Why plan a party: May is National Foster Care Month

National Foster Care Month - plan a party between foster parents and biological/birth parents.
Planning a party with foster parents and birth parents help the foster kid

May is National Foster Care Month. And it’s a great idea for Foster Parents to plan a party with Birth (Biological) Parents of the foster child. This can work wonders for foster kids where reunification is a possibility. Reunification is a core goal of the 2022 National Foster Care Month.

Everyone loves planning a party and here are some tips!

This post explains why good working relations between foster parents and biological parents can help the foster child.

Foster Kids feel worse when foster parents don’t get along with birth parents

A Dutch study from 2016 by Anne M. Maaskant, Floor B. van Rooij, Henny MW Bos, and Jo MA Hermanns in  Journal of Social Work Practice  suggests that if the foster child guesses that their birth parents and foster parents don’t get along, they feel worse. The Dutch people (Country : Netherlands also Holland) are considered some of the happiest people in the world. You can be sure if they report negative feelings for the foster kid – you can expect the same in the US.

Dr. John DeGarmo of the Foster Care Institute in Georgia explains this wonderfully:

Dr. John DeGarmo on Birth Parents and Foster Parents
Better foster parent to birth parent contact can improve child behavior

A recent 2022 study in the US by Lenore M. McWey, Ming Cui, and Armeda Stevenson Wojciak in  Journal of Social Work Practice, finds that externalizing behavior (“acting out” i.e. aggression, delinquency, and hyperactivity) reduces when foster youth has more contact with the biological family.

To summarize: during this National Foster Care Month everyone involved in foster care should encourage contact between foster parents and birth parents. Even if reunification is not possible the foster child will be happier and you should see a reduction in externalizing behavior.

About StartFosterCare.org

Who says “I love you ” on Mother’s Day?

Who says “I love you” on Mother’s day in Foster Care

Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May coincides with the National Foster Care Month. This year it is on Sunday May 8, 2022.

So it’s timely to think of ways how everyone can celebrate Mother’s Day in the Foster Care ecosystem by saying “I love you,” to the foster child. This is the reverse of the biological child saying “I love you” on Mother’s Day. But first some background.

Mother’s day is meant to honor all mother figures in our lives including our own mothers, aunts, god mothers, foster mothers, grandmothers etc. Later visions of Mother’s day included the community leadership role that mother have always played. At StartFosterCare we believe that foster mothers are true heroes because they take the mother’s role beyond their own children.

There is a history Ph.D. Thesis ” Memorializing motherhood: Anna Jarvis and the struggle for control of Mother’s Day” by history professor Katharine Lane Antolini. And the origins of Mother’s Day is fascinating. We quote:

“Mother’s Day celebrated its centennial in May 2008. A century before, on May 10,1908, four hundred members of the Andrews Methodist Church, in Grafton, West Virginia, and a crowd of fifteen thousand people at the Wanamaker Store Auditorium in Philadelphia attended the first official observance of Mother’s Day in the United States. The following year, forty-three additional states joined West Virginia and Pennsylvania in commemorating the day. The speed and extent of the observance’s popularity gratified its founder, Anna Jarvis. It was obvious to her that the country’s sons and daughters craved such a day of maternal tribute as she recounted how “thousands and thousands of persons in all walks of life, with the mother-hunger in their hearts, found Mother’s Day a blessing, a comfort and an uplift.”
She resolved to devote her life to the day’s perpetuation and, after six years of urging, Congress designated Mother’s Day a national holiday in 1914. The Mother’s Day Flag Resolution (H.J. Res. 263) empowered the President of the United States to issue a formal proclamation calling on the American people to honor the nation’s mothers by displaying the American flag on all government buildings and private homes on the second Sunday in May.”Source : Page 1, Ph.D. Thesis , Katharine Lane Antolini (2010)

For our readers interested in the historical role of Anna Jarvis, in founding Mother’s Day read Dr. Antolini’s book at Amazon.

Anna Jarvis did not like the way Mother’s Day got commercialized.

