Your rights in care
When you are in foster care, you have 13 basic rights. They are:
Freedom of thought and religion
You are allowed to practice your chosen religion. You are allowed to choose not to practice religion. You cannot be forced to attend religious service. Your caseworker and caregiver cannot restrict your religion or punish you for your religious beliefs and practices.
You cannot expect complete privacy, but you do have the right to a reasonable amount of privacy for yourself and others. You should tell people about your personal boundaries. If you do not want to discuss certain topics in front of your caregiver, ask your caseworker to talk privately.
You may request privacy in your room. You should not be punished for requesting privacy. Your personal information should not be shared with others, unless it is case information required by agencies to help you and your family.
Contribution to decisions about your life
Your opinions should be heard and considered in decisions about your life whenever possible.
Tell your caseworker you want to attend your initial case plan meeting. Your case plan says what changes need to happen before you can live at home again (“reunification”). You may ask your caseworker to invite two extra adult supporters (besides your caseworker or foster parent) to the meeting. Your caseworker decides if inviting those people is in your best interest.
After the initial case plan meeting, there is another case planning meetings at least every 90 days. Ask your case worker when the case planning meetings are so you can attend. Bring your two approved adult supporters, if you have them.
Adult guidance, support and supervision
Your caregiver should share and develop with you house rules and consequences for breaking house rules.
Freedom from physical abuse and inhumane treatment
You should not be abused by your caregivers or others, and you should not harm yourself or others.
Your caregivers may discipline you. However, discipline should never include:
If someone bribes you to keep abuse secret, say no. If you feel unsafe, tell your caseworker, the police or the state’s child abuse hotline (855-OH-CHILD). Memorize local emergency numbers.
Protection from exploitation
You should be protected from all forms of sexual exploitation. If anyone makes you uncomfortable, tell your caregiver or caseworker. Do not allow disrespectful labels. If you hear disrespectful sexual talk, tell your caregiver or caseworker. Your caregiver and caseworker should listen to your concerns and help you stay safe.
If anyone tries to force, threaten or trick you to work without pay, that is called “labor trafficking.” If anyone tries to force, threaten or trick you to do sex acts for money, that is called “sex trafficking.”
If you or someone you know is being trafficked, tell your caregiver, parent, caseworker, police or the national anti-trafficking hotline by calling (888) 373-7888 or texting “BeFree” (233733).
You have the right to adequate and appropriate medical care. Tell your caseworker and caregiver about your medical conditions or concerns. When you leave foster care, ask for a copy of your medical records.
If you have prescribed medications, ask questions about why they are prescribed and what side effects they may cause.
If your body does not feel right, tell someone. You should have access to vision and dental care, and to daily prescriptions like birth control.
Your caseworker and caregiver should ensure you have transportation to medical appointments. If possible, they should teach you to make medical appointments for yourself.
Food, clothing and housing
Your caregiver must meet your basic needs for food, clothing, housing and personal items like hygiene products. If you have a child, your caseworker and caregiver should ensure you have the skills and supplies to care for your child during and after your time in foster care.
Your agency has “normalcy” policies that allow you to participate in normal and beneficial activities that may include activities like spending the night at a friend’s house or participating in school activities.
To learn more about applying for a job to earn money, visit OhioMeansJobs.com. If you are between 14 and 24 years old and want to earn money, a Comprehensive Case Management and Employment Program (CCMEP) career coach can help you access free resources to get jobs, internships and supportive services like addiction recovery support, childcare and transportation. To contact CCMEP, email [email protected].
You have the right to your own money and personal property as described in your service or case plan. Most kids want to know whether or not they are entitled to have a phone. The county agency does not provide phones and it is up to each individual caregiver to make rules about whether or not a child can have a cell phone.
Clean and safe surroundings
You have the right to clean and safe surroundings. You should clean up your own mess and maintain good personal hygiene. You should help with household chores. If you need help using household cleaning supplies, ask your caregiver for instructions. No one should smoke in the home or around you. If you believe your surroundings are unsafe or unclean, tell your caregiver or caseworker.
You have the right to appropriate education. You should go to school every day and participate in your classes. Participate in available after-school activities and get your high school diploma or GED. You can ask to stay in your original school, but your caseworker cannot guarantee it. If you need an Individual Education Plan (IEP) because you have a disability, your caregiver and caseworker should make sure it is active and goes with you if you transfer schools.
You have the right to communicate with family, friends and significant others who live away from you. Your service or case plan has details about communication rights. Your caregiver should support your visitation plan so you can see your family.
You should be taught to fulfill appropriate responsibilities to yourself and others, and make sure your rights are protected.
Enforcing your rights
If your rights are violated, you should tell someone. Ask your agency if they have a formal complaint process. If you are in a residential or group home, the staff must give you a handbook that lists the complaint process.
You should always “follow the chain of command” by contacting people in the right order:
- First, you contact your caseworker. Your caseworker is the first person you should contact.
- Second, talk to your caseworker’s supervisor. If your caseworker does not fix your problem, talk to your caseworker’s supervisor. To find out who your caseworker's supervisor is, call the main phone number for the public children services agency (PCSA) in your county. You can find that information on this page under "Local Government and Community Resources."
- Then, continue up the ladder. If the supervisor does not solve the problem, talk to their boss, and so on.
If you have already reached out to your county PCSA, or you do not feel safe reporting to your local agency, you can file a complaint online with the Ohio Youth Ombudsman's Office.