Foster parenting is not glorified babysitting. Being a foster parent means advocating for a child who has experienced the trauma of abuse, neglect, or abandonment. It means meeting the kiddo where he or she is and meeting his or her needs first, before your needs. Parenting takes a lot of time; foster parenting even more. So, yes, foster parenting takes a great deal of commitment in terms of effort, emotion, brain power, and time. Here five things you may need to make room for in your calendar if you choose to become a foster parent.
1. Family visits
In most states, foster parents are not required to supervise family visits. That being said, foster parents do need to set aside time in their calendar to prepare children for those visits. If the case is headed toward reunification, supervised visits benefit parents because they teach the parents how to properly interact with their children. They benefit the child because they keep the child connected to his or her parents. They benefit the foster parent because they give the foster parents a break. Visits are an important element of foster care and should be accommodated.
Foster children are in care through no fault of their own due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Many of these children need counseling to help them recover from their trauma. Setting aside one day a week for a child to interact with a counselor can go a long way in helping with his or her development.
3. Team Meetings
One of the more recent developments in child welfare is the Child and Family Team. This may vary from state to state, but generally speaking, the Child and Family Team is a professional team that gathers monthly or quarterly to check the progress and plan the future of the foster child. The foster parent ought to be a part of this team as an expert because the foster parent is responsible for the child on a daily basis.
Most foster children and their parents are embroiled in the Juvenile Justice system. Foster parents must attend Dependency Court Hearings, which determine the future legal status (permanency) of the child. This may include, but is not limited to, reunification, guardianship, independent living and/or severance, and adoption. These hearings occur anywhere from monthly to quarterly and can last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour or more, depending on the nature of the proceeding. The hearings are generally located either in the county where the foster parent resides or where the biological parent resides. The foster parent can attend in person or by phone. Consult with your state’s Attorney General’s Office for more details.
5. Foster Care Review Board
A foster care review board (FCRB) is a group of volunteers who gather monthly, quarterly, or biannually to oversee the progress of a foster care case. They report directly to the judge over the case in question and make recommendations to the judge in the best interest of the child. It is vital for foster parents to attend these meetings in order to give the board an accurate view of what is going on in the foster home.
These items are just a few of the things that foster parents must make time for. The above does not even cover the regular childhood appointments such as parent-teacher meetings, extra-curricular activities, medical appointments, etc. Again, foster parents are not called to simply “punch a clock”—they are called to advocate for the child in their care, whether the child is there for a week, a month, or a year. A foster parent gives a voice to the voiceless and makes sure that a foster child gets the services he or she needs. That requires time.
Derek Williams is an adoption social worker and has been in the field of child welfare and behavioral health since 2006, where he has assisted families in their adoption journey. He and his wife started their adoption journey in 1993 and have 8 children: 6 of which are adopted. His adoption children are all different ethnicities including East Indian, Jamaican, and Native American. He loves traveling with his family, especially to the East Coast and to the West Coast and is an avid NY Mets fan! Foster care and adoption is a passion and calling for Derek, and he is pleased to share his experiences with others who are like-minded.