Do you have to own a home to be a foster parent? What if you move?
You do not have to own a home. You can live in an apartment or other rental property, you just need to have the required bedroom square footage available.
If you're moving locally, the new house must pass the same inspection as the old house, but otherwise it's okay. If you have a placement, he / she / they stay with you as long as you're not moving far enough away to interfere with visits or reunification.
How do visitations with their biological parents / family work?
When children are first removed, DCFS tries to get visitation worked out quickly so the children don't feel isolated from their family. At the beginning of a case, visits are usually once a week for an hour, and supervised by the kids' caseworker. They generally take place at a DCFS office. We take our kids to the office and, when the caseworker gets to the lobby, we leave for an hour. The parent(s) come during that time and play / visit / eat with the kids. At the end of the hour, we go back to the office, kids say goodbye to their family, and we leave. The judge decides who from the biological family gets visits.
As cases get closer to reunification, visitation evolves. The next step is a 2-hour unsupervised weekly visit. "Unsupervised" means "unsupervised by a caseworker." It's still supervised, but by a trusted someone the biological family chooses. These visits don't take place at the DCFS office. They can be at a park, a mall, or another public place. We take the kids to the designated meeting place, and when the parent(s) and other person get there, we leave for two hours. When we get back, kids say goodbye to their family, and we leave.
When the family is very close to reunification, they get to do things like overnight trips at the biological family's home.
How much do you know about where / the situation they came from?
When we got the phone calls about our two cases, we were told a lot. Much more, in fact, than I expected. As time goes by and kids begin to trust us, things come up in everyday conversation and we get more detail from the kids. At this point, we probably know more than the caseworker does. That being said, there are many cases where the caseworker making the initial phone call doesn't know much. S/He knows enough that the kids needed to be removed, but maybe not much about their past. The way we had it explained to us in class was, "If your kids had just been taken away from you, how willing would you be to sit down and tell a caseworker all about them?"
Do foster kids bring belongings (clothes, toys, etc.) with them, or do you provide all of that with your stipend?
Ours haven't brought much. Our first placement brought the clothes they were wearing. Our second brought nothing. They were given two pairs of clothes, a backpack, one pair of shoes, and a stuffed animal between their home and ours, but they brought nothing from home. When children enter the foster care system, the first foster parents are required to spend $163 per child on new (not used) clothing. This is additional money, not taken from the monthly stipend. Every month after that, the foster parents are required to spend $42 on new (not used) clothes. This can be spent monthly or spread out, as long as the money from each month gets spent.
As far as toys go, ours just used what we already had at our house. With our first placement, that wasn't much, so we bought them each a Barbie doll on the day we got their clothes. With our second placement, we'd gotten a couple more things and had a better idea of what we were doing, so we didn't buy them any toys. Since then, our kids' biological family has brought some of their toys from home for the kids to take to our house. As far as I've heard, that's not entirely uncommon. We've also had Christmas and both birthdays, so there's no shortage of toys now! Haha :)
Are there always kids waiting to be placed?
I had no idea how to answer this question! so I sent it along to my RFC. Here's what she had to say:
That's a hard question to answer. We do pretty well at getting a child into a home that's a good match quickly when they first come into custody. Sometimes, especially for teens who need a higher level of care, they might go to a shelter. Sometimes we have younger kids in there, too, but we try to avoid that. Sometimes kids who are in big sibling groups or need a more structured home will go to a shelter while we find the perfect home for them.
Do you spend a lot of time waiting for a placement?
We haven't. However, there are a lot of people on our Facebook support group who have. I don't know if they're the majority or a loud minority, though. I do think our RFC does a really good job at getting us placements as soon as we're ready for them. We might get them more quickly because of how open our "wants" are.
How do you handle it when the kids are transferred somewhere else?
Truth - it's pretty hard. We attached to our first placement quickly and expected their stay to be fairly long-term. It ended up being about a week. On top of that, we only had about two hours' head notice before they were gone. It was rough. We spent a couple days feeling out of it. At nighttime, it was hard to appreciate sleep. We would've rather been woken up if it meant having them there. It took Joel a few days and me about two weeks to be ready for another set of kids. About three weeks ago, I found one of their ponytail holders right behind the couch skirt. I don't know how it survived the number of times we've cleaned and vacuumed that room in the six months since they left, but it sent me into a funk for a couple hours. A ponytail holder! Don't get me wrong - we love our kids now and know these are the ones we're supposed to have now, but I will always love those girls. I won't let myself think about what it will be like when these ones leave. I hope it will be easier in some ways, though, because their leaving should be less abrupt.
That being said, I think it's a LOT easier to let them leave when you're honestly cheering for them to go home. You're sad they're not with you, but how could I wish you away from your family when I know that's where you want to be? With your family, who you've grown up with and have good memories with? Especially if I know they have done everything they can to get you back and make a good place for you? That's how it was when our first kids left. I mourned them leaving, and that last morning - when I knew they were leaving but they didn't yet - was sad. But knowing they were where they wanted to be and that it was safe made it easier. In fact, after they left, we prayed we'd never see them again - because if we did, that would mean something bad had happened.
This is the one of the most frequent questions we get about doing foster care. It was something for us to adjust to when we decided to get our license. But when it comes down to it, here's how I see it: relationships everywhere change and end. People's interests evolve, they die, they move, they grow up, they change. The difference between me & my children and you & your friends is that I know mine are going to leave. Knowing something will happen can help you prepare for it. Here's how Joel sees it: Why deny yourself something wonderful just because you know it will end? The pain of them leaving is much less than the joy of having and loving them. He was talking to a divorced friend recently who said he wished he'd never met his ex. Joel asked, "You would wish away your children just to have never met your ex-wife?" No! Because the good + happy is greater than the bad + sad.
How long do you think you'll foster? How do you help them deal with the trauma? How do you talk to them about their parents? and some more.
There are about three more posts' worth of questions, fyi. :)
Previous posts on this topic:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5
Previous posts on this topic:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5
Even though the world may break, and all shall despair at what they’ve lost, life will always return.