Becoming a Foster Parent: What You Really Need to Know
If you are considering becoming a foster parent, what do you need to know before you move forward with the process? Host Dawn Davenport, Executive Director of Creating a Family, the national infertility & adoption education and support nonprofit, interviews Irene Clements. She has been a foster parent for over 27 years, fostered 127 kids, adopted 4 and is the Executive Director of the National Foster Parent Association.
- The Deciding Process of Becoming a Foster Parent
- What is the first step to take if you are thinking about becoming a foster parent?
- Should you use the state foster care agency, or go with a private agency with a contract with the state to place foster kids?
- What is the difference between using a state agency or a private agency to become a foster parent?
- Can you get licensed by both a private and state agency?
- The Home Study Process of Becoming a Foster Parent
- What type of education/training is required of foster parents?
- How much does it cost to take the training?
- What is the foster care home study like?
- Do you have to own your own home, make a certain amount of money, be married?
- Can you work full time and be a foster parent?
- If you identify as LGBTQ can you adopt from foster care?
- The Matching Process of Becoming a Foster Parent
- How much information do you get on the child?
- How much lead time do you get before a child is placed with you?
- Can you specify age and gender?
- Can you specify the degree of special need you are able to foster?
- Who makes the decision of what child gets matched with your family?
- Foster Parent Subsidies
- How much and how to negotiate?
- The First Week with a New Foster Child
- How much warning do the children get that they are being moved?
- How to help a child transition to your foster home?
- How to prepare children already in your home for a foster placement?
- Working with Birth Parents as a Foster Parent
- What is expected of foster parents in working with birth parents?
- Are foster parents responsible for getting children to meetings with birth parents?
- How much are children told about why they are in foster care?
- Foster Parenting
- How much support do you get from the caseworker?
- Can you insist that the child receive therapy that the state will pay for?
- What is respite care and how easy is it to get?
- Can you take your foster child on vacation?
- Permanency Planning for Foster Children
- How much say do foster parent have in what happens to the child?
- What if the foster parent disagrees with the caseworker on what is best for the child?
- Can foster parents adopt their foster children?
- In-service Education for Foster Parents
- What are the ongoing educational/training requirements in order to keep your license?
* Note this is an automatic transcription, please forgive the errors.
[00:00:00] Today we’re going to be talking with Irene Clements about foster care Irene and her husband were foster parents for over 27 years. They fostered 127 kids and adopted four. She is the executive director of the National Foster Parents Association. She also serves on our board and we are so fortunate to have her. And I read every time you and I have talked we just we go on so many changes and we so enjoy talking. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to talking with you today about author parenting and how to become a foster parent. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us.
[00:00:42] Well I’m just honored to be on.
[00:00:45] You know we are going to start as a logical place to start is at the beginning I guess that’s redundant isn’t it. So we’re going to start the very beginning of this exciting stage. So what is the first step that should that person should take if they’re thinking about becoming a foster parent. I mean what do they do there. So they’re thinking about it. They they’ve heard about foster parenting they’re curious about it. What did they do. What’s the first thing they should do.
[00:01:16] Well they need to look at their motivation. You know what is it that’s drawing them or driving them to considering becoming a foster family. And I get that understanding of what that reason or reasons are.
[00:01:33] What was that reason. I mean good. Well let me hear what the bad yeah a bad reason would be.
[00:01:39] I heard that there’s a lot of money in it. We hear it all the time all those lost parents just do that for the money. Yeah. That is absolutely not the truth. But yes there are there can be some bad reasons. Another bad reason is that perhaps one of the adults is a pedophile. So there are there are bad reasons why some people try to become foster parents.
[00:02:14] What would be the what would be a reason that if if if you’re deep thinking deeply and you say OK this is what would be a reason that you would think OK this is a person who should go forward and consider foster parents.
[00:02:27] Oh there’s there’s there’s a million of them. I mean there really are. It’s individualized. It depends on the couple or a single person who’s who’s contemplating you know becoming a foster parent. So in our case we had infertility issues and kind of a natural process for us was to how then can we get kids and our family even if they’re not forever kids. And that drew us to foster care. Now we were blessed four times during that period of time with children that were we were able to adopt and you know make a forever part of our family so that there’s religious reasons you know there’s good back reasons. There’s there’s all kinds and it just does vary as much as the people themselves. And so one of the things that people need to be aware of is that when they get to the point where they’ve been talking to a particular agency that they feel they want to work with that agency will start asking a lot of questions about their motivation. And that sort of helps they know what your motivations are. You know very little on there but they’re going to want to know that.
[00:03:53] And before we move off of motivation certainly something that we hear a lot is I want to become a foster parent because I want to adopt and often what we would tell people is that certainly about 25 percent of the children who enter foster care will end up being adopted usually by their foster parent. So it certainly happens that as you pointed out it happened four times to you on the other hand you also fostered 127 kids and they all that you need to look at that. We track people that that there are over 100000 children in foster care in the United States today that are their parental rights have already been terminated and they are legally free for adoption. They are literally waiting for adoptive parents. So if that is your primary overwhelming motivation to adopt then you need to. One of the things you should consider is why not consider one of those children who are legally free. Now the average age of those children can go anywhere from six to eight. You know it depends on the year but say around seven is the average age of the child that is legally free. There are also a lot of sibling groups. So I think it’s important to get that question so much. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to adopt the child that you are fostering but your primary goal as a foster parent is to help heal the birth family that. Yeah. OK so that’s that’s probably a good motive.
