A consensual placement occurs when the minor’s parents embrace the foster care plan and formalize their willingness to cooperate by signing a written agreement with the public or private service that is dealing with their case.
The minor himself could be in a situation of risk or potential prejudice.
The cooperation of the minor’s birth parents is a fundamental resource in this type of foster placements, and it is one of the factors that may speak for a comparatively short period of out-of-home care, followed by a prompt return to the birth family. Said cooperation, however, is not a given, but needs to be nurtured over time in a complex relational dynamic involving the parents and the social workers. A situation needs to be addressed with the utmost professionalism to guarantee, among other things, that consensual placements may become the standard over time.
Placement by court order requires the ruling of a judge based on a dossier submitted by the Social Services. The official will rule to that effect if he considers that a period of foster care needs to be enforced independently of the parents’ agreement. More often than not, this type of ruling concerns situations in which the safety and well-being of a minor are in jeopardy.
The judge’s analysis, for example, may evince an incapacity on the part of the family to understand and manage the child’s vital needs and well-being. In this case, a court decision against the parents will take very little time. In alternative, the court’s construction of the case may attest to a critical situation of a more temporary nature, and one that the ruling itself, among other factors, may contribute to address in the context of a dynamic process of change.
In some cases the two forms of foster care (consensual and by court order) will follow upon each other chronologically (in either direction), according to the needs of the child and its family’s. The process can go from mandatory to consensual or alternatively, when the counterparts fail to elicit a practical commitment on the part of the birth family, from consensual to mandatory.