Foster parents are one of the most important sources of information about the children in their care.
Courts, lawyers, and social workers should have the benefit of caregivers’ perceptions about the children in their care. Caregivers are the people who know the children better than anyone in the system. Caregivers raise the children and are with them 24/7, whereas the social worker may only see them once a month and the CASA may only see them once a week.
Both federal and state law recognizes the importance of foster parents’ participation in juvenile court proceedings and require information sharing with caregivers. Federal law requires that foster parents and other caregivers receive expanded opportunities for notice, the right to participate in dependency court review and permanency hearings, and the right to communicate concerns to the courts. State law similarly provides that caregivers may submit their concerns to courts in writing. On January 15, 2014 the California Department of Social Services published a new All County Information Notice in order to "remind counties of the importance of sharing information with caregivers in child welfare [because] giving caregivers such information better enables them to meet the needs of children and youth living in their homes."
Basic Information All Caregivers Should Have
Caregivers should have certain basic information in order to provide for the needs of children placed in their care, including all of the following:
- The name, mailing address, telephone number, and facsimile number of the child’s social worker and the social worker’s supervisor.
- The name, mailing address, telephone number, and facsimile number of the child’s attorney and court-appointed special advocate (CASA), if any.
- The name, address, and department number of the juvenile court in which the child’s juvenile court case is pending.
- The case number assigned to the child’s juvenile court case.
- A copy of the child’s birth certificate, passport, or other identifying documentation of age as may be required for enrollment in school and extracurricular activities.
- The child’s State Department of Social Services identification number.
- The child's social security number. Welfare and Institutions Code § 16503.5(d)
- The child’s Medi-Cal identification number or group health insurance plan number
- Medications or treatments in effect for the child at the time of placement, and instructions for their use.
- A plan outlining the child’s needs and services, including information on family and sibling visitation.
- Information about and referrals to any existing services, including transportation, translation, training, forms, and other available services. Welfare and Institutions Code § 16010.4 (f)(4)
- The caregiver's obligation to cooperate with any reunification, concurrent, or permanent planning for the child. Welfare and Institutions Code § 16010.4 (f)(5)
- Any known siblings or half-siblings of the child, whether the child has, expects, or desires to have contact or visitation with any or all siblings, and how and when caregivers facilitate the contact or visitation. Welfare and Institutions Code §§ 16010.4 (f)(6) ; 16010.4(e)
Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)
It is imperative that everyone - attorneys, social workers, the court - ask whether a foster child may have Indian heritage at the very beginning of a dependency case. If ICWA is not followed the case may be overturned or invalidated at any stage, including post finalization of an adoption. Please see our ICWA page for more information.
Caregivers Are Entitled To:
- Notice of all review and permanency hearings, to be served at least 15 days before the hearing.
Welfare and Institutions Code §§ 293(a)(6), 293(c), 16010.4 (f)(1), California Rule of Court § 5.534(n)
- A written summary of the social worker’s recommendations, to be received at least 10 days prior to the scheduled hearing. Please note that depending on the county, tis written summary may only be 1-2 sentences or simply a box that is checked.
Welfare and Institutions Code §§ 366.21(c), California Rule of Court § 5.534(n)
- Attend all review hearings, submit any evidence you deem relevant to the Court in writing.
Welfare and Institutions Code §§ 293(f), 16010.4 (f)(2), California Rule of Court § 5.534(n)
- A copy of the JV-290 Caregiver Information Form, which allows the caregiver to provide information directly to the court. The Form, along with information on how to file the JV-290 Form, should be included with the social worker’s written recommendations.
Welfare and Institutions Code §§ 366.21(c), 16010.4 (f)(3), California Rule of Court § 5.534(n)
- File with the Court a JV-290 Caregiver Information Form, which allows the caregiver to provide information directly to the court, and the Court shall consider your report and recommendations prior to determining any disposition regarding the child.