[00:05:19] I mean that’s a good thing for us to get out at the beginning and end often if that if you don’t think that you can wholeheartedly embrace that role then probably fostering isn’t your best bet. You probably should consider one of the children who is legally free because it’s not fostering you know your your. That’s that you’re actually your Garrett not guaranteed of course but you will be the you’re approaching it as an adoptive parent at that point. All right now let’s talk about how to choose. You have two choices. Generally depends on the state. And we might as well get it out there at the beginning that you’re going to hear this a lot in this. And when Irene and I talk it depends on the state you’re going to hear unless you’re going to rip your hair out because almost everything depends on the state. But in most states you have a choice between working with the state’s foster care agency to become a foster parent or working with a private agency that has a contract with the state to place children in foster care. So what should what’s the difference between using the state agency and a private agency to become a foster parent. And and and how do you decide which one to do.
[00:06:34] Well we both have bureaucracies. You know lots of paperwork that sort of thing because they follow the same rules whether it’s the state licensing the family or a private nonprofit licensing the the the family the rules are the same. What differs sometimes is the staffing ratios you know how many families does a staff person have to work with how many children do they have to work with.
[00:07:07] And that sort of thing.
[00:07:09] So you know Penang again pending on where you are in some states it’s pretty much the full the state is the main provider and as you said in some states the state may be the smallest provider and they’ve contracted out the bulk of their foster care work. There are some states where metropolitan area may be an area where they’ve contracted everything out. But the rural areas of the state are still more state run. So it behooves whoever’s interested to really find out what are the what are the rules in your particular state. You know where you live because it could be different if you live in a big city than if you have in rural but to find out that those dynamics. And so you can make an informed decision. The other thing I always tell people who are interested is you do your homework. Don’t just hear somebody say oh I like so-and-so agency and call them and then don’t talk to anybody else. Talk to a variety of agencies that do this work because they all have their own set of their own philosophy about why they’re doing the work they’re doing. They have their mission. Most of these are not nonprofit. Some are faith based. Some are not. You know they come with the the mission that their board of directors has decided that this organization or this agency is going to I’m going to live up to.
[00:08:50] And so if you visit with two or three or four one of them including the State of the county where you live and have a list of questions prepared that that are important to you what do you want to know about how they operate. How often do they come to see you how much support are they going to provide to you as a foster family or do they provide respite care on a regular basis. You know what is their policy to respond to phone calls emails and texts. Because sometimes you need help right away and learn about them. And when you’re asking these questions and they’re talking to you about this you can start to get the feel of kind of how that how that each of those agencies operates and lives out their mission. And then you can make an informed decision about who do you want to go to to finally enter into the process of completing a full application and starting home study or the home screening process.
[00:10:02] All of those are are excellent questions that you need to see the differences between how often they visit what type of services do they provide specifically you mentioned respite care. Do they provide transportation for child to take child to take the child to therapy. How much handholding they have.
[00:10:26] Post the post placement support ratio to caseworker to child. All of those things are valid questions. Creating a family we have and guide on how to choose an adoption agency and that guide. We have a list of questions and we have a section on how to choose the foster care agency. Yeah and there’s a list of questions there so you can get to that by going to our Web site. It’s FREE. So well I think there’s no it’s not free. There’s a very small charge. It’s creating a family. Dot org hover over the word resource. Click on the guide and it’s how to choose an adoption agency. You know I think it is. It seems to me from having talked with many many many people who are foster parents that I think it’s a fair statement that generally speaking you will get better for lack of a better word I’m going to use customer service with a private agency. However it may not be an option number one. Number two because your county doesn’t have doesn’t have a contract or your state doesn’t have it doesn’t contract. And 2 there are certain counties and states there which it depends on the type of child you feel best able to foster. And the county or the private agency they may segregate which children they work with. So you may not have a choice from that standpoint as well.
[00:12:01] Exactly and that’s why it’s important to get to know each of those agencies. They may serve primarily excuse me teenagers they may serve primarily children with primary medical needs you know. And so if they if they have kind of their niche or they may serve children that have a you know therapeutic diagnoses. And so there’s going to be different expectations based on those populations of children of what those agencies are going to expect from their foster parents. There will be a factor in the amount of training preserve us as well as in-service training that they’ll need on a regular basis in order to continue to improve their skills with these kids. And certainly regardless of who the child is and what their circumstance. We know that every child who comes into care pretty much across the board has had more than a few traumatic experiences. And so we’re having to learn about trauma and how do we parent children who experience trauma that we didn’t see them experience so we don’t know what it was. So we don’t know what triggered their behaviors and how do we figure those things out. So again you know I don’t know what the questions are that you have in your guide but certainly talking about some of those issues about you know how do you best prepare us to meet the needs of the children that you would call us to join our family.
[00:13:48] OK thought. Why wouldn’t you get a license with both the private and the state agency and see which one places or matches you the quickest is that upon pretty much every state has a rule that she can only be licensed by one entity at a time.
[00:14:05] Yep. I don’t know of any state that the new device. You know and not to say that it’s that the first agency that you choose and you go with will be the one that you stay with. I mean you may find out over a period of time that they are not meeting your needs or they may be having theirs and then you have to go through the process of say go find another agency.
[00:14:30] You know I don’t let your heart because you’ve got to go through the training again generally although it will do the exact same training if they have in certain states require that would be the exact right training or may not have to. Yeah that’s right but it’s not necessarily an easy Oh no it aren’t an easy thing to do.
[00:14:50] And the other thing that people need to remember is if you are currently fostering children and you decide you want to move to another agency you have to know what the rules are. The state there where you live in or the county you live in. No. Can I if I make that decision lets children move with me or can agency with say no those children were placed with our agency we placed them with you. We’re going to keep them and put them in another family. You know that’s a disruption to those children. So certainly that needs to be taken into consideration because we really really really don’t want to disrupt children. When they’re you know with a family that has already said I’m going to I’m going to be here for you my right work. You and your mom and your dad grandma whoever it all is to help your family get back together again. And so we all know the future moves for these children by far the better it all off it is. Yes.
[00:15:53] So they make that decision carefully.
