Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Re-Imagining the System: An Invitation

Rossecorp and I have been having a conversation about the foster care system.

It started with my last post in the "Ann's Story" sequence and continues on in Thinking about the system.

Most recently Rossecorp writes:

Our society especially does not value poor families and children, and of course those are the families and children who are most often involved with CPS. In my state, at least, the system does have resources--not as much as we'd like to have, certainly, but a significant amount--but (in my opinion) those resources are used less than effectively much of the time. For example, our work has historically been to "put out fires" (ie, to respond to crises) rather than to do preventative work with families. By doing so, we end up spending lots of money on one crisis after another.

I could write much more about this, but a comment isn't the place for that. I have been leaning toward giving up on the idea of foster parenting (I mean, giving up on hoping that it can work for the majority of children in care), and wonder what your opinion is of that? The reason I think this is that the numbers of fp's are declining, and too few of the ones remaining are really skilled at the work. So I'm thinking that the focus of solutions for children should be elsewhere...but I don't know where...

So I propose we all play a game. If we could fix the system, what would we do? Assuming that we will continue to have families and children in crisis for all the same reasons and all the same ways we do now, what would be the ideal way to fix it?

Please leave a comment here or write about it in your own blog. If you do blog on re-imagining the system, let me know and I will create a link.

Let's all have one big bloggy conversation. My entry into the conversation will follow in a new post.

Anyone who wants to think about this should of course head straight over to Sunshine Girl who blogs on this topic all the time.


  1. rossecorp12:21 PM

    I will definitely blog about this, but for starters:

    *TRAIN, EDUCATE, and LICENSE!!! Most CPS workers are not social workers (and I think they should be) and most foster parents have only completed the initial fp training, which does not come anywhere near to teaching the set of skills required to parent children in care;

    *Design programs for chronic families with the goal of preventing generational involvement;

    *Try different types of placements for kids--I like the "circle of families" model and group home models as well as boarding school models, but ALL these models need to employ trained, educated, licensed, experienced, professional people, NOT $12/hr kids with bachelor degrees in psych or criminal justice.

    *Instead of recruiting primarily for foster parents, increase recruitment for mentors and "visiting resources," people who are willing to provide life-long connections for kids in care. I think more people are more willing to do this than to foster parent, and are more able to do it well.

    *Increase the quality and consistency of mental health care for kids in care and parents who are trying to reunify with them. Most mental health services available to people with Medicaid are provided by entry-level rather than experienced professionals, so that in effect our neediest clients get the lowest quality care.

    I could go on and on, but I guess I should do that in my own blog!

  2. * Recognize that not all kids in the system can handle being in a foster family

    * Don't push these kids into placements

    * More training. We are therapeutic foster parents and we have to do 50 hours each per year.

    * Better training for the 22 year olds that become case workers.

    * More emphasis on long term homes.

    * More thought and time put into placing kids.

    * In my "great state", the legislature needs to quit completely overhauling the system every few years. Too many resources going to regrouping rather than kids.

    * Pay caseworkers more.

    * Don't lower a child's level of care as soon as they are stable. They may only be stable because you have quit your job and devote hours a days to them maintaining their stability.

    * BETTER AFTERCARE!!!!!!! And our state has more than many.

    * Streamline the paperwork.

    * Don't overload your competent families so they burn out.

    * Don't lower your expectations because you are desperate for foster families.

    * Be honest with the foster/adoptive families about the children.

  3. rossecorp1:01 PM

    What do you mean by better aftercare? After what? Hospitalization? Substance abuse treatment?

    Your comments remind me of just how hard it is to set priorities in this work: It's almost impossible to "Not overload competent families" while at the same time "Not lowering your expectations just because you are desperate" and simultaneously "Be honest with families about the children."

    Here's the typical scenario where I work: the court gave us a kid at around 1pm. We knew we might get him, so his worker put in a placement request that morning. The family resource worker on duty that day starts makes calls based on who's available. The kids sits in the lobby all day while the worker wonders where he's going to end up driving the kid to and at what time. Finally, at 5pm, someone agrees to take the kid for the night. The worker drives him there, wherever it is. When the worker gets there, the worker makes arrangements to pick the kid up again in the morning, at whatever time the fp wants, wherever it is. And the next day, the kids sits in the lobby all day again while the routine repeats itself.

    There's a lot of room for improvement, but what kind, exactly? I don't think more fp is the answer.

  4. I would like to see more support given financially to foster parents. For instance, maybe giving us gift cards to buy things for the kids instead of making us put the money up front and then reimbursed.

    But that is just a random thing.

    I'd like to see more emphasis on long term placements as well. 24 moves for my daughter was way too many. I'd really like to see lifebooks or some sort of central recordkeeping done by someone. Bug has a complete lack of anything relating to her childhood.

    Better therapists, better doctors...meaning ones that have some clue as to issues in foster care and adoption.

    Better support when siblings are separated.

  5. By aftercare, I meant after aging out.

    I don't see how more foster parents wouldn't help the situation. Better trained, emphasis on longer placements. We have a children's shelter in town that is quite homey. More places like that instead of pushing kids on foster parents when everyone knows it is only a day or two. There's such a push for getting these kids in families, but we (as a system) have to admit that they get a warped view if they are shuffled through 5, 10, 15 "families."

    For the older kids that don't want a family or can't maintain in a family, then some sort of supported living situation instead of pushing them into a family they have no interest in being a part of. Improve the community involvement, like Rosse said (we have a great agency, well-endowed financially, lots of young professional mentors - I've seen that really impact teens).

    "Group homes" for families working towards reunification or older sibling pairs.

    Acknowledgement, by the system, of the primal bond our kids have with their bio fmailies. Expect that they will look them up and offer counseling to facilitate this in the most healthy way possible.

    Less of an emphasis on 18 as the magic number. Let the kids stay.

    I don't know, these are all wishlist type ideas and I know there are practical considerations. I just know the areas where we have ongoing issues.

    Do you really deal with crappy foster parents, Rosse? I never toot my own horn, but I know the situation would be helped if there were more families like ours and Beth's and my friend, Jill's.


Comments will be open for a little while, then I will be shutting them off. The blog will stay, but I do not want either to moderate comments or leave the blog available to spammers.