Educate and Enlighten – Part Two

Together, we can educate and enlighten those within our community about the real needs of those affected by foster care, which includes children and youth in foster care, foster families, bio families and the DSS staff serving all of them. We have discussed how we can meet the needs of Agency staff in a way that will encourage, uplift and support them. Let’s take a look at the real needs of the foster families serving the children and youth in foster care.  Often, the average neighbor or acquaintance is blissfully unaware of a typical day in the life of a foster parent.

Many foster families accept emergency placement of children who come into care. This means they may receive a call late at night or even in the middle of the night asking if they will take placement of a child or sibling group who have just been removed from the home. Once placement is established, it may take an hour or more before the children arrive at the foster home. It may be considerably more than an hour before they arrive since often placement has to extend the search for a home willing to take EP (Emergency Placement) well beyond the area from which they were removed.  Once they arrive, the child(ren) may need to bathe and/or eat. They may be experiencing a great deal of trauma – especially if they are part of a sibling group and they’ve all been split up and placed in different homes. So, the foster parent may need to spend a great deal of time soothing and comforting the child(ren).  In short, a foster parent may receive a call at 2:00 AM and not have an opportunity to go back to bed until the following night.  The next day may be spent obtaining clothing and other necessary items for the child(ren) placed the night before; and depending on the situation, there may be school registration, medical appointments to make…all for which information is needed, such as social security numbers, birth certificates, Medicaid number, previous school records, etc.  Often, a foster parent feels like they are spinning in circles trying to get a child registered for school or daycare or a mandatory doctor appointment.  The child(ren) may have been brought to the foster home by someone other than the caseworker as the caseworker wouldn’t be assigned the case until sometime the next morning if it was an emergency removal/placement. The caseworker is the only one who can provide the information needed by the foster parent for scheduling, registering, etc. Once the foster parent finds out who the caseworker is, they may discover the necessary information hasn’t yet been obtained by the Agency.

Many foster families have biological children and/or may have existing placement of other children in foster care. The foster parent must parent these children, tending to their needs, taking them to school and appointments – all while trying to obtain necessary information and tending to immediate needs for the newly placed child(ren).  The foster parent may have to take a child to a court ordered visit or perhaps even attend a court hearing; neither of which may be rescheduled simply because an emergency placement was received in the middle of the night and the foster parent has had no sleep. Foster parents are somewhat of a cross between real, live angels and superheroes.

So, what are the real needs of foster parents/families?

Most foster parents would tell you that the number one need they have is to be in seen as a significant part of the team of people working to serve the best interest of the child; not simply a caregiver or sitter of sorts. They don’t expect or want any sort of parade in their honor for all they do; but they do want to be recognized as a contributor to the healing of the children placed in their home and as the person/people who know the most about the child. Teachers, therapists, pediatricians, caseworkers – anyone involved in helping the child succeed would be best served by regarding foster parents as essential and the same as one would the biological parents.

Most foster parents would not consider wrap-around support families a need, but most would tell you they are quite the blessing. So, when groups or other families choose to support foster families by providing meals or babysitting or other kind gestures from time to time, they are greatly appreciated.

Many of the aspects of foster care that might be considered “needs” are systemic and cannot be fulfilled by individuals or a community. However, as individuals who make up our respective communities, we can decide to meet the needs of these amazing people called foster parents whenever we have the opportunity and we can start by being aware of the significant role foster parents play in the restoration of children who have experienced trauma. Foster parents foster because they have a heartfelt calling to help children in need. They don’t do it for the glory or the recognition, but foster families sacrifice for other people’s children in ways that most people can’t even fathom. There is sacrifice from each member of a foster family.  Let’s respect and appreciate them whenever the opportunity arises and let’s educate and enlighten those around us to just how remarkable foster parents are.

Next, we will be discussing the real needs of children and youth who, due to no fault of their own, find themselves in foster care.

Please continue to share these articles with others in your community. Knowledge is power!

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