[00:15:56] Absolutely. Some time do due diligence. You know do your homework.
[00:16:02] All right. Well mouth move to the home study process. That’s the next step because we’ve now decided on an agency. And we’ve alluded to it.
[00:16:12] I’m glad you brought it up as an education based organization of course it would be something that’s why I am so glad you brought up and that is what type of training education is required a foster parent again sends out where you live free service training can vary from anywhere from 10 hours before you are qualified and in the eyes of that state to be a foster parent to 45 hours of training before you qualify to be a foster parent. So it depends on what the state has decided are the the standards that have to be met within their state. So your agency that will put you through all these trainings they’ll offer them hopefully when you know that you can get to them. And during that process you will have your home study get started. Many places they’ll do that. Some of the training for a couple of weeks kind of get to know you. See how you’re doing in the group training that kind of thing and then they’ll start the home study process because they want to get a feel for you. They want you to get a feel for them so that some time in that first few weeks there might be some opportunity to say you know we really don’t know if you’ll fit in with us based on how you responded to our training or the answers you’ve given our questions or something like that or they’ll come and say we’re just so excited that you’re here. You know you just did a great job during the training and that sort of thing.
[00:18:01] And you as a prospective foster parent though certainly have a responsibility to be looking at that agency in the same way they’re looking at you to say you know what I’m just not real comfortable with this. I’m thinking maybe maybe this isn’t going to be the agency for me. So there’s this mutual time to look at each other and then once that whole study starts and then we’re in for earnest you know and a lot of investment is made by the agency staff time to learn about your family you and your family and almost all the dynamics that influence your day to day life and how those things would influence and affect another child or children who would enjoy your family through foster care.
[00:18:55] So the homesteading involved involve involved interview with. If you’re married with both partner together and separate usually and their background all the kids if you have children children will be unless they’re very young and the kids would have those same types of interviews.
[00:19:23] We have to have references not nonrelated. Most states they check your your finances to make sure that you can afford to incorporate additional child or children into your family with him daily. The reimbursement that’s available in that state without creating a major hardship on your family.
[00:19:49] So they’re not Berrin and don’t talk about that. So how do you have to be rich to be a foster parent.
[00:19:57] No not at all. But you need to be able to meet your needs.
[00:20:03] Be able to afford it.
[00:20:05] You can’t be relying exclusively on the Foster subsidy that will be coming in strictly meaning your monthly rent will be able to prove yes you’ve got to prove out to them how you’re living now and you’re making it you know and that the reimbursement that comes in sorry your care of the children. It can be used for those that child’s needs. Now you know that’s not to say if you get a five hundred dollar check you have run out spend 500 dollars on the child. That’s not what it means. It means that you know part of that goes to the the your house your rent or your your Pame house payment your home insurance you know towards gas to get the kids back and forth to all their school activities and therapy sessions visits to family. Many states now require foster parents to do that transportation. Some agencies have a separate reimbursement for that. Others don’t. Again it depends on where you’re at. But but it covers clothing school supplies of specific therapies things like that that you know that covers that as well unless it’s covered under Medicaid Medicaid covers the medical and behavioral health needs.
[00:21:33] Although I know a foster parents who want the child to be receiving a specific type of therapy or I know of another foster parent that one of the child in private school because they had a school for learning disabilities and the child she felt like with thrive there. So she used the subsidy for that she had to get permission to do that.
[00:21:57] Yes she didn’t know that if she can still meet all the rest of the needs of the child without harming her family.
[00:22:04] Right. And she was able to socialize that right. Do you have to own your own home. No.
[00:22:10] Can you live in a when you don’t live in an apartment. You do live in a mobile home. You have to be able to meet the standards for the state and that those are usually called minimum standards and it will they’ll determine how many people get shot children can have in a bedroom. How much square footage does each child have to have. You know they’ll say children under five can share a room. Boy and girl. But after that they can’t. So all those things get hashed out in the home study to see how much space do you have if you have children of your own. Where where did they sleep. Where are you planning on putting the foster children that can determine sometimes if you could take boys or girls or if you have room for both. So it’s a process that has to happen while they learn about you. And how your your make up of your family and how your family operates so they can then make some decisions about who can what. Children can be placed into your into your home.
[00:23:25] So again not a lot of people live in mobile homes but some certainly do you know.
[00:23:36] But you don’t have to own your home. You don’t you can be a renter.
[00:23:40] They’re going to want to know that you have you know secure maybe a lease or something so that you’re not just going to lose your home. And then what do you do with your kid. These kids kind of situation and be married.
[00:23:55] Can you know you can be single. Absolutely do you have.
[00:24:01] Can you can you foster if you worked full time.
[00:24:05] Yes. Many foster parents do it. What occurs then is the age of the child. What do you do if a child’s preschool age. How do you meet that and get the child to school with this child’s school age. Who’s there when school’s out. If you’re still working till five you know what arrangements will there be for this the safety and care of the child in your absence.
[00:24:37] Well well well daycare be covered in some states.
[00:24:42] Yes. They try to cover day care if they have enough money appropriated by their state legislators to do that. And so sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they’ll run out before the end of the fiscal year depending on how many children they place that need that. Again that’s one of those questions that needs to be on the list that you ask about when when you have working parents.
[00:25:15] Because there’s got to be solutions to those things.
[00:25:22] And those have to be documented solutions right. You know that you’ve got to be able to prove out what your plan is who those people would be the support that plan and that sort of thing. And you did it for day care. I know we get calls in that our international office a lot about why I got the child they said I’d get daycare but it’s a month and they still don’t have an opening.
[00:25:47] I don’t have any more time off. I don’t know what to do. So you have to be flexible and figure out what am I going to do if there isn’t daycare for you know a week two or three.
