The winter is rolling in and this year you’ve decided you want to spend it somewhere warmer. Your kids are just SUPER excited to go see the new Star Wars attractions at Disney World. Whatever the reason, vacations are a much-needed break from routine for every family. For foster parents, however, there can be uncertainty when it comes to family getaways. You may wonder, “Can I vacation with my foster child? Am I allowed to take my foster child out of state? I booked my vacation before a child was even placed in my home – do I have to cancel it?”
Fear not – FAFS’ “Keeping You Informed” (KYI) series of bulletins can help you understand how vacationing with your foster children works. Here are some of the answers to questions foster parents are sure to have as they plan their family vacations.
Can I Vacation With My Foster Child?
You should absolutely involve your foster child in your vacation plans whenever possible. The Division of Child Protection and Permanency (CP&P)’s Resource Family Handbook says, “Taking children on family vacation and trips is strongly encouraged. It helps the children know that they are a true part of your family and enhances the bonding process.” Before you book your flights and pack your bags, however, there are a few things you need to take care of.
What Might Stop Me From Taking Vacation With My Foster Child?
The main obstacles that could prevent you from taking your foster child on vacation involve the court system. If your child has court-ordered visitations or a scheduled court appearance during your vacation, he will still be required to attend and cannot vacation with you. Therapeutic or medical appointments that cannot be rescheduled will also mean that you cannot take your foster child with you. These issues may be more problematic if a child was just recently placed in your home, but if you make sure to double check with the child’s caseworker about appointments, visitation and court orders, you’ll have a better idea of how likely it will be to have your foster child vacation with you.
What Steps Do I Take To Vacation With My Foster Child?
Once you’ve determined that there’s nothing the child needs to be in-state for, you can vacation with your foster child. You’ll need to contact their caseworker at least 30 days before your trip begins. Technically, you’re required to do this for any trip that will be 3 or more days, but FAFS recommends that you request permission even if the trip is just a single day.
Help! They Said I Can’t Vacation With MY Foster Child!
In the event that your child does have some issue regarding travel that prevents him from vacationing with you, don’t worry – you still have the option of going on vacation while leaving your foster child with a temporary caregiver. This temporary care, also known as respite care, allows foster parents to continue with their plans without having to go through expensive cancellations. According to CP&P policy, “If a child in placement cannot accompany the resource family on vacation or other trip, it is the responsibility of the Division to assure that appropriate alternative arrangements are made for the child.”
Although it’s recommended that you include the foster child in your vacations, it might be wise to be prepared in advance and work with your child’s caseworker to find a temporary caregiver who has already been approved by CP&P just in case.
Keeping You Informed
To make sure you’re fully informed of the process for taking a vacation with your foster child, it’s always advisable to check with your child’s caseworker. For more resources about foster family vacation and travel, follow the links below:
To get a more in-depth look at these questions and their answers, check out our Keeping You Informed bulletin, “Planned Vacation and Other Travel” by clicking here.
To download a copy of the New Jersey Resource Family Handbook, click here.
To see the CP&P Policy on vacation and travel as defined in NJ Department of Children and Families Policy Manual CPP-III-9-100, check out page 16 by clicking here.
Frank Alvarez is the Digital Media Coordinator at Foster and Adoptive Family Services.