It turns out the Americans spend the second highest on Mother’s Day after Christmas.

Mother’s day is not about spending money by the foster kid (who has precious little anyway) but about who says “I love you” . A Foster Kid is already traumatized and needs more support than your biological kid to celebrate Mother’s day. Here are some ideas everyone involved in foster care, particularly foster moms:

Saying “I love you

Foster Care academic research is silent on whether Foster Moms,Biological Mothers or Social workers do say say “I/We love you” to the child. Anecdotally, we understand that many foster parents do so. However, there is a fascinating piece of research by Richard Wilkins, and Elisabeth Gareis,”Emotion expression and the locution “I love you”: A cross-cultural study.”  in International Journal of Intercultural Relations. They conduct research and identify the relational context in which people say “I love you.” The 77 respondents were from a Communication undergraduate college course. We can assume that most of the respondents were from functional families that we consider “normal”.

Naturally romantic love declarations had the highest numbers. Followed by parental numbers where love was expressed. As you can see parents said “I love you” twice the number of times than kids said “I love you”. Similarly grandparents said ” I love you” to grandkids more often than grandkids who said “I love you” to their grandparents. In other words, in “normal” families parents and grandparents say “I love you” far more often than kids say “I love you” back to them. In other words, kids in “normal” family situations seem to be shy of saying “I love you” to their parents and grandparents. For saying “I love you” comes with a fear of “what if the other person does not love me?”

Understand the fear of rejection in saying”I love you”

It is not common for a kid to say “I love you ” from a “normal” family as indicated in the research above. One can only imagine how hard it must be for a foster kid to say “I love you” to their foster mom, biological mom or any other mother figure. For the foster child, the fear of rejection is real.

Take the leadSay “I/We love you“to the foster kid

For all mother figures in the foster care system it is probably important to take the lead and say “we love you”, to the foster child. With this you can encourage the child to reach out to their other mother figures via text, call or card for mother’s day. Try to reduce the fear in the child’s mind of saying “I love you” for Mother’s Day!

Take the initiative for a get together

As we come out of the pandemic plan a get-together. That could be at a restaurant (expensive on Mother’s Day!) , picnic or backyard party. Be sure to invite mother figures in the child’s life. There are two goals for such a gathering. First the foster parents can reduce the hostile feelings that biological parents have towards foster parents. Second, you give reunification a chance- a major goal of the 2022 National Foster Care Month.

Happy Mother’s Day and National Foster Care Month to all!

About StartFosterCare.org

Kinship Foster Care: Why Culture is important

Kin and Culture provide a sense of belonging to the foster child

We are delighted to celebrate the first anniversary of StartFosterCare.org and the May 2022 National Foster Care month. Kinship connections and stronger families is a focus of this year’s foster care month.See the Children’s Bureau and Child Welfare Information Gateway website.

For this post we explain why culture is important to the foster child.

No culture is good or bad, it’s just different. We all tend to believe that our own culture is the best! Once we reflect we realize that cultures are not good or bad- they are just different. For example, different cultures can value work over leisure and be equally happy . A very influential study of multi-national culture was conducted by Geert Hofstede (1980) in the book “Culture’s Consequences“. IBM commissioned the study in the 1970’s. International Business Machines (IBM- also called Big Blue)) was the iconic American company, so revered, that company purchasing managers worldwide swore” You can’t be fired if you bought IBM”. IBM had discovered a strange problem in their multiple global offices: Despite hiring the best people in each country, IBM discovered that each country seemed to interpret the same exact instructions differently. For example, if the office starts at exactly 8.30 am local time, one country would have employees arriving before time while another country would have employees arriving late. Hofstede did his landmark study across IBM offices globally and identified cultural dimensions that differed between countries. These cultural dimensions explained their attitudes, behavior and approach to life and work. Recently, Hofstede has a developed a great website where you can compare country cultures’ on Hoftede’s dimensions. Try Hofstede’s culture comparison tool– and be prepared for surprises! In 2022, despite instant news, social media and our always on smart phones culture persists. Your own culture and community makes you feel warm, cozy and comfortable.

