Thursday, April 16, 2015

Foster Care Exposed: Where do I start!?!

"I have always wanted to do foster care, but I just don't even know how to get started"

I hear this one a lot, so this is my best attempt to answer some of the very basic questions about where to start if you want to become a foster parent!

{PRAY} Foster care is not for everyone. Seek God first. Pretty please don't do it because your friends did and the kid they got was super cute.
{ASK QUESTIONS} Chances are you know someone who is or has been involved in foster care. Find a time to talk to them and ask them your questions! Granted, you may have to call them on the phone or follow them around at church as they collect all their kids, but we are passionate about what we do and want to help others get involved!
Here are some examples:
Who can / can't be a foster parent?
Here is a link to the requirements to foster through DHR. I know there are additional requirements with the various private agencies, but I am not aware of an actual list of those requirements. 
I (we) work full time. Can we foster?
Yes! The State will pay for daycare for your child(ren), but only at certain daycares. Your social worker can help you or you can call the ones in your area and ask if they accept payment from "Child Care Central".
What about medical costs?
Covered either by the bio parents insurance (rare) or Medicaid. Costs you nothing out of pocket.

Can I specify the ages of kids I am willing to take?
Yes. Some private agencies will not allow you to take a child who is older than the oldest child in your home. DHR is more flexible. But with either you can specify. 

What if I take a child who becomes a danger to my other children?
I think this is a VERY normal concern for those of us with kids already in the home. We have all heard the horror stories. If you need to have a child moved out of your home, just tell your social worker. You are under no obligation to keep a child who is putting your family in danger.

What if I get licensed but then something comes up with my family?
Another common concern. Simply let your social worker know that you cannot take any placements for a while. If you are with DHR they may still call you if they get in a major bind, but always put your family first and stand your ground. They will respect that.

What about school aged kids?
If a child comes in to your home who is already enrolled in school, I believe you have the option to keep them at their current school or move them to the school you are zoned to. This would of course depend on many things like the length of time they will likely be with you, location etc.

How much do foster parents get paid?
The State will give you what is called a "board payment" (i.e. "room and board"). For the kids I have had in my home, it is typically about $400 ish a month per child. (no one ever talks about this out loud I guess for fear that we will get accused of being in it for the money.....LOL....I personally like straight answers and facts so there ya go)

Will the biological parents know where I live?
No. You will have someone transport the child(ren) to and from visits (if they have regular visits with family). 
Can you adopt a child from foster care?
The goal is always reunification with family. However, sometimes that is not possible. In those cases you can adopt from foster care (more detail coming on this in a separate post).
{GPS} Once you have decided that the Lord is leading your family to become a foster family, you will need to take the GPS classes. There is usually an introduction week where you will get a broad view of foster care and learn if it is for you. GPS stands for "Group Preparation and Selection". I have never really understood this name, but that is neither here nor there. Here are some basics:

  • Classes typically last 11 weeks (1 class introduction and then 10 classes one night a week for 3 hours totaling 30 hours training)
  • They are offered through Lifeline, Alabama Baptist and DHR (you will have to call your county to get info on upcoming classes)
  • They are often held at a church and usually offer childcare   
  • The material for GPS is the same, no matter where you take the classes
  • The main goal of the classes is to teach you how to see fostering from the eyes of a child coming in to foster care, NOT how to change diapers etc. You will learn a LOT. 
  • You will complete the classes as well as get your CPR certification and fingerprints for background checks
  • Once you complete GPS, your "certificate" never expires. So if go through GPS classes today, but don't want to actually start fostering for another year, that is perfectly fine.
  • You can take GPS through ANY AGENCY and then decide who you want to get licensed with. For example. I took my GPS classes through Alabama Baptist because they had a class at a church that was very close to my house. Then I got licensed with Shelby County DHR.
{FINAL STRETCH} The amount of time this phase takes depends on you and your licensing agency. You will fill out lots of paperwork and have your home study and this process will look different depending on your agency. This is an example of some of the paperwork I had to do to get licensed with DHR.

-CA/N Clearance (Child Abuse and Neglect)
-Child Desired Form
-Confidentiality and Code of Ethics
-Criminal History Check Application
-Discipline Policy
-Financial Statement
-HIPPA agreement
-Physical Examination Sheet
-Immediate Relatives Sheet
-Compliance with Minimum Standards
-CPR/First Aid Certification
-Rabies Certification (if you have animals)
-Home Visit
-Copy of Automobile Insurance
-Copy of Home owner’s insurance

{THE BEGINNING} Once you are finished with all of the training and paperwork, your journey really begins. Foster care is hard, but these kids are worth it. Each and every one is fearfully and wonderfully made by God, and being able to serve them is truly a privilege. 

 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My Name welcomes Me....." Mark 9:37

I hesitate to even hit publish on this post because I know there are so many more questions that could be answered and information that could be given. If you have a question, feel free to comment and I will do my best to answer it. If you have additional information from your experience, please do the same!



1 comment:

  1. Our family has been praying for wisdom for about 3 weeks on which way to proceed. The Lord has laid sibling groups and emergency care heavy on our hearts. This article was very helpful to me. Especially the charts. Thank you. ~Victoria