[00:26:03] Or take longer to get the paperwork done to even get the child in and get them on a waiting list wait in advance because you don’t know the age of the child that you’re going to be in. So yeah. So you’re not able to think in advance and you know as with a pregnancy you can say well my month I’m going to have a baby. So in three months after that I’m going to need daycare. You don’t have that luxury. So. So if you are LGBTQ can you adopt from foster care.
[00:26:35] Is there any way that you know of now that prohibit that.
[00:26:40] Not statewide. I mean there may be agencies within that state that contract with the state run by foster care and adoption services that have policies that are based on maybe their religious beliefs. So when you go into looking for an agency and you fit into that category then you need to address those what is your policy on licensing and adoption for the LGBTQ population. Because they don’t need to tell you about. And the Supreme Court says things about well if you don’t do it then you need to be able to provide them with the names of two or three other agencies that they can go to and become foster adoptive parents.
[00:27:35] The bottom line with this is ask all of these questions upfront because as you’re pointing out you need to make certain that you’re working with the right agency and you don’t want to be you know want to go through the time and effort and the education and the home study and then find out afterwards that oh wait a minute I have five children living at home and the state requires that there be no more than five children in the house and that type of thing. They find out. Make sure you are the good news is that agencies also don’t want to spend time with families that aren’t going to ultimately qualify. So they’re going to be the very first meeting they’re going to be asking some of the really general questions that will help you figure it out. Right now moving on to the next step which is the matching process. So how much information do you get on the child and does it really happen that you’re going to get a phone call from the child’s caseworker. And at that point how much information do you have and can you say yes and no.
[00:28:41] Obviously it’s a ideal world. You would talk well you would get all the information they have available. So part of it part of the dilemma becomes is this the child’s first placement or not. If it’s the child’s first placement because the child has just been removed from their parent to parents. Sometimes they really don’t have much information. You know they they’re there in a crisis mode. They put some of the kids few their belongings in a black trash bag and they’re out the door so nobody really found out a whole lot about the child because then oftentimes the parents are so distraught or so angry that they are unable or unwilling to provide additional information. So you if you get a call for a child like that you’re probably not going to know much if you get it you know gender and age.
[00:29:52] I’m talking about is getting to me guess even that can be done that can be tricky for them sometimes not all but occasionally especially you have a child that they call you for that’s been in foster care and for whatever reason is no longer going to be able to stay in there with their current family. And they have to move. They should have a lot of information to give you because they have everything they’ve learned about the child during the whole the whole case. They have everything the foster family has learned about the child while they’ve had that child. So they should have great information. You don’t always get it though because people are in a hurry. They need to place three more kids and three more homes. You know yet. And it’s six o’clock at night. They haven’t had time to transcribe the information that sort of thing. The biggest thing is is oftentimes they try to say this child has to have a placement right now. You know we need to place the child this child this afternoon. And you don’t. And what you say back is are you sure because every child ought to have a pre placement visit. I mean that’s best practice has always been that they can come visit who you are see who you are you see who they are. They’ll come back the next day for placement or the worker takes them to local ice cream shop and they have ice cream for 30 minutes and then they come back and leave. They’ve seen your face before. Right.
[00:31:44] There are there are practices that will help make this child’s joining of your family much more successful. What typically happens is is that no it’s an emergency. We didn’t have time to plan this. You know the foster parents are with right now just called and said get them out right now or bringing them late leaving them in your office which is a horrible horrible horrible thing for me to say but it happens. And so you get a child that’s unprepared for the move. Who’s scared to death. And you don’t have much information so requesting and then demanding information upfront and immediately as quickly as possible. If you when you say yes the other thing is is that they call and say well you know Mrs. Jones we really need to bring this child right now. We know you have an empty spot that this child would fit in. And Ms Jones says you know I think I need to call my husband. Talk to him a little bit about it. Not to say you know if can you get him in five minutes. Do they put pressure on you. Because there are not enough foster homes. So the bottom line are aren’t desperate to place with those families who have an opening. And that’s that’s a terrible way to place children. We should be looking at who this child is who this family is where this family strong strong points of this child need. Let’s match them up you know but that’s a luxury the system across this country does not have now because we have too few families opening their homes to these kids.
[00:33:45] Yeah yeah. And so the reality is is so very often we heard over and over it is you’re getting a call it is an emergency there’s urgency behind it and they need a place to put the child and all of you are in tents which are to make this a reasoned decision. Let’s do this gradually let’s make this in the best interest of the child. And let me get as much information so that I know that this will be a long term placement a good fit for our family. All of those go out the window. And so it’s something that I think it behooves us to think about at least go in without the Pollyanna expectation and then perhaps we will be less disappointed when that happens. But there is a way that you do get the emergency call which as you said is more typical than not. So the next day what do you do then to start trying to get information. To talk in a minute about what to do with the child how to incorporate and to help this child transition. But can you get. How do you create a sense of urgency with your caseworker to get as much information after the child is already placed with you so that you can better meet this child’s needs.
[00:35:05] Well that’s the thing. This is a new placement than the placements probably being made by an investigator. So they don’t follow that child once the child is placed in a foster home. Typically another type of worker gets assigned a case worker at that point. Yeah. So then it might they don’t know who that’s going to be yet. And so you could gall and say well is that what we have signed order yet but somebody has to know something enough to talk to me about this child. Lono don’t you have you know we don’t have you don’t have work you have to wait. And two weeks later they still have a worker. So again it is going up the chain of command knowing that you can find out you know call whoever agency it isn’t say let me speak to a supervisor of this the unit that this child is going to be in. If you don’t get satisfaction there let me speak to that person. The supervisor is a supervisor because I have to have information. I want to do a good job with this child. My family wants this child to be successful. I need to have information and I need it now to treat them as was respectful as you can because you want to be treated with respect to. So sometimes it’s really hard to not get angry and say the system is broken you know and don’t really care about this child went off most of the time they’re really doing the best they can but they’ve got much staff turnover too that they don’t even have a worker to assign.