Culture in the foster kids biological family: Going by the logic that that no culture is good or bad, we need to accept that the foster kid’s biological family has its own culture. And it’s neither good or bad. But can be very different from our own. Yes it was severe family dysfunction that that led to removal of the child by the State.It is possible that the child has relatives nearby who have a functioning family and are ready to take the child in. Thus, most US States (we are talking with) , prioritize such kinship foster kid placements. At one level extended families have similar cultures. But think of the drama surrounding extended family gatherings during weddings and holidays. Even for the most “cultured” families! There can be acute differences in behavior, attitude among different family units. Nevertheless a common culture gives some sense of stability and belonging to the foster kid. This in turn makes the child feel more connected to family. The question as to whether feeling more connected to family leads to better outcomes for the foster child is still being researched. Also it’s not clear if the biological family or kinship foster parents fare better than when the foster parent is unrelated to the child. See a meta-analysis in Clinical child and family psychology review (2021) by Allison Hassall, Elmie Janse van Rensburg, Sebastian Trew, David J. Hawes, and Dave S. Pasalich.

To summarize, if you are a kinship foster parent there are certain foster kid outcomes that you might be able to deliver better because of your common culture. Sometimes kin foster parents can try to manage everything internally because its “family” but it can be too much according to some research. In such situations, do not hesitate to reach out for support from your State professional resources. If you are an unrelated foster parent remember that understanding and accepting the culture in the foster child’s family community is critical. Just your nonjudgemental approach can greatly enhance the sense of stability and belonging in the foster child.

About StartFosterCare.org

Why Foster Parent Training ?

The foster parent recruitment process involves compulsory foster parent training. It is after training that a foster parent becomes a licensed foster parent in a US state. This is an important professional credential for us at StartFosterCare.org. As social work/foster care professionals always explain at StartFosterCare meetings, there are different levels of needs of foster kids. These levels include levels of therapeutic foster care. Different levels of Foster Parenting can require different kinds of training.

Based on academic research and our experience, here is why Foster Parent training is so important:

  1. Successful foster parenting/ avoiding placement breakdown: Like any type of professional training the goal of foster parent training is to produce a licensed foster parent. A new Licensed Foster Parent who is successful. “Success” is that once a foster kid is placed in your care, you can provide a stable, loving, supporting home environment for the duration of the placement. Everyone wants to avoid a placement breakdown i.e. the child is moved from one foster home to another. Recall heartbreaking TV images of kids moving from one from one home to another with their meager belongings in garbage bags. See a recent meta analysis David Solomon, Larissa Niec, and Ciera Schoonover (2017).”The impact of foster parent training on parenting skills and child disruptive behavior: A meta-analysis”.Child maltreatment22(1), 3-13.
  2. Higher level of parenting skills: The foster parent training involves learning parenting skills formally. This can be very important as one comment on our Facebook page suggests that if all biological parents received the training, there would be such an improvement in parenting, that there would be no foster care needed in the first place! See an example of research on parenting skills from Oregon: Becci Akin., Yueqi Yan, Thomas McDonald, and Jungrim Moon (2017).”Changes in parenting practices during Parent Management Training Oregon model with parents of children in foster care”. Children and Youth Services Review76, 181-191.
  3. Increased foster parent satisfaction: Once a foster child is successfully parented it leads to foster parent satisfaction. Like any field of work, you know that you have done/are doing a good job and that makes you satisfied. A sense of satisfaction with your own work leads to a longer term commitment to that field of work. See research by Melanie Randle, Leonie Miller, and Sara Dolnicar (2018) that suggests that pre-placement training is key to foster parent satisfaction. “What can agencies do to increase foster carer satisfaction?”. Child & Family Social Work23(2), 212-221.
  4. Ability to handle disruptive behavior: Well trained foster parents are able to handle disruptive child behavior in their stride. Since they know about types of disruptive behavior and a set of playbook approaches to deal with those behaviors a disruptive child is not seen as a big problem. The consequent stress to the foster parent is thus minimal. As already mentioned in 1- see a recent meta analysis David Solomon, Larissa Niec, and Ciera Schoonover (2017).”The impact of foster parent training on parenting skills and child disruptive behavior: A meta-analysis”. Child maltreatment22(1), 3-13.
  5. Helps Retention of Foster Parents: Once a foster parent is trained and licensed that foster parent is very valuable to society. It turns out that that good pre-placement training followed by periodic training is very helpful in retaining foster parents. Reinforcing knowledge after the parent has experience is a powerful mechanism to keep the experienced foster parent motivated. See recent research on foster parent retention by Ryan Hanlon, June Simon, Angelique Day, Lori Vanderwill, JaeRan Kim, and Elise Dallimore (2021).”Systematic review of factors affecting foster parent retention” .Families in Society102(3), 285-299.

