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To make sure that kids caught in the confusing world of foster care have a road map to a more secure life, state law requires casehandlers to meet with children and birth parents to draft long-term goals. But according to a recent report, the majority of parents are unaware that these important procedures even exist–or that they have a say in the process.

New York State regulations requires both parents and children over the age of 10 be given written notice at least two weeks in advance of the Service Plan Review meeting. However, 46 percent of respondents to a 1997 survey said they had never been invited to such a meeting, and only 28 percent indicated they were informed of the right to attend subsequent face-to-faces. Of those who did hear of the initial meeting, 59 percent said they were notified less than two weeks before the date.

The findings, published in a February report by The Door, a youth services nonprofit, also show that 73 percent of the respondents didn’t know about the existence of a Universal Case Record, the document that outlines the quickest and safest way for a child to leave the foster care system. “Parents [who are] able to provide loving homes sometimes spend years separated from their children because they did not know what was required of them,” the report concludes. Recommendations include better tracking by the city’s Administration for Children’s Services and a systemwide program encouraging parental involvement.

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