[00:36:46] We have at creating a family we have a resource for called How To Get Your caseworkers attention and foster care. And it has been immensely popular which is kind of a sad statement but it does give you some specific things you can do and cautioned you about being respectful but being assertive and so you can just google that. Or it’s it’s a resource that will be attached to the court but it will also you just google it and creating a family and you will find it. All right can you specify age gender and can you specify the degree of special need or behavioral issues that you think you can handle. Because that’s something you can specify.
[00:37:32] Yeah I mean they’re going to ask you all those things and it may even give you a form to fill out.
[00:37:39] You know that you check off this. I think we can do this.
[00:37:43] We’re scared of you know there are certainly always opportunities for growth.
[00:37:53] So what was earned over the years though is that even though you you’ve kind of set down these parameters of age age ranges and needs of the child may have that sort of thing that and they they agree to that and the home study that sometimes you’ll get the study back and it will still say on your license your old 18. They’ll say Oh yeah but we know you know we’ve talked about it. We understand this is this is the preference. Well then the thing that kicks in is there’s not enough foster homes. You’ve got a place to put somebody you know and they start look and this is another thing I hate but the kind of like three houses caught you got a place not in the right place not events. You know going to meet a child’s needs the best. But you have a place for that child. So what we what we’re doing at the National Foster Parent Association is always trying to tell people because we hear and I said a while ago and I almost choked when I did that we put kids in homes. We don’t replace children. They really don’t place them we have children joined families families heal homes don’t homes put a roof over your head you know they keep you safe in the rain but they don’t heal children. It’s the family dynamic those parents and those other children that are at home that work the magic and somehow we have to keep reminding the people that we work with the agencies that we work with the people who make the decisions on the state and federal level.
[00:39:46] That’s where the rubber hits the road. That’s where the most healing goes on. And to put more emphasis on the family. So in order to do that we have to not only pay attention to who the mom and the dad is or the mom or the dad is but who are their children what are their needs. How do they feel about this. How is this affecting them on a regular basis. So every time a worker comes out and talks to the child that some foster care in the home they need to be talking to the other kids too because they have to know that everybody is still well still healthy here.
[00:40:23] Yeah. In order ideal world. That’s what happened. OK so you do have the ability to to request age and gender. But the bottom line is and I appreciate that you’re giving us a cautionary warning that although you may specify it don’t be surprised if if you get requests that exceed what you were comfortable with and sometimes it could be that it’s an area for growth for you and surprise. And sometimes it won’t. But that’s right that’s just the reality of what we’re facing right now. Let’s talk about you know what we all hate to talk about or what our mother my mother anyway told me I shouldn’t be talking about that with money. All right foster parent subsidies you said at the beginning that if you’re going into thinking you’re going to get rich think again. On the other hand their foster parents are given subsidies. How much. And is this something that you negotiate or is this a set in stone by the gate. How to have a bigger all the savages. It depends somewhat on the child.
[00:41:46] Kind of all of the above. To be honest. Each state again through their state legislatures establish a rate or rate of reimbursement that they can provide on a daily basis for a child. Each child that comes into care in some states they look at the age of the child and they’ll say OK if the child is under 3 we know they’re going to have more money need to spend more money on diapers so we’re going that price increase the daily rate a little bit. In some states say well you know once they get to be 12 13 their clothes are more expensive. They have more opinions about what they wear. They want to look you know dress like their peers at school. So it’s going to cost a little more. So we’re going to increase that rate per day for that population. So states look at it very different. They look at it that way then they can look at it in the needs of the child. So if this is what’s considered a child with basic need there’s a rate. If it’s a child let’s say with primary medical needs there would be a higher rate because the requirements for the family would be more stringent more one on one time. You know much more close supervision perhaps. You know sometimes you may have a child that needs to be suctioned 24 hours a day every 20 minutes or something like that. I mean so there are rates for that.
[00:43:23] It may be that the child has therapeutic needs has a mental health diagnoses or has some severe behavioral issues that would fit into a treatment level of care. So there would be a higher rate for those kids. So it depends on how the state has decided or the county government depending on if you’re in a state run or county run government state how they have decided they’re going to fund the the the needs of the child and what that’s going to look like any wiggle room.
[00:44:07] OK. So what. OK. So that’s the bottom line.
[00:44:12] They originally Alemao. There’s no negotiating there’s no anything like that.
[00:44:17] So so when you walk in the door of any agency and you know they can tell you what the rates are that day. And they usually stay that way for a year. Set in fiscal year again by the state or county government. Some of the some of the money comes from the federal government right through funds that are earmarked for children in foster care. Additional funds then are general revenue funds from the state or county that gets blended in. And so they take a look at all of the pots of money that they can draw from and they figure out what they have for that year to fund children in foster care and they’re not only funding the child in the foster family but there also it’s a child being served by a contracted agency they’re having to fund that agency per day for that child as well to pay for their staff to pay for their foster home supervision of your family to pay for all the training that they have to make sure that you get every year in in-service training the support that they’re providing for you. Hopefully the mentoring that they’re providing for you as a family. So there’s a lot that goes into that.
[00:45:48] So the bottom line from a from a foster parents standpoint is find out up front. I wouldn’t make it the first thing out of your mouth because I do not know the perception is that that’s not your primary thing. But but it is something you can find out. It’s ānanda it’s for the most part not negotiable A. And so now with adoption that’s a different issue if you’re adopting a child from foster care but for the Foster for fostering. So that’s something to find out in advance and make certain that that is something that works for your finances.
