What happens to a child’s story when they leave foster care?
Most believe records from the time in foster care are kept forever and can be accessed by a former foster youth at anytime, if they are curious about their past. This simply isn’t true.
Adoption records are routinely maintained forever, or on a permeant basis, but foster care records are not.
When the “clock” runs out on saving the records, they are expunged, destroyed or cease to be retained by the systems that were responsible for the child’s care.
So, if someone was in foster care from 6-9 years of age, but was not adopted, there may be NO records from their time in care, left for them to request at 18, depending on the laws of the state they live in.
Why is this a problem?
- Having access to your personal information is a basic human right for all.
- Most fosters don’t realize there is a “cut off point” to requesting and think they can do it when they are older.
- The average age of search and request, often falls outside of when records are kept, and so there will be no records there to access when they want to.
- Continued distinction between those adopted and not adopted. ALL have the right to see their information.
Ideally, there would be…
- Permanent retention of records for all youth who spend any time in foster care (just as there is for adoptions from foster care)
- Access that is limited to fosters and descendants (not caseworkers, or future legal proceedings).
How can we change it?
- Initial understanding of the laws that govern.
- Fight for record retention law changes, based on best practice and what we know about age of search and request.
Ongoing Survey: If you spend time in care and would like to share your process thus far – we would love to hear from you and you can complete the survey here – https://lnkd.in/ennpAYJt
State by State
Florida – case records be maintained until the youngest alleged victim among the subjects of the record has reached 30 years of age. Adoption records permanent. (Source)
Illinois – foster care records permanent. Adoption records permanent. (Source)
Minnesota – 10 years from last entry for those who entered foster care (substantiated child abuse). Adoption records permanent. 260E.35 DATA PRACTICES., Subd. 6.Data retention.
New York – Records provided upon adoption, discharge to his/her own care, and upon request to the adopted former foster child; records of a non-adopted child in foster care are maintained for 30 years after discharge
Oregon – Founded CPS, Date Case Closed + 30 years, Voluntary placement CPS, Date Case Closed + 75 years. Adoption records permanent. (Source)
Additional State Info
If your state is not represented above, please add the following in the comments:
- In your state, how long are foster care records maintained for?
- A link to the source material for your answer.
If your state IS represented, did I get it right?
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Having access to your personal information is a basic human right, however, foster care records are not are kept forever. See the laws that govern retention and destruction. #personalhistory #fosteryouthTweet