termination hearing, nor are they required to fight to keep the child in his/her current home.
In order to have their perspective heard by the court, foster parents and relative intervenors should formally intervene in dependency and neglect cases and fully participate in termination of parental rights hearings. We commonly represent both foster parents and relative intervenors and we can help. Please contact our office for a consultation.
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