Our numerous discussions with Social Workers across the US States reveals that the initial requirements for foster parents is about 80% same across US States. We believe that our registration questions in the StartFosterCare technology platform covers most of these common themes in trying to prequalify a prospective foster parent. And you can be sure that someone who goes through the registration process for a StartFosterCare event is certainly motivated to become a foster parent.

Luckily, there is an effort to produce a common curriculum for training foster parents across the US. Funded by a grant from the Children’s Bureau of the Administration For Children and Families of the US Department of Human Services, the National Training and Development Curriculum (NTDC) website gives you a sense of the structure and content of training that foster parents go through. Do have a look at the foster parent training curriculum.

We urge both Foster Care Professionals/Social Workers and Prospective Foster Parents to take the training very seriously. If you already know what to expect with foster kids and have a clear practical playbook, it’s far more likely that you would succeed !

About StartFosterCare.org.

COVID Stress and Foster Care

Don’t let COVID freeze you into inaction!

Happy New Year 2022 to all our dear readers!

Frankly, we can’t believe that COVID continues into 2022. The foster care community should not allow COVID to freeze them into inaction.

Life needs to go on and foster kids need to be cared for, even more as COVID continues into 2022.

To prospective foster parents we say that start the process of enquiring on our platform. From the time you start a conversation with a foster care professional to getting trained and licensed it will take about six months. The COVID situation is expected to become endemic i.e. it’ll become another strain of flu. We do hope and pray that this is what happens. In any case, prospective foster parents need to say “yes” before a child is placed with them. That is you can always say “No” after being licensed. Don’t delay the all digital StartFosterCare process because of COVID stresses that we all are feeling.

Meanwhile, Foster Care Scholars have been studying the COVID stress and its impact on Foster Care. Here is a summary of three articles from this academic research relevant to the mission of StartFosterCare. We hope this summary is useful to all current and prospective foster parents and foster care professionals in the field. You are not alone in feeling as you do.

1.Foster Parental stress during COVID: The article by Miller,Cooley and Mihalec-Adkins (2020) in the Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal finds that (1) Married foster parents experienced less stress than single foster parents during COVID (3) Those parents who reported financial insecurity were also more COVID stressed. Surprisingly kinship foster parents including grandparents formed part of this category. (2) Those foster parents who reported their own poor mental health felt more stress due to COVID compared to those who reported “good” or “excellent” mental health. Read the full Miller,Cooley and Mihalec-Adkins (2020) paper.

2. Professional and Foster Parent COVID Stresses: Scholars from Kentucky studied 357 professionals and foster parents. They found 15 different themes that folks mentioned that caused stress in their work and lives during COVID. The top three themes were (1) Change in Routines which was observed in 25% of the responses. (2) Isolation & Loss of Social Support (14%) and School Issues (12%). Here is part of the Table 1 from the authors work.

Source Table 1 Whitt-Woosley, Sprang, and Eslinger (2021)

Read the full article at the NIH website from Whitt-Woosley, Sprang, and Eslinger (2021) from Child Abuse and Neglect Journal.

