Monday, May 2, 2011

Foster Care 101

May is National Foster Care Month!

I thought I would answer some questions I am asked often:

#1 Question: How does it work?
A side from mountains of paperwork, background check, home study, and training hours... You tell the Foster Care Foundation what sex and age child you are interested in. If you are strictly looking to adopt a new baby, they will ask you to look into an adoption agency. So for us, we take any sex and the age range is 0-5.

#2) Do you have any say in the children placed in your home?
Once a child comes into care, or is about to, they will call and ask if you are interested in the child. You can ask any questions and get as much info as you want before deciding. I have only said no to one call! Obviously if you are too picky about what you will take they will be less likely to call you about future placements.

#3) Other kids?
A few weeks ago we were at dinner at someone in our ward's house. We've been in this ward for a year, so people don't really know anything about our past foster experiences. I said something about "other kids" and got a weird look. Not all foster kids go to adoption, another thing I have to explain a lot.

#4) Family matters:
One of DCFS's first priority when a child comes into care is "kinship". To see if any of the child's family is interested, willing or able to take that child in. 3 of my 4 foster kids have gone to kinship.

The main priority is reunification, getting that child back to it's birth parents. They are not an cheap and easy adoption agency. They do a lot of work with birth parents to make sure they do everything they can to help reunification happen. Their goal is not to place a baby in the aching-infertile's arms, but to try to keep the original family unit in tack, as long as it is safe.

#5) How long do the kids stay?
When I get asked this I'm always a little baffled as to why people as that. It is not a set thing, "This kid will be in foster care for 6 months and then go back home." Yep, not even close. You NEVER know. When we first started and had Ben my friend, who is adopted through foster care, always told me, "We were told that these 2 girls would be with us (as foster siblings) for 6 weeks, that was all. But, my parents ended up adopting them!" That was one thing I was told when we got Emma, "It might be a week or two, a month or so, or ......, we don't know how long you'll have her." I always though it was funny whenever our CPS worker would pause there at the end, he didn't dare say forever! We had Ben for 3 months, but only because his kinship was out of state. If they had lived in the same state, we would of had him for 1 month.

On the 2 month mark of having Emma in our home I really thought reunification with Sam might happen! She was really working at it and I was nervous. I have never done reunification before, and still haven't. Then a few hours after I thought Sam would get her back our caseworker called to tell me Sam was thinking about relinquishing! Long story short, ya never know!

We've had kids stay as short as 2 to 3 weeks.

#6) Is it hard when they leave?
I was an emotional wreck when Ben left. He was my baby, my first, my sweet little tiny baby boy. I remember watching their car drive off and started bawling! We went inside and my cousin was talking about how she went to the movies the night before. Trying to take my mind off Ben, in my sobs I asked her, "What.. (sob, sob, sob) movie... (chocking back tears) did you... (breath) see?" But, that is all a part of foster care. I knew that going in and I was okay with that. It was hard, but I would do it again in a heartbeat!

I'll be honest, the horrible combination of circumstances lead me to not feel even a little bit sad when Isaac and Madison left. I did miss Madison, but nothing like I did Ben. In fact the night before they left I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve! I know, horrible... But we had too many emotionally (and physically) straining things going on all at once! They went to family, whom adopted them so I truly believe they were better off that way.

I missed my little Joey, but to be honest. Once we adopted Emma it to a whole lot easier have our own!

#7) What are the benefits/ What makes it worth it?
Aside from adopting Emma, the first thing that comes to my mind is Ben. When we got him he was delayed, wasn't thriving, was sick and on and on and on! He eat non-stop the first week we had him! Heck, he eat constantly the whole time we had him. I remember once he just kept eating until he threw up! By the time he left he was happy, healthy, thriving, developmentally when he should be, and 100% perfect. We only had him 3 months. That is why it makes it worth it for me, to physically see how I affected him life!

#8) How long does it take to get a child placed in your home?
Ben- 15 minutes!
Isaac and Madison- 2 1/3 months
Emma- 7 1/2 months
Joey- 3 months
Chandler- 7 months
Dora- 2 weeks
It all depends on what and when children are taken.

