Wednesday, October 3, 2012

DeFacto Parent Status

If you are someone who is taking care of a child who has been declared a dependent of the juvenile court (i.e. foster child) and you want to be more involved in the child's court case, you may want to consider applying for de facto parent status.  If your wish is to proceed towards adoption then I definitely recommend applying.

What is a "de facto parent"?

You may be a de facto parent if:

  • The child is a dependent of the juvenile court.
  • You are or have been taking care of the child every day.  
  • You have been acting as the child's parent.
  • You are meeting (or have met) the child's needs for food, shelter, and clothing.  You have also met the child's need for care and affection.

No law says exactly what a "de facto parent" needs to be.  Judges make the decision.

There is also nothing in writing as far as the time frame of when you can apply for de facto parent, but typically the child should be in your care for 4-6 months.

How do I apply for de facto parent status?

You will need to fill out form JV-295 which is the De Facto Parent Request form, as well as form JV-296 which is the De Facto Parent Statement form.  

On form JV-295 you will need to fill in your name, address, phone number, name of the child, and case number (if available), then sign and date.

On form JV-296 you say why you think the judge should decide that you are a de facto parent.  Be sure to include information like:
  • How long you have cared for the child.
  • What you do with the child.
  • What you do for the child.
  • How much you care for the child.
  • What you know about the child's special needs, desires, and hopes.
  • How you can meet the child's needs.

Rights of de facto parents:
  • To be present at dependency hearings.  This is also your right as a caregiver, but as a de facto parent you are able to sit at the round table and be involved in the discussions rather than sit in the back of the court room as an observer.
  • To be represented by a lawyer at your own expense.
  • To present evidence and cross-examine witnesses.
  • I was also told that if the placement of the child is contested (by a relative) and you have de facto parent status, that gives you equal standing with a relative.

Our experience:

Since all six of our adoptions were children who were residing in our home as foster children, we sought de facto parent status and it was granted.  We filled out forms JV-295 and JV-296, but we also included pictures of the child interacting with various members of our family.   

You can also attach letters from others who know you and the child.  Our children were all quite young when we filed for de facto parent, so we had our current foster family social worker write a letter on our behalf and included this with our forms.

When filing our forms, we went to the family court building in-person to file.  Depending on which county you live in, your court clerk's office may require you to fill out form JV-510 and serve copies of the request forms on all parties of the case. In Sacramento county we did not have to do this.  

We always made it a point to attend court dates for the children to see first-hand where the cases were headed.  Because we did this, we were usually more informed than the social workers.  *Smile*

Depending on the case and if the biological parents are involved, if you are declared de facto parent, you might also be able to obtain educational rights of the child.  This is especially important if the child has special needs and is on an IFSP or IEP.  Most of our children's adoptions were finalized before this became an issue. However with our last adoption, the biological parents were refusing to sign the forms that would allow the children to receive the services they needed and the judge did grant us educational rights. Again, we showed up to every court hearing and kept an open line of communication with the children's attorney.

*This information in this post is specific for the state of California.  If you reside in another state, please check with your state's court system.


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