3. Social Media Reddit StudyFoster Family Concerns and Needs before and during COVID : We liked this novel study because it used social media platform Reddit to study comments from 11,830 Reddit users. The comments were textually and quantitatively analyzed and here is a summary from Table 2 of the study that speaks to the StartFosterCare mission.

Topic Before COVIDDuring COVID
Becoming a foster parent-Approval of foster care licensure
-Completion of licensure requirements
-Anxious or annoyed about slow licensure process
-Anxious about additional delays in licensing
-Frustration over postponed foster parent training classes
-Licensure process going all online
Permanency-Anxious about additional delays in licensing
-Frustration over postponed foster parent training classes
-Licensure process going all online
-Pursuing adoption or legal guardianship
-Termination of parental rights related to children’s age
-Ongoing family separation between foster children and their biological families
-Pandemic-specific challenges as waiting for permanency
Activities for foster children-Ideas for everyday activities and projects
-Suggestions for activities to address sensory-related behavior
-Activities to help connect with foster children
-Ideas for everyday activities and projects
-Suggestions for activities to address sensory-related behavior
-Activities to help connect with foster children
Source: Adapted from Table 2 Lee,Chang, and Ammar (2021)

See the full article by Lee,Chang, and Ammar (2021) Child Abuse and Neglect Journal (2021) at the NIH website.

So summarize, yes COVID has been very stressful for the foster care community and folks have been feeling many of the similar COVID stresses. However, we cannot freeze into inaction because the needs of foster kids are rising across the US.

About StartFosterCare.

Foster to Adopt: Start with Love

Foster to Adopt- Start with Love

Happy Valentine’s Day !

If you are thinking of becoming a foster parent with the intention of adopting the foster child. We have three words for you this holiday season: Start with Love.

In an ideal world where every biological family is able to care for their children- there would be no need for foster or adoptive parents.

Unfortunately some families are not able to care for their children. Generally, foster kids have suffered trauma, abuse and neglect. Which is why the State Government has to step in. The State Government and Family Courts make a particular Foster Care organization responsible for a child.These foster care organizations in turn need to make arrangements for the foster kid’s care.

If you are a biological parent you would be very concerned about someone else taking care of your child. This is why there is a training,licensing process and oversight for the foster parent. The foster care organization is legally (and morally) responsible for the foster child. Thus, foster care organizations try hard to ensure the successful placement of a foster child to a particular foster home. After placement, these organizations are ever ready to help support the foster parent as foster care gets under way.

As explained in an earlier post foster care is temporary and adoption is permanent.

Foster Parents need to start with love getting into foster care:

Love as if this was your own child: Based on all the academic literature and the many discussions we have had with people in the social welfare world the key is to get into this with love in your heart. While nothing is permanent in the world every child does deserve a permanent home while growing up. Hence permanency in foster care where the child is in the same foster home till (a) they are reunited with the biological family or (b) adopted or (c) ages out of the foster care system upon reaching adulthood.

Every second foster child is not reunited with the biological family: Sadly 50% foster kids are not reunited with biological parents. Happily, about half of them are adopted as we mentioned in a previous post:

About 50% of foster kids in the US Foster Care system are not able to be reunited with their biological families. And yes, 26% of Foster Kids were adopted by foster parents according to Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System- AFCARS:2020(page 3) by the foster family. The average time in foster care is about 2 years and more details are available in the AFCARS report.

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Unfortunately about a quarter of kids ( ballpark 100,000 kids out of 400,000 in foster care in the US a year) are neither reunited or adopted. If you go in with love in your heart, and even if you are not able to adopt: foster kids should know that they are loved by their foster parents.

A certification with scholarship and free tuition: A good way to think about becoming a foster parent is that a licensed foster parent is an important professional credential. All through the process, the foster parents build caregiving skills that are most valuable to society. To us at StartFosterCare.org the value of these skills to society are more than that of a para-medical college degree. The foster care system trains you, licenses you and even pays you a stipend to support the child. In other words, you earn a credential that is valuable in service to your immediate community. All this is possible when you start with love in your heart.

