Sunday, August 18, 2013

Five Things I Didn't Know About the Foster System. And Ten Tips on Preparing For Placements.

Tonight was our last STARS class.

We met with and questioned a panel of characters who work within the foster system. Judge. Juvenile Officer. Licencing Supervisor. CASA worker. Investigating worker. Foster mother. Case Worker. Foster child. It was a whirlwind of questioning, acronyms, labels, suggestions, timelines. They offered great information, and we left with lots to think about. 

Nine weeks ago, we introduced ourselves to our classmates for the first time. A couple with 3 bio kids perusing adoption. 

Tonight as we introduced ourselves to the panel, I was excited to share that we were a couple with three kids open to foster care and adoption. It was as much a statement to myself as to the panel.

I scribbled lots of information in the next hour and a half.

Information about working within the foster system

1.  Family Support Team (FST)- a team consisting of anyone who interacts with the child. This is potentially giant group  of people. Bio and foster parents, caseworkers, counselors, teachers, day care providers, etc. These meetings occur at least semi-annually and additionally as needed.

2.  Permanency Planning Review Team (PPRT)- meets on a set schedule (within 72 hours of placement, monthly, semiannually)

3.  Court hearings:
Protective custody hearing must happen within 72 hours of child entering foster care.
Judication hearings take place within 30 days of placement
Review hearings and Permanency hearings happen periodically as well. 

4.  For hearings, foster parents are able to submit statements about the case to ensure that their voice is heard. We can request a Caregiver Court Report Form or communicate through our CASA (court appointed special advocate) worker.

5.  Speaking of CASA workers, these individuals are volunteer advocates for the children. They meet with the kids/foster parents monthly and help advise the judge on the child's progress and future.

We heard a lot of great information about helping a child settle into our home when they are placed with us. 

1.  Kids are largely a blank slate when they come to our home. They have their own set of normal that are very different from normal in our home. The kids have to learn procedures, rules, expectations, the layout of the home. All of this while reeling from being removed from their parents.

2.  Show them where the bathroom is.

3.  Keep basic toiletries on hand (toothbrush, kids toothpaste, soap, hairbrush)

4.  Consider creating "welcome packages"

5.  Find out their favorites (color, snack, movie, book) and incorporate them SOON.

6.  Make sure they have something of their own (it might be the first thing they've ever owned).

7.  They need their own space or place to keep their things, even if it's simply a dresser and bed.

8.  The foster mom on the panel let her kids paint their rooms when they arrived at her home. How cool is that?

9.  When the kids come to us, they come with lots of stories and baggage, and they will  (hopefully) begin to open up to us about their lives. The investigative worker practically begged us, "DO NOT REACT WITH SHOCK!" If the kids think we can't handle their problems, they will feel like they have to handle it alone.

10.  As I was listening to the advice on preparing for our first placements, I was reminded of my experiences planning for my children to be born. How would I get in touch with Amos when I went into labor? What if he was out of town or in a meeting? We needed someone on call to care for the older kids when labor started (and a backup caregiver). I had my mom ready to accompany us to the hospital for extra support. When we came home with our new baby, we welcomed extra hands to help with the transition. We ran on little sleep, and it was so helpful when someone offered to entertain our older kids and give them some extra attention.
Expecting a placement seems much the same. We need a Placement Call Plan. How will we handle the calls? What questions will we want to be sure to ask? At what point can I accept a placement if I can't get in touch with Amos? What are our deal breaker issues?

Tonight was our last STARS class. We made it! 

Sort of. Now we take the Spaulding class for adoptive families and wait for our home study to be finalized. Then we meet with our licensing worker to (hopefully)  finalize our license and get the show on the road!

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