What I Agree to When Fostering a Child

Sometimes when you’re trying to understand what someone else’s life is like, it’s cool to have a glimpse of their everyday activities.   Ever wonder what foster parents agree to do when they foster a child?  Read on.

We had two cutie pies stay with us for short-term respite care.  Now I need to return the paperwork that spells out who does what and why.

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There’s the foster care agreement.  This document says that the County and my family agree that we will provide foster care services to a specific child.  It also includes key principles such as “all children deserve a safe environment” and “children do best when raised in families.”

There’s a code of ethics that we agree to abide by.  Here are some of the ethics:

  • Provide a safe, secure, and stable family environment that is nurturing and free from corporal punishment and abuse and neglect
  • Support progress toward achieving the permanency goal identified for the child (that goal is either return to parents, return to extended family or adoption)
  • Promote self-respect by providing positive guidance and activities that respect culture, ethnicity, and spiritual preferences
  • Support the child in developing knowledge and skills to become a self sufficient and responsible adult

As the foster parents, we agree to:

  • Receive the named child
  • Agree to keep the County informed of the child’s development, behaviors, and activities
  • Agree to confidentiality
  • Agree that the child’s social worker can visit the child in our home
  • Agree to notify the County in case of a medical emergency

The County agrees to:

  • Provide counseling to the child
  • Provide consultation and support to the foster parents
  • Pay for the child’s health care
  • Pay a stipend to the foster parents to cover the cost of the child’s food, clothing, and personal care

There’s also a medical authorization form, which tells medical care providers that we are allowed to seek care for the specific child.  For routine care, we can take the child to the doctor or dentist just like you would any kid.  We can’t put on the kid on indefinite medication, especially psycho-active drugs (anti-depressent, anti-anxiety, ADHD, etc.). For that, the County and/or parents make the decision. For medical emergencies, we are to take the child to the emergency room right away, but let the County know as they might need a judge to authorize the emergency medical treatment. “Routine” emergencies like a broken arm don’t require a judge, but stuff like an amputation of an arm would require the judge to agree.

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All of the those papers are signed when the child is placed in our home. The last paper is where we state how long the child was staying with us. It’s only done after the child has left, because life happens and the child has either stayed longer or shorter than planned. There was a blizzard, so it wasn’t safe to travel. Or the regular foster parents came back early and pick up the child. Etcetera.

We keep a copy of all these papers for our records and send another copy to the County for their records and also to process the payment for the child’s food, clothing, and personal care.

And that’s it. Paper work done.

Are You Somebody?

Have you ever read one of those stories about the toddler who was critically dehydrated after being left alone in a crib for days, crying while her mother got high?  Or the one about the eight year old boy who was hospitalized after being beaten by his father with a baseball bat?  Did you think to yourself “somebody should do something about that?”

Did you find yourself outraged after reading a story about a child being taken from their family on trumped up charges?   Did you wonder why someone doesn’t help grown ups deal with addiction or mental illness so that their children could live safely with them?

What about that story about how the foster care system is filled with cold, uncaring social workers who lose track of where children are placed? Or about the greedy foster parents who spend the foster stipend money on themselves while feeding the kids just once a day? Did you think to yourself “somebody should do something about that?”

I read these stories.  I was outraged.  I thought somebody should do something.  Then, I realized that I am somebody.  I became a foster parent.  A good one (or least to the best of my ability).  I love the children, care for them, advocate for them at their schools or therapist’s office or in the courts.  I advocate for their biological parents, too, helping them get their voices heard, their needs met, and have a real chance at getting their children back.  I volunteer to help out the foster care agency and help train new foster parents.

You could do this, too.  All you have to do is Be Somebody.

If you want child abuse to end.  If you want families going through hard times to be given a fair chance.  If you want the “system” to work as well as it can.

All you have to do is Be Somebody, the somebody who steps forward to be a foster parent.

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This post is part of the Adoption Talk Link Up on the topic of foster care / adoption memes.  Check out the link for other great voices on foster care and adoption!

Too Young for Suicidal Thoughts?

At what age should you take a child’s self-harming or suicidal thoughts seriously?  8-year-old Watchful is doing these things, and his social worker doesn’t seem to think it’s a big deal.

But she’s wrong.

We don’t like to think that a small child can honestly want to hurt themselves or take their own life.  But it happens. As a (bio, adoptive, foster) mom, I’ve seen traumatized children find ways to harm themselves.  I remember one child’s first plan was to find a snake to bite ’em, just like how Cleopatra committed suicide.  Seems laughable.  Same child eventually threw their self out of a moving car.  Not so funny.  At age 6.  Really, really not funny.

Another child, age 10, declared no more eating ever.  Just wait ’til that child gets really hungry and that problem will go away, right?  Um, it’s been several years and that child still has issues with chronic malnutrition and being underweight as they don’t eat sufficient food.

So now that Watchful has talked about ways he wants to die, says life is pointless, has repeatedly hit himself, has skipped at least one meal every day for over a week, talks constantly about death, blood, and bruises… well, listen up, social worker.  It’s serious!!!

Kendrea Johnson, aged 6, hung herself with a jump rope

Gabriel Myers, aged 7, hung himself with a shower hose

Brandajah Smith, aged 5, shot herself

Last week, social worker, I asked you for an urgent doctor’s appointment, but Watchful is still waiting.  His life is at risk!  So don’t just tell me that “maybe the psychologist will call next week to arrange an appointment.”