We wish our readers a Happy Thanksgiving next week and best wishes for the Holiday Season.

About StartFosterCare.org

Thank you Dr. John- Foster Care Institute

Dr. John says Start Foster Care with Dr. Roy

It was searching for some content about the Foster Parent experience that we found Dr. John of the Foster Care Institute in Georgia. Here was a person who cared deeply about the foster care challenge in the US, was a Foster Parent and a constant advocate for improving foster care. Dr. John is a TEDx speaker, has appeared on every media channel including CNR,Fox,NPR, NBC,ABC, CBS etc.

The reason we reached out to Dr. John was that we saw this YouTube video that made us realize that here was a person who really had the experience and knowledge of the Foster Care system from within. And was a great speaker! As you can see from our blog posts, we have been studying the extensive academic research on foster care by academics in social work, psychology, sociology, psychiatry,counselling etc. These scholars have spent enormous time in zeroing in on a particular facet of foster care. Simply because that’s how the scholarly publication process works. Here was someone who was saying stuff that is lived and real and does match with what scholars have found:

We are so proud that Dr. John has put out a recommendation for us to Foster Care professionals in both US State Governments and Foster Agencies across US States. We specialize in the front end of recruiting quality prospective foster parents through technology. And its important for foster care professionals and foster parents to know that we understand their challenging but rewarding work.

Thank you Dr. John for putting out a good word!

About StartFosterCare.org.

What are the expectations from Foster Parents?

Foster Parent Checklist

There seems to be a lot of expectations from foster parents. And the trouble is that these expectations can be unclear for both foster parents and agencies.

We urge foster parents and agencies to have a one page checklist (see the Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande) of parent expectations for every child because the child’s situation can be very different.

Your friends at Start foster care-

Here is a summary of what these expectations are from academic research (see Corey S. Shdaimah and Jonas Rosen 2020):

  • Caring for children’s physical and mental health
  • Coordinating services and medical care
  • Supporting children’s connections to birth families and ethnic heritage
  • Growth and development of the child
  • Responding to family reunification decisions
  • Bring children to court for hearings

Here is some more details of what we have heard from foster care professionals including State Government managers during our many discussions over the years.

Caring for children’s physical and mental health: Here the foster parent is really performing a role of a good foster parent. In case the child has an injury in a school sport field you need to be able to able to help them cope medically and personally.

Coordinating services and medical care: Everything is paid for by Medicaid, but as a parent you will need to take the child for services. See more details from Child Welfare website.

Supporting children’s connections to birth families and ethnic heritage: Remember why the child came into foster care. The removal from the biological family was because of neglect,abuse or trauma. If somehow, the biological family became functional again – all would be well for the child. Meanwhile, your role is to allow help the child to keep up with their biological family and kin. If your ethnic heritage is different from the child’s you need to develop an interest in the child’s heritage. On a lighter note, everyone thinks that their culture is better than the other’s. Culture scholars call this ethnocentrism. No culture is good or bad- it’s just different is the view of StartFosterCare. See a nice note from Ken Barger at the University of Indiana, explaining this.

Growth and Development of the Child: This is one of the most important goals where you make a difference to the child. Anyone who is a teacher or coach tries to do this for their students. Prospective foster parents need to do this for the child in their care.

Responding to family reunification decisions: It’s hard to give up a foster child that you have grown to love and care. In case, re-unification becomes possible, you say goodbye to the child with a heavy heart and become ready to take in another child. Remember that you’ll be always a part of the child’s life.

About StartFosterCare

Don’t confuse Foster Care with Adoption

26% Foster Children were adopted in 2019 according to AFCARS 2020 Report

For those not deeply familiar with the Child Welfare System there is a common confusion that Foster Care is somehow similar to Adoption. Multiple website’s content from different folks often use the terms interchangeably. Since this adversely affects the recruitment and work of foster parents we wish to clarify for all prospective foster parents out there:

Foster Care is temporary

Adoption is permanent

StartFosterCare.org

About 50% of foster kids in the US Foster Care system are not able to be reunited with their biological families. And yes, 26% of Foster Kids were adopted by foster parents according to Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System- AFCARS:2020 (page 3) by the foster family. The average time in foster care is about 2 years and more details are available in the AFCARS report.