[00:46:22] Right now what I want to shift now because quite frankly when you were talking about you know a child either being immediately removed is sitting in their caseworkers car or the investigators car if they had been removed and they’re calling around the child may or may not be hearing the phone calls you know trying to find a place for this child and the child then shows up at your house. Number one if they’ve just been removed from our bed even if they’re leaving their foster family this is a traumatic moment everything in this kid’s life is topsy turvy unless as you’ve mentioned in an ideal world we have a long lead time the children visit they they visit then they come back and then they spend longer periods of time and there’s a gradual transition. That’s a different issue. But but as you point out very often that’s not what’s happening. So we’ve got that coming into our room that has experienced trauma on other levels. Most likely children are not removed from families without the abuse and neglect that this child already experienced some trauma and the very act of being removed and being dropped on your doorstep so to speak is traumatic. So let’s talk about some tips for families for this who are dealing with a child who has just been brought to your home and less than ideal transition situation. What are some thoughts of what adoptive amounts are not that the foster parents can do at that moment to show compassion to this child and to help this child transition.
[00:48:05] Well some of it depends on the age of the child of course. But you know when you enter that front door and you meet the child for the first time you don’t get all excited and happy and say oh I’m so glad you’re here because that that the child whether they’re they don’t know you from Adam.
[00:48:32] They’re scared of you. And so it’s to how do you approach them in a very kind loving manner. Maybe touch them on the shoulder you know had them on the head not some big huge hug you know because that’s not where they’re at. Some don’t want to be touched. You have to kind of take your cues from watching their body language and certainly their eyes and just say you know Miss So-and-So called in and told me that you were going to need a family for a while they help you with your situation and our family has agreed to that we want you to join our family now. And we’re all going to do everything we can to help you and your family get back together because that is what you’re there for if they help reunify a family if that can be safe. And at that point that child needs to know that you’re going to work on their behalf on that because they don’t want anything in the world more than to go home. I don’t care how bad they’ve been abused and so they I mean that’s what they know. That’s those are the people that they know that they love that they believe love them regardless of how they’ve shown their love sometimes. So it’s acknowledging that this is not a good thing for anybody. We know that but you’re there to help them as much as you can to get through it. And then it’s wonderful if you can have some cookies baking or something no that smells good and say you know I need to talk to Ms.
[00:50:21] So-and-so over a little while and why don’t we come in here and let’s let’s get some cookies and milk and the same is so-and-so. Would you like a cup of coffee with your cookies. And if you have other kids that are at home you know say this would be a good time maybe to introduce you to the other our children that live in this home. And then you introduce them and everybody has cookies. I mean it’s it’s how do you try to make that child feel welcomed.
[00:50:56] But not that. Oh go. Now I got you into your hours you know. That’s what they don’t want.
[00:51:03] I mean they’re going to fight you on that. And so to reinforce that you know we know that that that Miss So-and-So wants you to stay here for a while and we’re happy we’re going to learn more about each other. And I hope to be able to meet your parents soon and maybe we can start working towards figuring out a way for you to be able to go home that it be safe for you to go home. Be honest with these kids is really important and that is being honest with them because that is always the goal. Until that gets far enough in the case where the parents maybe have made it evident that it’s not their goal. And then the dialogue starts to change when the caseworkers and the therapists say it’s time to start changing the dialogue. Pardon me.
[00:52:01] I was going to say don’t hit the kids up with the family rule. The very first thing in our house. Now that’s true. It’s not really overwhelmed walking right now.
[00:52:12] You know he’s got a ghetto child about same age or a little older whatever say you know Johnny’s going to go show you where you’re going to sleep. OK. And when Johnny do it and then you can tell Johnny Johnny when y’all get done looking at the bedroom launch you bring the big old bucket of Lego’s in here and let’s let’s let’s play Lego’s. John can bring that big old bucket in and it on the floor and everybody plays the Lego’s for awhile so that the child can start to feel like they may fit in that it’s that he doesn’t need to be afraid for older kids. You know they might start testing the waters a little bit quicker about you know can I use fato and how if a guy is because they want to and they want to communicate with whoever they’ve been. Right. And so you have to look at that a little bit different and say well you know we’re going to talk about some of the how we operate around here as a family. And we’ll get to that in a little while or our tomorrow morning or whatever. So for right now let’s just kind of get to know each other little bit if that’s OK with you. And usually you’ll be fine with them.
[00:53:27] And most kids are coming with cell phones if they’re older and they’re older.
[00:53:32] Many of them will have them. Those that don’t deal are going to want to know how am I going to communicate with my family my friends my kids in school that may not be on the sea anymore. They’re going to want to know where am I going to go to school. Am I going to get to go back to my school. That’s a question that needs to be answered right away with the caseworker who are placing the child because you’re gonna have to know that the day the next day or the day after because you have to enroll a child within three days. So you know is this child changing he’s going to have to change schools or is the federal law that says kids get to stay in their own school and that the school districts and the state have to figure out how to get the kids back and forth. So right there’s a lot of planning that has to go on particularly for school age kids.
[00:54:26] Yes. All right. We’ve talked about a number of times in fact one of the things you suggest we talk to a child we say to the child is going to do everything we can to help you and your parents get back together.
[00:54:39] So let’s talk about working with birth parents. What is expected of foster parents and working with birth parents. Will they be one on one actually working with the foster parent I mean with the with the birth parents or as the caseworkers work with the birth parents and the foster parents work with the child.
[00:55:01] It it can be any of those things depending on where you read. So ideally you would have opportunities over a period of time to meet the parents let’s say at the visits. You’re facilitating transportation the child to wherever the visits are going to be the visits probably not going to be in your home. It may be at an office somewhere or McDonald’s or wherever it’s been decided for the visit and then you get to you know introduce yourself and start to let that parent know who you are. You’re not there to take their child away from them that you want to help them. And then let that relationship build. And then it’s up to the the the service planning team and the people that work with that family and with that child and with you of course about what the next steps are. What are those next steps. Where can those next steps be. The caseworkers will know you know is it. Do we feel like these people are safe. Well they try to her You are not the thing that gets in the way with a lot of relationships nowadays is that so many of the birth parents are drug involved and you know they’re actively using. Sometimes they have some pretty erratic behavior and that gets in the way of really effective we being able to work with them. But you take the direction from the caseworker who you know is responsible for them and their progress in their service plan to get direction on how much or how little interaction you can have.
