Monday, April 23, 2012

What Foster Parents (Should) Know

You know going into foster parenting that you will not be told everything (privacy laws).  Perhaps little to nothing, if you don't learn what questions to ask.  Still, you hope that you will get a social worker who is good at communicating, not only with judges, lawyers and parents, but with you, the foster parent.

Sometimes, you do.  Sometimes, you don't.

I have had six social workers in the last 2 years for 14 children.  I have only had one child whose worker changed while I had him, which beat the odds.   (It is, unfortunately, normal to have several workers during the year or two that a child is "in care".)   I have not had any issues with any of these workers, beyond communication issues.  But really, what else is there?  The child's worker doesn't do paperwork with me (except the ONE that actually invited me to the initial planning meeting, which I'm always supposed to be at).  They are supposed to visit the child in my home once a month - and all but one has been faithful to do that.  Beyond those things, communication is all there actually is.

Below is what I've learned from experience, and most likely doesn't match the handbook, located here (scroll down and click on the Resource Parent Handbook to download the pdf).

What are foster parents supposed to be told?  This probably varies by state.

Medical and mental health history of the child (this is spotty, at best, and usually nothing)

Social worker's name, phone number, and email (not always the one who brings the children to your home - I've had times where I don't know who the worker is until the next day)

Who the bio parents are and the status of their goals/treatment plan towards reunification
(we are not normally told what the goals are, nor details on why the child was removed - but we are allowed to know how long it may take to reach the goals and if they are working on them or not)

When/where visitation is, and any changes  (and we *should* have input on the scheduling)

Any school issues and where they attend school (usually better luck asking the school directly what problems there may be, once you have a form in your hand saying the kids are now living with you)

Any past abuse and behavioral problems and what's been done about them (you have to ask)

Any upcoming appointments that will need to be kept and/or scheduled

If a relative is found, who it is, where they live, and status of that home (not suitable, pending, approved)

Court dates and times, purpose of the court and any results.  Also, whether or not the child(ren) should be present.

What paperwork should we receive?

"111a", which is signed by a supervisor and a worker and the foster parent, stating the child's name, social security number, birth-date and relevant information, as well as the TWIST number (assigned by the state and used in court/for billing)

Copy of the court's judgement (allowed but not usually received)

Copy of SS card, birth certificate

Medical authorization form or letters to show the doctor/dentist/optomitrist/psychologist before treatment

Copy of medical card(s)

Medical history, especially major surgeries, allergies and pediatrician's information

Passport (medical) Binder, in which the above information should be stored so it can follow the child wherever he may go

What other things should the foster parents get?

clothing and shoes for the child, if available

medications and applicable instructions

anything else the child needs - special toys, books, blankets...anything.

In my opinion, we should also get the parents' full names, phone numbers (if calls will be allowed), and how wary we should be of interacting with them.  This matters to me, as I am in a small town and inevitably will see them out in public at one time or another, or at least during visitation drop-offs.

Have questions about foster parenting and want to know more?  This is the forum for the National Foster Parent Association.

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