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Parent’s Guide to Foster Care

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Where is My Child?
The Foster Care Agency
The Family Court
Get Help
Parent Handbook - A Guide for Parents with Children in Foster Care

The mission of ACS is to ensure the safety and well-being of New York City’s children. To do this, ACS and a network of community-based agencies offer help to parents whose children are at risk of neglect and abuse.

When ACS investigates complaints of abuse or neglect, we will try to work with you and your family to ensure that the children remain safe and strengthen your family. In some situations, ACS will decide to file a case in front of a Judge, with allegations of abuse or neglect, and may also ask that the children be removed from your home. Such cases are heard in a New York City Family Court. Learn more about NYC Family Court.

If the Family Court Judge determines that removal is necessary to avoid imminent risk to your child’s life or health, the Court can order that your child be placed in foster care. Learn more about the child abuse investigation process


Once your child is placed in foster care, legal custody is temporarily transferred to ACS. Your child will be cared for by a relative or non-relative foster parent under the guidance of a foster care agency contracted by ACS.

  • Whenever possible, ACS seeks to place children with a family member or friend. Be sure to tell ACS about any relatives or friends who you believe are able to safely care for your child.

  • The foster care agency will arrange a parent-to-parent meeting between you, the foster parent and the agency case planner within 3-5 days of your child’s placement. You can bring a relative or friend, or ask the foster care agency about having a parent advocate present.

  • Your child will be cared for by a foster parent whose home has been certified and who is cleared by the New York State Central Register. Learn more about foster parents.

  • ACS will make every effort to place your child in a home most suitable to the child’s needs. ACS tries to ensure that children are placed in home where they can continue to attend the same school, see their same doctors and maintain family ties.

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Where is my Child?

  • If your child was removed from home by a Child Protective Specialist (CPS) be sure to get their name, title, address, and telephone number so that you can contact the CPS about where your child has been placed and to arrange a visit.

  • If you have difficulty locating your child after placement or arranging visits with your child, call the ACS Office of Advocacy at (212) 676-9421.

The Foster Care Agency

While your child is in ACS care, a foster care agency will oversee your case and refer you to services that can help with the issues that led to the placement of your child in foster care. 

  • Once you and your child are assigned to a foster care agency, the agency case planner will work with you and your family to develop a comprehensive assessment and a service plan which will include visiting, as well as other services such as counseling and medical evaluations depending on the l circumstances of your case.

  • You will attend Service Plan Review conferences every 6 months over the life of your case to plan for services to help your child to return home.

  • However, if, after time, you have not complied with the service plan and your child remains in foster care, ACS and the foster care agency may be required by law to consider asking the Court to permanently place your child with a relative or an adoptive parent.

The Family Court

While your child is in ACS care, you will be able to attend Family Court hearings which are essential to your child returning home. You will be notified about these hearings, and your foster care agency case planner will have ongoing discussions with you about the progress of your case.

  • You have the right to have a lawyer with you in Court. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you.

  • You have a right to an initial hearing to decide whether your child will continue to remain in foster care. After your child has been in care for approximately 6-8 months, the Family Court will hold a “permanency hearing” to review your case.

  • After the first permanency hearing, there will be a permanency hearing every 6 months while your child is in care.

  • If your child remains placed out of your care for 15 out of the most recent 22 months, and ACS or the foster care agency determine that you are still unable to resume caring for your child, ACS or the foster care agency may be required to file a termination of parental rights (TPR) petition to permanently terminate your rights to your child.

  • After the TPR has been filed, you have a right to appeal that decision within 60 days. Your lawyer can help you file for a suspended judgment. This can stop the TPR process if you can show that you have been complying with your service plan.

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Get Help

If your child is in foster care or is going to be placed in foster care, we know that this can be a stressful time for you and your child and that you may feel overwhelmed or intimidated.

For help with your case, or to resolve any issues with your foster care agency, call the ACS Office of Advocacy at (212) 676-9421.

For more information, read The Parent Handbook – A Guide for Parents with Children in Foster Care

New York State Family Court System

  • General information about the five NYC Family Courts, including contact information, maps, transit and driving directions, and hours of operation.

  • Links to all New York State Family Court Forms.

  • Information about court procedures.

  • Answers to frequently asked questions about Family Court services.

For more information, visit NYC Family Court 

Parent Advocacy

You should consult with your attorney about any and all legal questions you may have about your case. You have a right to appeal any decision that the Family Court Judge makes, and you should consult with your attorney about the specifics of your case.

The following organizations may help parents with information on concerns about foster care. ACS is not affiliated with these organizations. This is not legal advice and is strictly for informational purposes only.

Center for Family Representation
Families on the Move of NYC
Family Resource Centers
Brooklyn Defenders
Bronx Defenders
Neighborhood Defender Project of Harlem
Legal Aid Juvenile Rights Division

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Programs & Initiatives