Here are some thoughts on the changing concept of family and how the the child enters foster care:

  • Family- the Marxian Perspective: There was a time till the 1980’s when Marxian sociologists argued that “family” was a capitalist invention. The husband was exploited by the factory owner and the wife was the unpaid worker at home who had to calm down the annoyed husband who returned after feeling mistreated and exploited at work. Kids were socialized to follow orders so that they became obedient cogs in the capitalist machine. See the brilliant explanation in the Family Chapter of Sociology Themes and Perspectives by Michael Haralambos. The older thinking was that family is formed when a man and woman is married and have children.
  • Natural Family in the 2020’s: The meaning of the “natural” family has radically changed in the 2020’s. Parents can be married or not, hetrosexual or not and single parents are common in the US. So long as the child is loved and cared for- everyone seems to agree that the best option for any newborn child is growing up in their biological family. Today foster parents can be diverse by gender, gender identity, sexual orientation etc. in and are actively sought in many US states.
  • How does the foster child originate? If the biological family is unable to take care of the child the public through the State Government takes charge. The reasons listed in the 2020 AFCARS ( table below from page 2 , 2019 data)
  • Why Foster parent orientation and training is so important : Given the challenging history of the kids who come into foster (see table above) the prospective foster parent needs to be highly motivated and trained. To be a successful foster parent it’s important to recognize that the primary goal is to try and reunite the child with the biological family- see our post on kinship care. Since 26% foster parents do eventually adopt – it indicates the kindness and nobility of the foster parent community.

As a prospective foster parent when you attend a session with a local foster care recruiter on the StartFosterCare.org platform be sure to ask questions you have. That interaction is made easy in our system and should help clarify your own feelings and needs so that you make a great foster parent!

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Why do foster parents quit?

Support Foster Parents as they are volunteers- StartFosterCare.org

If a trained, licensed foster parent quits – it is a tragedy for all involved. Particularly the child who needs to now move to another foster home. We have all seen TV images of foster kids moving from from one home to another with their meagre belongings in a garbage bag. It is those heartbreaking images that motivates us at StartFosterCare.org to try and find the right foster parents and match them with the right foster care agencies.

We will be putting out a detailed post on why we should think of Foster Parents as volunteers. Note that the stipend paid is for the child and is not income for the foster parents and so no state or federal taxes apply.

Meanwhile see: Melissa Hardesty,. “It’s not a job!” Foster care board payments and the logic of the profiteering parent.” Social Service Review 92.1 (2018): 93-133.

We studied the research on why foster parents quit. We also reflected on what we have learnt working with foster care agencies in the recruitment of prospective foster parents:

Foster Care Professionals are always under pressure: Whether you are a Government manager or a Foster Care Agency person you have a lot of distributed moving parts (human beings!) to manage. Since the public feels so strongly about children you can be sure that someone will complain to the State Governor for the slightest problem.

Foster Care as an interorganizational system: In a sense the link between the State Government- Foster Agency-Foster Parent reminds us of industrial networks with Tier 1 and Tier 2 Suppliers. [ Clarification: We are not trivializing the huge challenges of managing the foster care system.This post attempts to apply inter-organizational theory from industrial domains to human services. We appreciate that human services are more complex than industrial services. However, organizations do share similarities across industries. Please see the Business-to-Business/Supply Chain sections in the StratoServe blog. ].

