Foster Care FAQs
How will I let them go?
Remember that foster children have been placed in your home temporarily for protection, care, and nurturing. While some children may become adoptable, family reunification is always the primary goal of the courts and the biblical precedent in Scripture (Lev. 25:25-41). It can be very painful to send a child into a situation you know little about, especially after they have been a part of your family for some time. We want to ensure from the point you accept a child into your home you are intentionally reaching out to their parents to build them up in their efforts to complete their court-ordered service plans and restore their family. Ask them how they like their child’s hair done for visits or what foods or activities their child enjoys. These efforts to establish a relationship and build report undermine an “us vs. them” mentality. When reunifiying, know you have seen this child through their darkest hours and made a lasting impression on their lives. We encourage families experiencing this loss to press into their community group and lean on those who know and love them well. Take time to process the experience in your group, but don’t allow the loss to permanently paralyze you from giving your family to a child in need in the future.
What will they call me?
“Mom”, “Miss”, “Sir”, “Hey You”. Depending on the age of the children, you should introduce yourself with what you want them to call you. Miss (first name) and Mr. (first name), are common and respectful options. If you have children in the home calling you Mom and Dad, your foster children may quickly begin to call you this as well. This is not an issue, as long as you are always clear about who their biological parents are. Children may also begin to refer to their birthparents as “my old mom” or “my other dad.” In these situations it is best to take a moment to clear things up.
Will I meet birthparents?
In some cases you may see birthparents on a regular basis when dropping a child off for their court-allowed parental visits. Some children do not have visits, and some parents cannot be visited (if incarcerated, for example). Meeting a child’s biological parents for the first time can be nerve-racking. Stick to the basics. Greet them and introduce yourself as the child’s foster parent. If they have questions about the child, or the care you are giving them, answer any you feel comfortable with. Or ask them to write them down, and you will send an update through the caseworker. While the choices of the birthparents are the most likely reason a child is in foster care, they are not the enemy. Your attempts to encourage them or find out what their child likes or dislikes while in your care can only improve the long-term success of a child’s healing and growth.
What about medical insurance or therapy?
Every child in the care of CPS receives some form of Medicaid (medical insurance) at no cost to foster parents. This covers all medical, dental, and vision costs with approved providers. There are no co-pays, and almost all hospitals and emergency rooms accept Medicaid. If your foster child is under three years old, Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) will assess their developmental needs and provide speech or occupational therapy, if appropriate. Otherwise, your public school district will assess any special services your child will need. Foster parents can contact their child placing agency for references regarding counselors to help children work through neglect, abuse, and loss. These counselors are covered by Medicaid as well.
What about my biological kids?
Many families who foster and adopt already have other children in the home, and it is necessary to think about the impact foster care and adoption will have on them. While you have expectations of what a new child will be like in your home, your children have expectations, too. Will they like me? Will I get to show them new things? Will they share? Where will they sleep? What will it be like if/when they leave? What if they aren’t nice?
Parents must give their kids voice into this decision and throughout the process. Many biological children come to mature and develop a greater compassion for other people because their parents chose to foster. So, keep the conversation open and ongoing about how they are feeling and prepare them for the journey your whole family is going on.
Do we consider birth order?
Yes, but it is not the final factor in who you can or cannot foster parent. There will be times when foster and biological children of the same age will blend well together in a home, and there will be times when caring for an infant or child younger than your biological children will go smoothly. Be perceptive about the emotional health and maturity of your children. If you have a difficult time caring for a child that is roughly the same age as a biological child, adjust your age range for the next foster placement that comes to your home or take a break for a while after that child is reunified with their family.
How will they get to school?
A foster child will go to the school in your school district and can ride the bus like any other child. If your school district offers Head Start, a pre-school program for at-risk children ages 4 or 5, your foster child should be enrolled there. Foster children qualify for free breakfast and lunch as well. The state does not permit foster children to be homeschooled. Due to the neglect and inconsistency of the parenting, many foster children received early in life, a child may require extra help in developing the skills they need to succeed. However, the priority for foster parents should be fostering a sense of security in a child’s heart.
Can we adopt through foster care?
A group consisting of the child’s CPS caseworker, a CPS supervisor, a court appointed special advocate (CASA), the district attorney, and the child’s attorney ad lidem determine the child’s permanency plan with a judge’s ongoing approval. Birthparents traditionally have one year to complete a service plan and be reunified with their children. If this group diligently pursues reunification and reunification is no longer appropriate, the court will change the goal to adoption (usually no earlier than 9 months into a foster care placement). At that time, other family members have 90 days to be considered, and if no appropriate family steps forward, the foster family can adopt. The adoption process is usually finalized after a few more months and depending on circumstances can cost anywhere from $0 to $1,500.
How do I choose an agency?
When faced with a list of agencies, choosing one can seem like a daunting task. Get involved with support groups and talk to AS MANY people who have adopted as you can. Most are happy to share their experiences with their agency with you. Start a running list of recommendations from people you talk to, and then give the agencies a call. Good questions to ask an agency directly are:
- How long has the agency been in business?
- How many cases do each of your caseworkers oversee at any given time?
- What is the turnover rate of your casework staff?
- Do you have post-placement therapeutic services and resources available? If so, what are they?
- Does your licensing training for foster care and/or adoption include trauma-informed care