The beds aren’t made. If these were my children’s beds or my own, this would truly be non-news. But these are the beds for future foster children.
And the house isn’t clean. There’s clutter everywhere, dishes in the sink, and laundry to be done. Prior to becoming a foster family, this wouldn’t have been news either.
Yet, these unkempt beds make me worried. Typically, the beds are always made with fresh white sheets, in case a social worker calls and asks us to welcome foster children into our home with very little advanced notice.
And the house is usually clean so that a social worker, or guardian ad litem (GAL) or court appointed special advocate (CASA) can visit at any point and I don’t feel embarrassed by the state of my home.
I’m in no rush to make the beds or clean the house, because we won’t be welcoming kids to our home until August at the earliest. Although we’ve been open for new long-term placements for several months, we’ve only been officially contacted once and that child went to another foster family. And soon we’ll be going on vacation, so we would need to turn down placements until after we get back. So messy beds, messy house.
This long wait isn’t just a phenomena experienced by our family. And that’s what’s got me worried.
The number of children being brought into foster care has gone down dramatically in our county. Why? If the reason for this decrease is because the county is doing a better job of fixing what’s wrong with a family without removing kids, great. That’s awesome. I love it.
The rumor, though, is that there’s a new supervisor who is all about reducing the caseload. That he is directing staff to keep children in abusive or neglectful situations that would have previously resulted in a removal. Initially, I ignored this rumor, because, rumors are often wrong.
But then I learned of a case where a child was being sexually abused and originally the social workers were leaving the child in the home with the abuser, but with in-home services to “fix” the problem. Then the child ran away and the county brought the child into care.
Was there doubt if the child was truly being abused and that’s why she was left in the home with the abuser? Does the county feel that there is an effective treatment protocol wherein sex offenders and victims live together? Or is this the work of the supervisor who is making it extra hard to bring a child into care?
Roughly 88 children could be expected to enter into care each month in my country*. And yet, I know many foster parents whose homes have been empty for months and months. It wasn’t always like this. The numbers dropped off dramatically about nine months ago.
I pray that this change is because children are being helped in another, effective way.
* Wonder how I reached this number? Approximately 00.357% of American children enter foster care each year (yes, well below 1%), according to the 2010 census and the 2014 AFCARS report on U.S. foster care statistics. I used this national average and applied it to the number of children in my county. My county’s average intake could be higher or lower, but it shouldn’t deviate that dramatically from the national average.