[00:57:04] You’ll have some parents that you’ll soon know once you’ve been around a little bit they don’t have a clue how to be a parent. And then if you learn more about them they had a horrible horrible beginning they didn’t have parenting. And so you wind up doing is literally teaching them how to be a parent by parent.
[00:57:23] You’re modeling absolutely coparenting any time you’re modeling for them you are absolutely right. And you know that it’s a wonderful thing to be able to help these parents.
[00:57:39] How much do children how much a novice is somewhat age dependent. How much are children told about why they are in foster care. So how much should you to be totally honest. But you have evolved drugs. What if it involves incarceration or are you certain that they may.
[00:58:01] It’s got to be bad before children are removed. So this is an occasional use. This is something severe. Yes. Cooking meth or it’s using and selling oil like you say it could be that they are incarcerated or one parent is and the other parent is incapable of meeting the needs of the children because of their own drug abuse. Each case is different so the children know. I mean they they’ve been through the crisis and the trauma and you know the five year old been raising them the one in the two year old surprised that that child. Those are the kids that are hard to parent when they come into a foster family because there used to be a parent already. And so you have to approach those kids in a different way and that’s why in-service training becomes so important for everybody who gets licensed to be a foster parent. Because there is none. You never know it all. I mean there are learning opportunities every time you turn around because kids come in with different needs.
[00:59:15] Exact let me just mention one. No parent parent fied children who have have no young children who have had the role of a parent and are not used to and may well not want to relinquish that role. It’s part of their identity and also part of their responsibility.
[00:59:32] So yeah all there’s lots of opportunity for growth will that actually lead us into the next section which is you know how the actual parenting part of foster parenting how much training do you get as you are a foster parent. How much support are you getting or how much should you expect to get from the agency. Let’s say you are experiencing behavioral issues that you that that you don’t that your techniques what’s worked for you in the past are not working to help this child. So what should you expect. And how do you get to help them. How much would you expect.
[01:00:14] Well you should expect your agency to find the support that you need.
[01:00:27] So if it’s a specific topic or a training course that they know of or something like that that they can get that for you. If it’s mentoring from another foster parent who’s been really successful with some children like your parenting right now that you can’t seem to get across to then find that that foster parent to be your mentor. The reason you expect them to answer their phone or are respond to texts within reasonable amounts of time you know and that’s within a for a busy caseworker that might be within a day but never know more than that. And that when you tell them what you need and why that they come up with a solution that they’re able to find some way to help you. The training or education that comes with being a foster parent again varies by state and county. And so in some states I think there’s still one or two that only require like six hours of training year to remain a foster parent. There’s other states that require at least 30 you know for each parent and the family and so it depends on again where you live. Sometimes it depends on the type of children that you Foster. In my state if I’m only going to have basic care kids in my home. Then a couple only has to have 20 hours of training a year.
[01:02:11] But if I’m going to have children that have any kind of behavioral issues are risk head trauma and are considered more than basic care needs which for me every child who comes into care fits that description then I’m going to have 30 hours of training for each adult in my family. So the trick with that is looking at the topics that are available some will be mandatory that the state says every year you’ve got to have some training on this and this and this and this. Others are flexible hours and it’s. What is it that you need. What have you decided.
[01:02:54] Are identified within your family that you need to know more about and that your existing location should be that when you feel inadequate. All right. My God what right do you go with them and you say I’m really feeling inadequate here. I I am not doing my best for this child because I don’t know how I need to find somebody to help me figure that out.
[01:03:27] Exactly. Exactly and that’s what you can expect from your agency. A couple of weeks just kind of a practical question and I’m going to ask it two different ways. Can foster parents take their foster children on vacation is one way to ask it and then the other way is are they expected to. What if you know what if a vacation is too expensive and they can’t afford it. So how do vacations work with Foster will.
[01:03:53] Yeah. So they used to be you know as a foster family went on vacation and didn’t take their foster kids. Shame on them. You know how dare they not treat them like family. There is a sort of a little caveat to that now. Because we really weren’t paying close attention to the Biodun adopted kids in that family before we were you know looking at the family as a unit. And again that a really poor job of assessing just how healthy are the the families children in this whole thing over a period of time. And so there are some folks now that talk about you know maybe finding respite care for the children in foster care and that family unit getting away and you know just kind of being back to that Lukwiya again and kind of refreshing their relationship as a family. Now if the child in care is one that ultimately could be adopted by the family and that looks like the plan and all that then it’s you know it’s certainly better to take the child on the vacation foster kids need vacations too so you know when the kids go with them and then it will be encouraged to take if it’s not a state.
[01:05:31] All of that is certainly something that can be arranged he children.
[01:05:37] OK. Yes.
[01:05:38] That usually got a no nothing ahead of time to let the child’s case worker know that they’re going to have to be able to talk to the judge that is over that case. And the judge is going to have to sign the authorization for the child to go out of state.
[01:05:59] So they kind of generally yes it can even find out what the requirements are. All right.
[01:06:05] I’m wanting to go out of state for three days but not more than that. You know so again it depends on what numbers.
[01:06:13] We have time for one last but very important question and that is how much they do foster parents have and what happened to the child that’s in their care.
[01:06:24] He’s not an employee. And again like you said like a foster mom you know I hate to keep saying it depends on where you live in some states. The foster parents are included in everything you know you’re included in the initial stabbings. You’re encouraged to be at every well. Federal law says you have a right to be at every hearing for hearing and you have a right to be heard.
