Foster Parents May Seek and Be Granted Intervention in Dependency Actions – Court of Civil Appeals Routinely Holds
The Court of Civil Appeals has explained: “[B]oth statutes provide that foster parents are entitled to notice and a right to be heard but are not to be compelled to be parties to the proceedings based on these rights. . . . This court has routinely recognized that relative caregivers and foster parents may seek and be granted intervention in a dependency action.” F.W. v. T.M., 140 So. 3d 950, 958 (Ala. Civ. App. 2013). See also T.D. v. S.R., 293 So. 3d 434, 436 (Ala. Civ. App. 2019)(foster parent intervention in dependency cases has been routinely recognized by appellate courts, including intervention prior to termination of parental rights).
A foster parents’ longevity of care for their child is a significant factor for the juvenile court to consider. There is no bright line test, but one-year is normally the common sense threshold where the juvenile court can determine that the child maintains a significant bond with the foster parent. In Borsdorf v. Mills, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals expressed a longstanding principle of child relationships and bonding:
The bonds of love between parent and child are not dependent upon blood relation and instinct, but may be forged as strongly in the crucible of day to day living. Out of the actual relationship of parent and child love grows. It is not merely a product of the biological function of conception and giving birth. To give paramount consideration to the principle of parental priority or ownership in custody decisions would often be an anathema to the best interest of the child.
275 So. 2d 338, 341 (Civ. App. 1973).