Welfare and Institutions Code § 366.21(d), California Rule of Court § 5.534(n)
Communicating with the County Welfare Agency
Advokids encourages foster child advocates to report serious concerns about the health, safety, and welfare of a child in foster care to the county child welfare agency. All communications should be in writing, and if the concern is serious enough, the correspondence should be sent to not only the assigned social worker, but also his/her supervising social worker. Copies of all letters of concern sent to the county child welfare agency should also be sent to the assigned social worker, the child's attorney, County Counsel, the CASA, if one has been appointed, and the Foster Family Agency social worker. Example of letter of concern (pdf)
Communicating with the Court: Guidelines for filing a JV-290 Caregiver Information Form
The JV-290 “Caregiver Information Form” is a simple form that helps you organize detailed information about the child and communicate with the court. As a foster parent or relative caregiver, you know the most about the child's current circumstances and needs, and should provide any information or concerns you may have to the juvenile court. The goal is to enable the judge to make informed decisions about the child and reach the best outcome regarding the disposition of the child. You may use the JV-290 to describe the child and alert the court to potential placement disruptions, visitation issues, and any unmet needs.
The JV-290 form may be submitted in connection with court review hearings, which are held every six months, starting with the "6-month review hearing." See our Juvenile Court Process page.
Foster parents in California have fought to pass legislation to ensure your right to attend review hearings, file a JV-290, and play an active role in the juvenile court process. Even if your Foster Family Agency files a JV-290, we recommend that you file one as well.
When completing the JV-290 Caregiver Information Form, be sure to be factual, provide specific information, and remain child-centered, positive and kind. You mat also want to:
- Attach a photo so the judge can put a beautiful, smiling face to a name and file number.
- Report all the positive developments in the child’s life and the progress made.
- Share any concerns or individual needs the child may have.
- If possible, attach letters from doctors, teachers, or other professionals to support your concerns or requests for services. If you have attachments, be sure to check the box on item 12, indicate the total number of pages attached, and include the date and the case number. Label each attachment page “Attachment to JV-290, Date, Case Number.”
- Submit the original JV-290 with 8 copies of the form (each form should have a photo on it) to the Juvenile Court Clerk’s Office at least five calendar days before the hearing (or seven days if filing by mail). The County Clerk will then distribute, or "serve" your JV-290 to all of the relevant people involved in the case. California Rule of Court § 5.534(n)
- Some clerk offices will copy the JV-290 for you, but we recommend coming prepared with all 8 copies just in case. Be sure to keep one copy stamped "filed" by the Clerk, for your records.
- The court is required by law to "consider the report and recommendation" included in the JV-290 "prior to determining any disposition." Welfare and Institutions Code § 366.21(d)
When you file your JV-290, you are also developing a relationship with your juvenile court judge and all other parties involved with the case. Your JV-290 will become a part of the court file and will reflect your dedication and commitment to the child. You should file JV-290s faithfully and consistently prior to every review hearing, starting with the six-month hearings. Down the road, if you need to solicit assistance from the juvenile court regarding your child, your JV-290 – Forms will help the judge track your participation in review hearings and will show how hard you have worked on behalf of the child in your care. JV-290 Forms should be filed two weeks before the scheduled review hearing.
For your benefit, the Judicial Council also created the JV-290 Instruction Sheet, which provides detailed instructions for filling out and filing the JV-290. You will find the forms below.
When You Go To the Courthouse to File Your JV-290
Bring the following documents to the courthouse.
- A copy of California Rule of Court, Section 5.534(n) This law establishes your right to file the JV-290 and the court clerk’s duty to serve it on all other parties on your behalf.
- JV-290 Instruction Sheet
- JV-290 Caregiver Information Fillable Form. Bring the original and 8 copies, with attachments and photos, so the Juvenile Court Clerk may serve the necessary parties.
- MC-030 Declaration Fillable Form
- JV-287 Confidential Information Fillable Form. You may use Form JV-287 in order to keep confidential any contact information listed on the JV-290.
The Reasonable Prudent Parent Standard
The standard used by a caregiver or licensee that is characterized by careful and sensible parental decisions that maintains the foster child’s health, safety, and best interest.
For more information, see the California Department of Social Services All County Information Notice, “Questions and Answers (Q&A) Regarding Reasonable and Prudent Parent Standards.”
Legal Disclaimer: Advokids provides educational information and resources to those who use our website, call our hotline, or submit requests for information via the website. Any information provided may not be construed as the giving of legal advice to any person about a particular legal matter and should not be relied upon as the basis for taking a particular action or refraining from taking a particular action in any legal matter. If you want or need legal advice about a particular legal matter, you should consult a lawyer.