Sunday, October 07, 2007

Ensuring Good Foster Parents

The main worry that people seem to have regarding reimbursements for foster care is that it will attract unscrupulous people who treat the children poorly. Girl Speaks wrote about this today. She, like so many youth who have lived in the system, had foster parents who were inexcusable. A system that should have protected her hurt her. The question is, would there be fewer or more cases like that if foster parents were reimbursed for the full cost of raising the child. Since I have already advertised myself as someone who is being reimbursed adequately, I thought I would talk about my agency's standards and how they maintain them. (By the way, we did figure this out once. Though the reimbursements allow us to break even while the kid lives here, the only way we would not loose money in the long run would be to cut them off when they move out. Since we don't do that, giving care in the end costs us money too).

But back to my agency and their safeguards.

First, they require more training than the state does. In theory you can get your training hours in a wide variety of ways (I get to count the counseling appointment I hijacked as a training hour), in reality they have so many specifically required trainings at the agency that the family developer sees you quite a lot. Of course, that only goes so far.

Second, they make sure the kids know their rights. Before Frankie moved his social worker gave him a booklet listing and explaining all his rights. It includes things like "The right to know why you came into care and why you are still in care." I'll quote the first one in full:

You have a right to be safe
You have the right to be safe; this means living in a safe place and being free from people and situations that can harm you. No child should be disciplined or punished by corporal punishment. This means no spanking, kicking, hitting, or shaking. You cannot be denied needed food, shelter or clothing. Verbal remarks that belittle you or your birth family are not allowed. If anyone hurts you or tries to hurt you, tell your social worker or a trusted adult as soon as possible. You should have phone numbers to contact your social worker, or can call the office anytime, day or night at xxx-xxx-xxxx and ask for help.

Frankie has his social worker's cell phone number in his cell phone.

Third, the social worker is required to visit with Frankie in our home every month. What she usually does is pick him up from school, takes him out for a treat and then brings him back and spends a while in our home with him. Every month. They are supposed to make contact with us more than that, but I never remember how many times because I email updates so often that I cover that for them. The point is that they keep a close eye on us.

Fourth, much of the reimbursement is actual reimbursement. I have a generous and flexible allotment for clothing, but I have to turn in the receipts. Sometimes we loose them, and when we do, we don't get the money. (If I complain it is only to the person who lost them). They keep track of everything that I have been reimbursed for, add it to the inventory the youth made when he or she moved in, and then check when the kid moves out. (They don't actually inventory the belongings. Usually they just ask the youth if he or she is sure about everything). The point though really isn't the inventory, it is that I have to pay for the stuff before I get the money.

And while we are on the subject, Girl Speaks says agencies/state should not "cover your gas costs (especially when there are transport people)." Trust me, the agency would FAR prefer to reimburse me for the mileage to drive Frankie to his appointment than to pay the transport people their hourly amount. The social worker has agreed to arrange transportation for one of Frankie's two weekly counseling appointments in The City. The transport will cost at least four times what they would give me in reimbursement, and might even be higher than the cost of the appointment itself, given that they have to pay someone the transport service for time driving and time in the waiting room while he has his appointment. If it makes any of you feel better, I only get reimbursed for mileage when a single round trip is more than 35 miles.

Fifth, because they offer so much support to foster parents and youth (and the non-monetary ones are really more important), they are in a position to be selective. I know families who have worked for the state for years before and after working for my agency. One was the family who for a while took David's younger brother. The younger brother drew some pictures of himself hurting other kids in the family. He did not leave them out as a threat; she found them when she was straightening his room. Had she thought that there was an immediate danger she should have called 911. There wasn't and she didn't, which was good. She also could have called the social worker, or the hotline and requested immediate support. Someone would have been at her house within the hour and to talk to her and the child. They might have decided that the drawings were just venting and let the youth stay. They might have decided that he needed to spend some time somewhere else just to be safe. The mother did not do that however. She called the office and said that she had packed his bags while he was at school and she wanted someone to come and get him.

They revoked her license (with them). She spoke to David about it later (which was also inappropriate). She was surprised and hurt that they wouldn't let her take the brother back. I was surprised she was surprised. You don't treat kids that way. Period. She continues to do care for the state.

So as Parodie said in a comment on my previous entry, there are a couple of choices:
1. In the ideal we invest enough money to provide all the services kids need, enable a large number of people who want to be foster parents to afford to do it, and then be selective about the families who do care.
2. We can offer inadequate support and reimbursement and hope that means that only foster parents who are extremely dedicated will sign up.

I vote for option #1.


  1. I second that vote.

    I know I don't do typical foster care, and my monthly check is Adoption Assistance, but I'm also one of the lucky ones that is given a fair amount. I have no complaints over the amount of my AAP. It doesn't come even close to covering the costs associated with caring for Slugger each month, but then I don't really expect it to cover everything, either.

  2. We don't have transporters here to transport the kids. Ironically though, we do have transporters to transport the parents but only for 90 days. I have no problem transporting the kids to 90% of their things without any reimbursement, but I would have a problem if I wasn't reimbursed for the 100+ miles a week I do to drive the kids to visit their mom. They are from a different part of the state (no foster parents in their county) so I have to make the trek. 1 hr there, 1 hr back, plus 1 hr waiting for them while they have their visit..every week..I think they should pay me gas money.

  3. We are only reimbursed for medical appointments and visits. Here too, the amount we are reimbursed is much less than the federal standard and it a token reimbursement at best ($.14 per mile) and much, much less than if we had a transporter take the child, wait for them, and return them. Plus, the transporter does not ask questions about the appt/visit - so I have NO CLUE what the results were or how it went.

    Our DCM's are in our homes monthly, our License Coordinator is in our home quarterly, therapists in our home weekly -

    We have yet to "break even" on a foster child. We usually have sibling groups who arrive with nothing and leave with plenty.

    We are "empty nesters" (living far from our Grancchildren) that love the sound of little feet in our home, but, honestly, if we didn't have quite a good income of our own - we would have a hard time providing on the "board rate". We have been fostering for years and have only 1 time ever gotten a clothing allowance. We have, however, gotten shoe vouchers that have been donated by the high end stores. A $20 voucher doesn't go far when the cheapest pair of sneakers in the store is $40.

    I love being a foster parent. I love the children. I love the idea of being a safe port for the storm their life is going thru. I greatly dislike dealing with the faulty system and the constant cloud of "the bad apples" hovering over us. I know many really great foster parents in 3 states!! And I know many who have had a foster child wreak havoc in thier homes, lives, and emotions. So it goes both ways.

    I too vote for #1.


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