#9) Do you know when your next foster kid is coming?
Well, it isn't really a planned thing! You don't get 9 months notice.
With Ben, we found out on a Monday around 4PM and were able to pick him up on Thursday around 4PM. It would of been sooner, but there was a blizzard that kept him from getting to us.
Isaac and Madison, we had right around 24 hours notice.
Emma was our shortest so far... 45 minutes!
Joey- 1 hour
Chandler- 24 hours
Dora- it was going to be 16 hours, then they called (at the 16 hour mark) and said it would be another 24 hours.
I always tell people, I can just randomly show up with a kid one day, I have NO idea when they are coming!

#10) How long until you can adopt a foster kid?
Someone asked me how long it was until Sam decided to relinquish, 2 months. So why was another 4 months until you finalized the adoption? ALL children/ teens being adopted in the state of Utah have to be in the home that is adopting them for 6 months before they can finalize the adoption.

Once the adoption is finalized you can get sealed! All you need is a copy of the adoption decree. Our attorney said if it was urgent we could of gotten a copy that same day.

One of my awesome readers reminded me I forgot #11) how long does it take?

Time #1:
September : We decided to do foster care and called them. The consultant, I think that’s what she’s called, came to our house and talked to us more about it and made sure we really wanted to.

October: We took the training classes

November: We finished and sent in all the paperwork. We didn’t get the paperwork until the classes and then we were out of town for a week so we were slow!

January: Found out everything cleared

February: the beginning of the month we had our home study. We were told the Regional Adoption Committee ”RAC” would call us within a week. After 2 weeks I called them. We met with them at the end of February. That was the final step for us to be approved. 15 minutes after meeting with them we got the call about Ben. 3 days we were able to pick him up!

So from start to finish with a placement, 6 months.

Then we had a three month gap between Ben leaving and Isaac and Madison coming. We had about 3 calls between them, but none of those panned out.

Time #2:
January: We decided and called the Utah Foster Care Foundation. Because we had done it before no consultant came out.

February or March (I can’t remember): We took the training classes. We also sent in our paperwork around this time.

June: Everything cleared and we scheduled a home study. It was either the end of June or sometime in July we had our home study.

August: Again, “RAC” didn’t call us, I eventually went there because they wouldn’t return my calls. We met with them sometime in August.

This time took 8 months!

Then we didn’t get a single call until the end of February, which didn’t happen. Then we got the call on Emma in April. So from when we started until we had a placement was 15 months!

My biggest Tip:
If yours friends are family members are doing foster care. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT ask personal questions about the child in care or their family!!!! As foster parents there is a confidentiality policy. We are not allowed, by law, to share personal information with anyone outside our child case (Caseworkers, CASA works,courts and, law enforcement) It drives me nuts when people ask questions, I say I can not tell them and they just keep on asking! Think about it from the child's perspective, would you want strangers knowing the most intimate, personal and something horrible details about your life?!? Nope...

For more info go -here-


Ashley said...

Thank you for posting this! I've been wanting to look into foster care for some time now and I really appreciate your honesty.

In all honesty, my husband's experiences with having foster children was less than savory and it's wonderful to see it work out well and be a positive experience. Thank you so much for sharing this!!!

Penelope said...

This is a great post for those considering foster care! Thanks for joining in the blog hop.

Be sure to enter the foster care giveaway.

Elisabeth said...

found you on the blog hop. love this line :I always tell people, I can just randomly show up with a kid one day, I have NO idea when they are coming!" :)

Rita said...

Love that you spell it out for those who are consideing it! I think the unknown (of all you describe) is whats holdiing people back from doing it. If they'd just make the first call...after seeing your site...we'd have a lot more foster families. As a former foster mom I wanted to say thanks for keeping it real...and educating people on the realistic expectations!

Rita Brennan Freay

Anonymous said...

Yes it is better to know everything you can about foster care. I have a frien who was a foster parents in four out of five states they lived in. While in the state of Indiana they has a horrible experience with case workers as did many of the foster children they had. Other states they had a wonderful experience. They are know for prejudice towards those not from their "group." Be very careful and ask around. Make sure you are getting open honest answer. If you do not hear any "real negatives," ask someone else. Nothing is a perfect ecperience so get n=both sides of the story before you decided what to do.

Emily said...

Thank you for posting this, my husband and I are just starting the long process. Our first class beings next week. Wish me luck!