This list of frequently asked questions was compiled to help foster parents understand the normalcy law and ensure that the youth in their care are treated the same and afforded the same opportunities as every other child. This page will be updated with new questions and answers, and we want to hear from you! Email your questions or recommendations about normalcy to DCFS.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Does the normalcy law only apply to youth living in foster homes?
No. The normalcy law is for all children that are in an out of home placement (foster homes, group homes, TLP’s, youth in college or residential).
What can I make decisions about?
Foster parents can make decisions about the youth’s participation in extracurricular, enrichment, cultural and social activities.
Can I have a list of exactly what I can make decisions about?
No. Every family is different, and what’s normal for one family may not be normal for another. A list will not adequately cover all the different scenarios that may arise. The definition of prudent parenting does not change. The foster parent or group home does not have to seek the caseworker’s consent for the activity. This is not a service appeal or chain of command issue.
Do I need permission from the guardian, permanency worker, guardian ad litem, biological parent or the court before I make a decision?
Caregivers have authority in the categories of decisions listed (but not in other areas, such as medical decisions). Caregivers should keep caseworkers informed in a timely manner and notify caseworkers and others about significant decisions. As you exercise authority, be mindful that others involved with the child will want to be kept informed about what he or she is doing.
Can I decide when to travel out of state with the youth?
Yes and No. If the child is going on a trip and will be away for less than 24 hours, you have permission to travel. If you are planning a weekend trip to a neighboring state or a longer trip across the country or to another country, talk to your caseworker to ensure that you have the appropriate permissions first.
Do I have the authority to decide whether it is appropriate for the child to have a cell phone?
Yes. It is normal for a youth to have a cell phone. More information can be found in DCFS Administrative Procedure 28, including a social media contract that helps guide the caregiver, youth and caseworker through establishing guidelines.
Can I decide whether it is appropriate for the child to use social media unsupervised?
Yes. Use the reasonable and prudent parent standard to make the decision. Use of online social networking sites to communicate with family and friends is a normal, everyday practice for most people. Foster families and youth in care are no exception. A foster family can post images of the child in their care on a social networking site, provided the child’s status as a youth in care is not disclosed. If a child chooses to disclose his or her status, such disclosure is a matter of free speech which the department has no right to control. It is normal for parents to monitor the child’s social media usage. Youth under the age of 18 should have no expectation of privacy; and asking to review their usage is appropriate.
Can I sign for a youth’s learner’s permit or driver’s license?
No. If the youth is under 18, the driver’s license application requires the signature of a parent or legal guardian. However, you can support and help the youth obtain the required practice driving hours.
Do I have the authority to decide whether it is appropriate for the child/youth to spend the night with friends?
Yes. Each caregiver shall use the reasonable and prudent parent standard in determining whether to give permission for a child living in out-of-home care to participate in extracurricular, enrichment or social activities. A caregiver is not liable for harm caused to a child who participates in an activity approved by the caregiver, provided that the caregiver has acted in accordance with the reasonable and prudent parent standard.
Do I have the authority to decide who can watch the child/youth if an emergency arises and I am unable to care for them?
Using the reasonable and prudent parent standard, caregivers can select a well-known family member or friend to care for the child in an emergency.
Do I have the authority to decide whether it is appropriate for the youth in my care to get rides with other youth or adults who have not been background screened?
Yes. Foster parents are expected to use the reasonable and prudent parent standard. Any parent would evaluate the responsibility of the driver.
If I’m still not sure if the activity is appropriate for the youth, who can help me make the decision?
Your caseworker should be available to assist you in the determination.
Will I be held liable if a child/youth’s safety is jeopardized while participating in an activity I approved?
A caregiver is not liable for harm caused to a child who participates in an activity approved by the caregiver, provided that the caregiver has acted in accordance with the reasonable and prudent parent standard.
Are background checks necessary for the youth to participate in school or community activities?
No. Background checks are not necessary for community or school activities. Background checks are not needed for sleepovers or other age-appropriate social activities, as long as you have acted in a reasonable and prudent parenting capacity. That requirement means that you have appropriate knowledge about the circumstances – for example, that you called the host parent, know who will be present and verified that an adult will be there.
The choice of religion is the residual right of the birth parent. Can the youth attend church or other activities alone?
Foster parents have the authority to determine whether or not it is appropriate for a youth in their care to experience activities without adult supervision. The decision depends on the child’s age, maturity and ability to make appropriate decisions. Caregivers may not change a child’s religion without permission of the birth parent. Choosing a child’s religion is a residual right of biological parents, as are joining a church and baptizing a child.
Who pays for the extra-curricular activities?
At this time there are no new funds or procedures for supporting extra-curricular activities. Foster parents should ask their licensing agency about standard procedures for additional financial support for extra-curricular activities. Per department Rule 359.7, DCFS is obligated to pay for camp fees, clothing and supplies for children in substitute care when such is seen as essential for the child's social development; and cultural enrichment including art, dancing, music, athletic lessons or instruction and related fees such as rental of equipment.