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Consent and Foster Care

Posted on September 15, 2009

John Landsverk (bio) advises obtaining consent from all parties involved when dealing with children in foster care.


The reason foster care is complicated is because the state has actually taken over being in charge. The child's been taken away temporarily from the family. So the question is who consents because they're actually living with another parent, a foster parent, who's not their own. Or they could be living with a relative, so they're in kinship placement, but still that's not their legal parent. But in fact, it temporarily is their legal parent because the state has said, in a sense, the foster parent is serving the state and serving us, the society, taking charge of that kid.

So the question is who do you get consent from for these vulnerable kids. And obviously, so the way that we've learned to deal with it is you consent every which way that you can. So we will consent the foster parent and ask if they're willing to participate in the research but also have the child participate in the research. But we will also then go to, if we can find the biological parent and say that your child is in foster care, we know that, we would like to enroll them in a study, but we need your consent to do it, would you be willing to do so. And so we consent both. And we've actually had very good luck on that.

Now then on top of that is the judge rules all because all kids in foster care are essentially under a legal order to be in foster care. And the Department of Social Services is actually acting as an adjunct to that, so we worked out with judges. So you have to really work with judges to figure out what is an appropriate way, and a way to consent, and that sort of thing. So we've been pretty good about that.

Now, something that's happened recently is that many child welfare systems are starting not to allow access to their clients. And so it's becoming more difficult.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher at the 2009 CHIPS Summer Research Institute in Tempe, AZ.


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