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America's Foster Care system is a quagmire that is spawning a generation of forgotten and forsaken children. Thousands are being neglected, abused, even murdered under what is ostensibly government protection. - Time magazine, November 13, 2000.

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Your Basic Rights in Foster Care

Your rights while living in a foster home vary from state to state. The following list of rights are basic rights for youth in foster care across the country. Ask your caseworker to explain your rights under the law in your state. If your rights are being violated, contact your attorney, caseworker, GAL, CASA, foster parent or police immediately.

As a youth in foster care, you have the right to:

  1. Know your rights while living in foster care, to receive a list of those rights in written form and to know how to file a complaint if your rights are being violated.
  2. Live in a safe, healthy home, where you are treated with respect, with a place to store your own possessions and where you receive healthy food, adequate clothing, and appropriate personal hygiene products.
  3. Be protected from physical, sexual, emotional or other abuse, including corporal punishment (hitting or spanking as a punishment) and being locked in a room (unless you are in a treatment facility), by foster care parents.
  4. Be told why you came into foster care and why you are still living in foster care.
  5. Have your personal belongings secure and transported with you.
  6. Have caring foster parents or caretakers who are properly trained, have received background checks and screenings, and who receive adequate support form the foster care agency to help ensure your safety and stability in the placement.
  7. Be placed in a home with your brothers and sisters whenever possible, and to maintain regular and unrestricted contact with siblings when separated (including help with transportation), unless otherwise ordered by the court.
  8. Attend school and participate in extracurricular, cultural, and personal enrichment activities.
  9. Have your privacy protected. You should be able to expect confidentiality from the adults involved in your case.
  10. Receive prompt medical care, dental care, vision and mental health services as necessary.
  11. Refuse to take medications, vitamins or herbs, unless prescribed by your doctor.
  12. Have an immediate visit after placement and have regular visits ongoing with your biological parents and other relatives unless prohibited by court order or unless you don't wish to have contact.
  13. Make and receive confidential telephone calls and send and receive unopened mail, unless prohibited by a court order, issued by a judge.
  14. Have regular contact from and unrestricted access to social workers, attorneys, and advocates and to be allowed to have confidential conversations with such individuals at your request.
  15. Be told by your social worker and your attorney about any changes in your case plan or placement and receive honest information about the decisions your caseworker is making that affect your life.
  16. Attend religious services and activities of your choice and to preserve your cultural heritage. If possible your placement should be with a family member or someone from your community with similar religion, culture and/or heritage.
  17. Be represented by an attorney at law in administrative or judicial proceedings with access to fair hearings and court review of decisions, so that your best interest are safeguarded.
  18. Be involved, where appropriate, in the development of your case plan and to object to any of the provisions of the case plan during case reviews, court hearings and case planning conferences.
  19. Attend court and speak to a judge (at a certain age, usually 12) about what you want to have happen in your case.
  20. Have a plan for your future, including an emancipation plan if appropriate (for leaving foster care when you become an adult), and to be provided services to help you prepare to become a successful adult.

These are basic rights that apply to children living in most states, your state laws may vary. You may have additional rights not listed here. Ask your caseworker for a copy of your rights.

Additional Resources for Foster Children