[01:06:59] And but in practice in some areas the judges don’t want to hear from them or the caseworkers say you know we don’t want you in there.
[01:07:10] And I’m always suspect of those folks about why not because a foster parent knows child better than anybody else and has the best input. So if you have a judge that will talk with you during the court hearings or will you can write them a letter. Kind of a report prior to the hearing that will read it. That’s wonderful. Cudos and every foster parent should be doing that. There have been many times when I was in court and the judge would ask the question and the caseworker would answer. And as a bald faced lie and are half truth and you know I’d raise my hand and wave it and just say yes is Clements you have a comment on that. Yes sir. When I look at my notes here and I always kept notes of everything you know and I’d say well you know actually sir on that day this is what happened this is what was reported. This is this and then the you know the judges say well thank you so much and then look at the caseworker and said So why did you just tell me that I don’t know judge. Maybe I got it mixed up with another case. I mean for real. So it’s important to be involved as involved as you can be and because you do as a foster parent you know their child absolutely better than anybody else because you live with them 24 hours a day seven days a week and you care about them you know. And not that the other people don’t.
[01:09:02] But you made a commitment to do this as a volunteer nobody else in that realm is doing that except maybe a CASA as a volunteer. So what you have to say is important and if you respectfully put your input in and figure out a way to get it done. You will be asked more often to provide information because they will start to trust you know that you’re not there just to be you know push your own agenda but that you really are there for the what’s right for that child and that child’s best interests going forward to permanency. But
[01:09:44] ultimately if the caseworker said let’s say for instance decides that family reunification is going to be the plan for this child a foster parent. What can a foster parent do in that case assuming the foster parent disagrees.
[01:10:06] Again a founder of IMS adoption.
[01:10:08] Yeah. Okay. So in my state if I had had that child in my home for 12 months I can go to the court and ask for standing. I can get an attorney and be a part of the get to the case and then represent my interests in other states. You can’t do that. In Colorado I think after three months you can do that. So again it depends. So if you don’t have the avenue to at a certain period time have standing in a case or be able to ask for standing in a case. You know you go up through the chain of supervision that the agency and the state you try to talk with the judge as much as you can you talk with the child’s attorney ad litem and ask the attorney ad litem you know do they agree or disagree with the plan that the state has put forward. Certainly as a child has a CASA volunteer to talk with that CASA volunteer about the pros and cons to what’s happening and try to get your point across.
[01:11:18] And influence.
[01:11:19] You mean because you are there ways that you could even if it’s not. If your state doesn’t have a legal requirement for you to have influence but there are things. And of course one of the questions that we started with is can will I be able to adopt this child. And I think we have that at the beginning but I’ll circle back and say that generally speaking if the majority of children end up reunifying with their families however it depends on the year and depends on the state. But somewhere in the neighborhood of around 25 percent of the kids will end up being not being able to reunify and will and will not be placed with extended family because generally the preferences to reunify with the birth family if not they seek extended family members to do a placement but about 25 percent of the time the child ends up being adopted by a non-family member. And the vast majority of the times when that happens the foster parents are the first ones considered or are given the first choice are considered first. Yes. Yeah. That would be the I mean that that doesn’t and sometimes the foster parents says no but because they don’t feel like they’re a good fit for the long term there’s not that they didn’t get into this to be parenting again they’re too old or they are just there to have other children or whatever. So the answer is yes. But that shouldn’t be your necessarily your primary goal or if it is your primary goal.
[01:12:51] Just accept that the chances are good that the first child second child even that whatever is placed in your home will not be there permanently but that crisis. Most people I know who go into it with the intent to adopt are eventually able to adopt. They just need to be patient and they need to know that that that they have to honor the fact that they that they’re and they have to go in with the honest intent to try to help heal the family. Right.
[01:13:21] So yeah you know if they’ve if they’ve given their best to the child then the love that they have felt for that child the child has known it and that child will be better off for the rest of their lives because of that. And I had a foster mother tell me one time when they were adoption motivated to and she said you know my heart look like a patchwork quilt. Before we finally were able to adopt. But I wouldn’t have changed anything at any point over this journey. And I think it’s important for people to understand that that for every child you embrace that you’re planting seeds in that child that you may never see come to fruition but they will eventually. And for those that are around long enough to see kids come back 15 20 30 years even like we are and you see these kids that were people wrote off as nothing. I mean that they were never going to be anything.
[01:14:26] Are these incredible awesome people now. And they’ll say to you do you remember when you said so and so to me that changed my life. So 12 years later you know so fostering is is absolutely the most wonderful thing I think than any human being can do for a child. No well that you’re going to have a broken heart. Over and over and over during the process.
[01:15:02] But the difference you made for that child is worth it.
[01:15:07] Yeah because you’re the adult and you can your heart can break and it will heal. But this child may not heal without your help. Exactly. What a way to perfect Irene Clements. Thank you so much for talking with us today about foster care and what people need to think about if they’re considering becoming a foster parent. I so appreciate it. So this show is all as well as all the resources provided by creating a family could not happen and would not happen without the generous support of our partners who believe in our mission of providing unbiased education support to those struggling to create a family. Some of our partners include children’s house international they are a non-profit Haik accredited international adoption agency with programs in 13 countries. They provide full service including home studies in the state of Florida Louisiana Massachusetts Texas Utah and Washington state and they placed children with any US approved family worldwide. For those of you who want more information on the National Association for National Foster Parent Association I have that in my head and was messing it up. National Foster Parent Association a great organization of which Irene Clements our guest today is was the is the executive director. You can find it on their Web site which is N S P A on line dot org. It seems a little hard but it stands for National Foster Parent Association. So NFPA on line dot org. Thanks so much for joining us today. And I will see you next week.