Know Before You Say No.

On September 29, 2014, President Obama signed the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (the Act) into law, which amended various provisions of Title IV-E of the Social Security Act. One of the primary purposes of the Act is to improve the safety, permanency, and well-being outcomes of children, youth and young adults1 involved with the child welfare system. Section 111 of the Act, Supporting Normalcy for Children in Foster Care, seeks to advance the well-being of children, youth and young adults by requiring states to support normative experiences for children through the implementation of the reasonable and prudent parent standard (the standard).

The standard allows for a caregiver to make parental decisions that maintain the health, safety, and best interest of the child, as well as decisions about the child’s participation in extracurricular, enrichment, cultural and social activities that are age and developmentally appropriate, in a way that protects the child while allowing for normative experiences.

This section is intended to answer frequently asked questions that may assist in applying the standard. Caseworkers, case planners, case managers, foster parents, and congregate care staff are encouraged to refer to this Q&A tool when considering a child’s participation in normative experiences.

For the purpose of this document, children, youth, and young adults in foster care will be referred to as “child.”

If the birth/adoptive parent, guardian or prior caretaker disagrees with a decision, is that the ultimate decision as to whether a child can participate in a normative experience? Where appropriate, the input and position of the birth/adoptive parent, guardian or prior caretaker should be considered in the decision making process. This input is dependent on the individual situation. In cases where parental rights have been surrendered or terminated or there are safety concerns or the parties are not available, such consultation or discussion should not be a part of the decision-making process. However, if the caregiver, case worker, case planner, case manager, and child (if age and developmentally appropriate) determine that an alternative decision is appropriate and in the best interest of the child, then the caregiver and child may move forward with that alternative decision. The determination and the basis for such determination must be documented in the child’s case record.

Is a congregate care staff person required to submit an SIR when a child is injured while participating in an approved activity?Depending on the severity of the injury, congregate care staff may be required to submit an SIR if a child is injured while participating in an approved activity. Normal SIR reporting protocols should be followed to determine if it is a reportable event.

Is a caregiver allowed to sign permission slips for school activities (e.g., field trip, sports team)? The first consideration is to be aware of the policy of the school district as to who may sign the permission slip on behalf of the child. If the school district allows caregivers to sign, subject to the considerations referenced in the next paragraph, a caregiver may sign permission slips allowing a child to participate in school activities. For example, if the child is attending a school trip to a museum, the caregiver may move forward with signing the permission
slip without seeking out the permission of the birth/adoptive parent, guardian or prior caretaker.
If an activity involves travel outside of the county or state, the caregiver may grant permission but must notify the case worker, case planner, or case manager prior to the event
The caregiver must apply the reasonable and prudent parent standard when determining participation in the activity, including but not limited to, assessing the potential risk for injury from the activity, ability to comply with the rules set forth by the schools as it pertains to medical restrictions, understand the child’s physical and/or
cognitive ability, and confirm that participation in such activity does not conflict with any mandatory court appearance, court ordered visitation, or violate the child’s
safety plan. Caregivers should refer to: Applying the Reasonable and Prudent Parent Standard: Caregiver Considerations when determining whether a child may participate in an activity. Additionally, if appropriate, the birth/adoptive parent, guardian or prior caretaker, and child (if age and developmentally appropriate), should be engaged prior to making a decision.