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What are my rights as a foster caregiver in the CINC court process?
Right to Notice of CINC Hearings
As a foster caregiver, you have a legal right to receive “notice” from DCFS of any CINC court hearing involving a child in your care. The law requires that “notice” be given to you by DCFS and that it includes the date, time, and location of the upcoming hearing and your right to attend and be heard at the hearing. If the hearing will be held online (i.e., via Zoom), DCFS should provide the login information to you before the hearing. Per DCFS Policy 6-835, you should receive a “Notice Letter” from a DCFS case worker either in person or by email or mail before each hearing as follows:
- At least 24 hours before the Continued Custody Hearing;
- At least 10 days before the Answer and Adjudication Hearings;
- at least 20 days before the Disposition, Case Review, and Permanency Hearings.
If you have not heard from DCFS within these time frames, it is recommended that you reach out to your case worker as a friendly reminder that you have not yet received “notice” and would like information on the date and time of the next hearing.
Right to Attend and Be Heard at CINC Hearings
As a foster caregiver, you have a legal right to attend and be heard at all CINC court hearings involving a child in your care. This means you should be able to at least sit in on part, if not all, of the hearing and speak about how the child is doing. While it is usually recommended that you attend all hearings regarding a child in your care, in most cases, it is your decision whether or not to attend. However, if a legal party to the child's case wants you to attend the hearing, they have a right to serve you with a subpoena. A subpoena is a legal order compelling your attendance. If you are served with a subpoena, you must attend the hearing as directed.
For laws and rules governing this, please refer to: Louisiana Children’s Code Article 623 and the Safe and Timely Interstate Placement of Foster Children Act of 2006 and Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (42 U.S.C. § 675(5)(G) and 45 C.F.R. § 1356.21(o)).