Tier 1 ,Tier 2, Tier 3 Relationships: If Tier 1 is the State Government Department of Children and Families (along with the Family Court and Legal system) then Tier 2 is the Foster Care Agency and Tier 3 is the Foster Parent. An example from the Defence industry in Connecticut will make the idea clearer. For Sea Defence the US Navy decides that they need a new submarine. The DoD (Tier 1) has the budget (approved by Congress) to buy a submarine. They contract with General Dynamics (Tier 2) to build a submarine that might take years to manufacture. General Dynamics has a whole bunch of parts suppliers (Tier 3 sub contractors ) who might have a whole bunch of Tier 4 suppliers that provide some component to the part to Tier 3 suppliers, as subcontractor. However, the quality of a part supplied can be precisely measured before payments flow down the chain. If the part fails on quality or timeliness, the supplier can be fired.

In human services, failure occurs if the foster parent quits. If the Tier 3 or Tier 4 supplier for a submarine quits it’s a minor problem. Normally there are several suppliers who supply the same part and they can generally pick up the load. The submarine or other component parts don’t feel devastated.! The US Navy is happy so long the submarine gets delivered on time.

Not so in foster care.

Let us say the foster parent is trained,licensed and takes in a child. After two months the parent notifies the agency that they want to quit. There is a notice period of say 30 days by which time Tier 2 Foster Agency or Tier 1 The US State Government must find an alternative parent or make alternative arrangements. It’s challenging enough for these managers. But the terrible trauma and a feeling of rejection by the child is hard to visualize:

Appeal to Prospective Foster Parents from StartFosterCare.org: Our platform,process and content should help you get a preview of what to expect as a foster parent. We appeal to you to be steadfast once a child is assigned to your care.

Your Friends at StartFosterCare.org

Since human beings are involved all across the foster care system there are more complexities involved. Here are some suggestions/thoughts on this quitting problem:

For State Governments/Foster Agencies:

Support the Foster Parent: Everyone else in the Foster Care system are paid folks except the Foster Parent. The Foster Parent is a volunteer and the stipend is to partially support the foster child. In fact, as we will explain in later posts the stipend is for the child but since the child is a minor the foster parent gets paid. It is NOT income for the foster parent and is not to be included in Federal or State Taxes by the foster parent. The Foster Parent is a volunteer and becomes an expert on the child in their care. Seeking their input and giving them the limelight in all child specific decisions is a show of respect that can make your work that much easier.

Including the Foster Parent in the child team : Let us face it. The actual work of caring for the child is done by the Foster Parent. It turns out that Foster Parents who quit or feel like quitting mention a top reason of not feeling included. The StartFosterCare platform allows you to talk with prospective parents in large numbers. Be very careful in selecting the right foster parents. Once you select the right prospective parents, train them well and then trust them to do a good job.

Respect and Acknowledgement: Everyone loves respect and acknowledgement for the good work they do. Foster Parents are no different. If you think about it, once a child is placed in foster care, the foster parent spends the most time with the child. Yet research in social work suggests that foster parents feel left out in the court processes and in the other decisions like family reunification. See Kathryn W. Rhodes, John G. Orme, and Cheryl Buehler. “A comparison of family foster parents who quit, consider quitting, and plan to continue fostering.” Social service review 75.1 (2001): 84-114.

For Foster Parents:

Your become the expert on the child: Although you might sometimes feel like a Tier 3 or 4 supplier of human services- you actually are the person who provides the service 24 hours to the foster child. This is the service that the Government is trying to provide on behalf of the public. Your service is different from your Doctor’s office or your child’s school teacher or coach. The doctor sees you for a few minutes and a child spends only fixed time with the teacher or coach. As a foster parent you are in constant contact with the child. That alone makes you an expert on the specific child. You are a volunteer and that makes you a noble soul. You also have a Bill of Rights that we will explain in a forthcoming post.

But you are part of the organization: Despite being a volunteer – remember that you are part of the tiered organization that is trying to provide a social service. Never forget why you got into this, in the first place. Right from the licensing and training stage build strong connections of trust and confidence. The Foster Agency folks must feel that they can rely on you. Communicate often. Once you earn the trust and confidence of the Agency, chances are that the Agency will consult you before they take decisions about the child in your care.

About StartFosterCare.

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