Hillsborough County Foster System

Change the Seat!

Helping families with adoption is one of our main focuses, but Holly and I (Carrie) are also licensed foster parents and dedicated to helping improve the system any way we can.  When you are a foster parent you are  not a legal "party to the case" but you can go to court for most hearings generally except Termination of Parental Rights (TPR).  In Hillsborough county, some of the judges ask foster parents for input but many times they do not, or there isn't time.  When you go to court, there is a center table where the parents, attorneys, case managers, and Guardian Ad Litem sits, but foster parents could not sit at the table because they weren't a party to the case.   To me, this was a huge problem because as foster parents we have the children in our care 24/7 and why shouldn't we be considered an equal part of the team giving input and facts? In court these kids entire lives are at stake and the decisions made can literally impact them and their families for generations so it's critical that all the facts are presented.  
     I found out that Eckerd has a group called the System of Care Action Committee anyone can be a part of.  I joined the Outcomes subcommittee which works on actions to improve the foster system and I am the ONLY foster parent who goes!!!  There really are people in the system dedicated to making it better you just have to find them.  At the first meeting, I presented the idea that if foster parents could sit at the table in court and were allowed to give input just like the case manager and Guardian it would put everyone on the same team and allow for critical information to be shared. Guess what?  It is happening!!!!!!  
     The office of the Attorney General and Judge Essrig got all the judges in Hillsborough County dependency court to agree to it.  As of now we are allowed to sit at the table and give feedback just like everyone else!  It's called the Change the Seat Campaign and there will be a training at the February 7th HCFPA meeting for anyone who wants to know appropriate court etiquette.  Seriously, this is a HUGE step forward for ensuring the facts are presented in making decisions for these kids and if anyone would like to get involved in the System of Care Action Committee we need more caring foster parents to help work on these issues.  The next meeting is Thursday 2/4 10:30-11:30am Eckerd Family Place - 10549 North Florida Ave.  If we don't start speaking up and demanding change it will never happen.  Please come if you would like to join or if you can't but  have ideas of things that can be improved please email them to me and I'll share at the meeting!  carrie.wildes@gmail.com