Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Foster Parenting FAQs

Well, team- I'm pushing forward (at a pretty rapid pace) in the licensing process.

Here are some things I’ve checked off my licensure to-do list:

  • A handful of online trainings focused on medical consent, medications, and trauma-informed care (which made for a thrilling Friday night, by the way)
  • Two online courses on car seat safety. (Are all parents required to take this? Because they should be. It's so intimidating! Dear everyone who transports children- if you don't take a class about car seat safety, at least read the car seat’s manual.)
  • Trainings on policies and procedures
  • More paperwork!

My former roommate also moved out over the weekend, which makes everything intensely real. Sitting alone in my living room over the past few days, I have- on multiple occasions- been suddenly struck by the life-changing nature of my decision.

In a few weeks, I could have kids in my house.

And I’m going to be responsible for them.

Note to self- clean up language before children arrive.

A lot could change in just a few short weeks.

One thing I suspect will not change is people's curiosity. I still get a lot of great questions, and, as I mentioned last time, I want to take time to answer a few of them here. Some are more focused on the general process, and others are more specific to my experience.

Here are the questions that made the cut for this post:

1. How old will the child be?/Will it be a boy or a girl?
I don't understand these things. They just seems like an invitation for public disappointment.

            My answer to this one is simple- I have no idea. And I won’t until I get a call saying, “Hey, we have a child in need of a placement. It is a fill in a gender here who is fill in a number here years old. Are you willing to take him/her in?”
         That might be a slightly abbreviated version of the phone call, but it really will be that basic. And, depending on the type of placement, it could happen a few hours before a child arrives at my home.  
         In the agency I work with, there are two main types of placements- mandated and voluntary. Mandated placements happen when CPS requires a child to be removed from a home. The nature of this situation means there’s not typically a lot of advanced planning- a child is taken into DFPS custody, and they have to find a placement immediately. Voluntary placements occur when a guardian chooses to sign a child into foster care temporarily- while they try to find housing, search for a job, or do whatever they feel is necessary to provide a more supportive environment for their child. Sometimes this allows for a bit of advanced notice, but it’s never a guarantee.
         So basically, if you ask me that question the day a child is placed in my home, I might have an answer for you.

2. Are you requesting a specific age/gender?
         While I won’t know specifics in advance, I can request a general age range. I could even say my house will/will not be open to a specific gender, race, religion, etc. That might sound harsh, but if a foster parent is a strict atheist, s/he may not feel comfortable providing spiritual support for a child who comes from a strict Southern Baptist family. And vice versa. These children are going through a significant- and traumatic- change, so the hope is they'll be able to experience some level of stability and consistency in the midst of it. If a foster parent is uncomfortable providing a specific cultural or spiritual or whatever environment, it might not be the best fit for the child.

(I'm reminded of this movie clip- event though it's a completely different context:)
(I had to get my Tina Fey reference in somewhere...)

         So, basically, in the process of becoming a foster parent, you determine what environment and experiences you’re comfortable providing, and they use that to create a profile for you that is stored in a database of available foster homes. So “Foster Home A” may be willing to take up to 3 children under the age of 13 of any ethnicity but only a Methodist background. Then, when DFPS has a 3-year old boy who comes from a Wiccan family (I'm just using this example because of the video clip), they will know “Foster Home A” might not be the best placement for him. Essentially, it helps DFPS match the needs of the kids with the homes able to provide them.
         That being said, the only specifics I requested were focused on age. I question my ability to effectively parent a child who could break into a wine cabinet or steal my car, so I’ve requested ages 6 and under- with a little bit of flexibility.  (Note the use of the word could. I don’t think this would actually happen; it’s just a fear I have of raising teenagers. I will probably be terrified when I have teenagers of my own one day. It’s a scary age range- they have a lot going on.)

Yeah, me either.

3. How many kids will you have?
         As you may have gathered in the previous response, this is another thing a foster parent has to consider in the licensing process. You get to decide what your range is- usually it’s “up to ___” kids.
         There is a maximum capacity, which is dependent on the number of caregivers, how much space is available, how many other people are in the home, and the type of licensing the home receives.
         I stated I would prefer one child, but I am flexible if a sibling group needs a placement- with three being my maximum.

4. When will you get a placement?
         See the answer to 1. Technically, I have no clue. I hope to be licensed by September, so it could be any time after that! I’ll keep you posted.

5. Will you quit your job?
         Because I still have to make money- and because I enjoy what I do- my potential foster children will go to day care or school during the day, and I will continue working.

This will pretty much be me.
         I think there’s an idea floating around that people make money foster parenting; I’m sure there’s been a horror story about it on 20/20 or 60 Minutes.  But let me clarify- that is not true.
         Foster parents do get a small stipend to help cover things like food, clothes and day care for the child, but it’s far from a personal income. When it’s used correctly, there shouldn’t really be anything left over. Because day care is expensive, guys. 

6. How long will the child live with you?
         This is another one where the real answer is “I don’t know.” It depends on a lot of different factors. The goal of foster care is to provide a temporary home until a permanent option is available- whether that means family reunification, kinship care, or an adoptive placement. The hope is this would take less than a year, but a family could need more time to regain custody, or an adoptive placement might not be available right away. There’s no way to guarantee a time frame. It could be 2 months, or it could be 2 years. This is one of the reasons it’s important for someone to feel confident and committed before becoming a foster parent.
         However, there are shorter-term options available for people who want to do this, but don’t feel ready to take on anything long-term. Respite care providers are essentially temporary foster homes. They’re licensed, but they provide care to children who are in foster homes for anywhere between 2 and 14 days. (If a foster parent needs a break, has to go on a business trip, etc.)

These are a few of the questions I’ve received, but if you have more, please feel free to leave a comment or send me a message!

Next week, I’ll be talking about the difficulty- and the danger- of “nesting.”

Here’s a sneak peek of what’s to come:

That is real, folks. 
And I'll tell you all about it soon!

(Side note- if you want to continue following my foster parenting journey, I think there's a way to sign up to be notified when a new post happens. I'm not super tech savvy, but I think it exists somewhere to the right of this. Maybe?)


  1. I really enjoy your well-placed .gifs in your blog. The movement really captures my attention. Much like the pop-up books I read when I was younger did. Have you ever considered reading pop-up books to your future foster child?

    1. Ben, thank you for noticing the gifs. I work really to find the perfect ones for each post.

      Also- I have not thought about reading pop-up books to future foster children. But now that you've mentioned it, I realize I need to invest in a few good ones.

      Or, better yet, MAKE one. New life goal.


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