I thought it'd be interesting to tell ya all who is involved in our daily, weekly and monthly lives, with a brief description of each of their jobs. And, here we go.
- Licensing social worker: She came to my house and did my home-study, home inspection, etc. And she will work with me as long as she is a social worker and I am a foster parent - she is for me. She is also the person I can call with any questions along the journey of being a foster parent. My licensing worker rocks and has been doing this job for about 20 years, so have loads of experience and advice to share - which is invaluable. She is also the person that can answer the, "Can I do this?" questions, Can I go out of state with the kids? Can I babysit for other kids while I am a FP? How many fire alarms does one home need?
- Fire Marshal: When I was licensed and then when I was resilience a local fire marshal had to come out to my home and inspect the safety of the home and recommend changes to bring it up to code. Honestly, it isn't fun having him come out - whatever he says goes and costs a lot of money. Its good. Its safer for the kids. And its annoying.
- Various social workers: All sorts of people call and email from the county with information about new placements, trainings, etc. Two and a half years in, I still only know about 1/2 of the people who call me.
For each child/sibling group:
- Mom, Dad, grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins: Every child comes from a family. No matter how messed up that family was or whatever difficult time they are going through, they are you foster child's family. Respect them. And know that at least Mom and Dad will have visits with the kids. It will be up to the social worker how often visits happen and if they will be supervised or unsupervised, but they will happen. It is also up the the social worker if visits with other members of the family will happen. It is the job of a foster parent to advocate for what the child wants, who they want to see/not want to see and if they state they do not feel safe visiting someone.
- Child protection social worker: Every child has a CP worker that does the initial assessment on their home life and helps determine if they should be removed from the home. They also attend the initial court session and give a recommendation on if they feel the child remain in FC or go back with birth family. Usually only work with the child for 3 business days.
- Ongoing foster care social worker: Gets to know the children, birth family and foster family. She work with everyone for the duration of the case. She has A LOT of say in what happens day to day and in the long run. She visits the kids on a monthly basis in the foster home, supervises visits, sometimes transports to/from visits, has ongoing contact via phone/email with foster family and birth family. In the children's eyes, she is the one who "calls the shots" as a lot of decisions need to be run past her for approval. (If anyone wants to pray for a foster family - pray for a good ongoing worker!! She makes all the difference in the world - for good or for ill)
- Guardian ad litem / CASA: A layperson (not a lawyer) who is intended to be an impartial person who meets all the parties involved in the court process: the children, the foster parents, the social workers and the family and then makes an unbiased recommendation to the court on what is in the best interest of the children - without any personal "stake" in the game. We meet with him/her monthly.
- Attorney: Every child over 12 has their own personal lawyer for court that speaks with the child primarily and speaks for their desires and wishes in all court proceeding. In my experience they meet with the child (by phone or in person) once, right before court.
- Psychologist/Play Therapist: Maybe my background in psychology is showing here, but I try to make sure every long term child in my home gets a time and a place to work though the trauma of their birth family and the trauma of foster care itself with a safe, nurturing adult that isn't me. That way, even if they move, this person they have formed an bond with can keep seeing them through all of the transitions.
- And that doesn't even include the: Teachers, Doctors & Dentists that are different for every kid!
- Depending on the child, there can also be PCA's, Occupational Therapists & Physical Therapists, but I am tired of typing and overwhelmed by this list!
As you can see, choosing to be a foster parent is more than just opening your home to children. So, be prepared and lay out the welcome mat. The vast majority of people I have worked with have truly been interested in the best interest of the kids and as an advocate for the children in our care, I have helped weed out those who weren't. One of my assumed jobs is to attempt to build a village to support the child and the family they will grow up with. A safety net under them that can help guide, whether they land in an adoptive home, another foster home or back with their family.