Child Is Placed In a Non-Relative Home
North Carolina law requires the Department of Social Services (DSS) to seek a kinship placement. However, DSS might not know that a kinship family is available, often because the child’s parents did not tell them. Therefore, when you find out that your loved one is in foster care and not placed with a relative, you must act as quickly as possible to let DSS know you want the child placed with you.
What Can You Do?
- As soon as you find out your loved one is in the Department of Social Services (DSS) custody (in foster care), call the DSS office that has custody of the child and ask to speak with the caseworker for the child. Tell them you are available and willing to take the child and have a home safety assessment and background checks for all adults in your home. Follow up with a letter addressed to the caseworker sent by US Certified Mail. (If you are worried about the background check, know that some non-violent criminal offenses can be waived on a case-by-case basis.)
- Ask the caseworker for the child’s Guardian ad Litem’s (GAL) name and contact information. Contact the GAL and let them know your availability and willingness to take the child—follow up with a letter to them sent by US Certified Mail.
- Copy the GAL on any email correspondence that you have with DSS.
- Ask for visitation with the child to begin immediately. This may not be granted, but it is important that you ask. Put this request in a letter or email to the child’s caseworker, and copy the GAL.
- Ask the caseworker when the next court hearing will be. Attend the hearing and ask to speak to share that you are a relative and you want to take care of the child. The judge might not allow you to speak, but it is important to try. Court hearings are often postponed, so check with the child’s caseworker, GAL, or the court itself before you show up.
- Keep a notebook for all your phone contacts with anyone involved in this case. For each contact, record the date, the name of the person you spoke with, and a summary of what you were told. If the information seems important, follow up the call with an email to the person you spoke with stating your understanding and ask them to let you know if this is correct. They may not respond, but you will have something in writing.
- Save all correspondence (letters and emails) with DSS or others involved with the case.
- Quickly follow through with what DSS asks you to do. Your goal is to establish a respectful and cooperative relationship with them. View them as your partner in getting the child placed with you.
NC Legal Options for Kinship Caregivers
- Temporary Parental Safety Agreement
- Becoming a Licensed Kinship Foster Parent
- Caregiving Without Becoming a Foster Parent