According to the Civil Code, foster care is a form of substitute family care in which the foster parent personally cares for the child and is responsible for the child’s upbringing. From a legal point of view, however, the relationship between a foster parent and a child as is not the same as between an adopted child and adoptive parent. The foster parent has the right to represent the child and to manage his / her affairs only in everyday matters and has no child support payments obligation. To carry out special and legal matters (such as issuing of a travel document), the foster parent must apply for approval from the child’s legal guardian or the court.
Foster care is a state-supported form of substitute family care, which should, under the new legislation on foster care benefits, ensure material security for the child and, taking into account the difficulty of this work, also provide the foster parents with adequate resources.
The child may be placed in foster care of an individual or joint foster care of spouses. The current legislation has been in power since 1 January 2013. It explicitly stipulates the interest of the child as the determining criteria for foster custody. By law, foster care has priority over placing the child in an institutional setting. If the child can express his or her opinion freely, given his / her age and intellectual maturity, his / her opinion must be taken into account before deciding on foster care.
Foster care is granted by a court decision and only the court can terminate the foster care. It can only do so for serious reasons, but it must always terminate the foster care if the foster parent requests it. Foster care obligation ceases when the child reaches the legal age.
The foster parent is obliged to support the child in maintaining contact with his or her biological parents and relatives.
If there were a substantial change in the circumstances, or a disagreement between the parents and the foster parent on a substantive matter concerning the child, the child, parent or foster parent may contact the court and propose a change of rights and obligations, termination of foster care, or other decision.
If the court decision has previously placed the child in institutional care, in a facility for children in need of immediate assistance or a temporary foster care, the court may temporarily place the child in custody of a person who is seeking the foster care but only with the parents’ consent. If the custody legal process has not been initiated within three months of the court decision, the court approval shall cease to have legal effect.
Many useful books and publications have been written about foster care. Some of them can be found in the section Literature and Legislation.
Temporary Foster Care
The purpose of temporary foster care is primarily to give parents time to settle their affairs so they could resume taking care of the child or to find stable new family. It is therefore a crisis management measure of temporary nature.
Since January 1, 2013, the legal regulation of temporary foster care has been significantly amended. Acting on a proposal from the authority of the social and legal protection of children, the court may entrust the child into the temporary foster care of persons registered by the regional authority as the temporary foster care providers for the period:
- for which the parent cannot raise the child due to serious circumstances (health issues, imprisonment and others);
- for the necessary period at the end of which the parent’s consent to adoption can be given (the earliest time for consent to adoption is six weeks after childbirth, i.e., for the newborns awaiting the parental consent for adoption);
- until the court has finally decided that there is no need for parental consent (Section 821 of the Civil Code). This applies to children whose parents show a clear lack of interest. A parent’s lack of interest is considered to be clearly manifested if there were no contact attempt at least three months after the last genuine interest was expressed. However, if the parent’s conduct cannot be seen as a gross violation of his or her parental duties, the parent must be advised by the children social and legal protection authority on the possible consequences of their behavior, and at least three months without a contact attempt must have elapsed since such advice. The court decision on the parent’s lack of interest in the child is based on the assessment from the children social and legal protection authority acting as the child’s guardian or on the proposal of the parent.
The court may order the temporary custody of a child by an interim decision, acting on the proposal from the children social and legal protection authority. Temporary foster care can last no more than one year. This does not apply to the cases when siblings of the child who has been placed in the foster care are entrusted to the same foster parents later, but not for a period lasting longer than the foster care of a sibling who has been placed in the family last.
For the purpose of providing the temporary foster care, the regional authority keeps a register of persons who can perform foster care for a temporary period. Persons on file must be prepared to accept a child whenever necessary, for which they receive a regular monthly foster parent’s fee. More on the subject of the temporary foster care in the brochure (available in Czech) Středisko náhradní rodinné péče – Jak dál s pěstounskou péčí na přechodnou dobu or Středisko náhradní rodinné péče – Sociálně-právní analýza přechodné pěstounské péče and also on website www.dobrarodina.cz and the website of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs www.mpsv.cz.