I spent 6 years waiting for the moment I could officially say I was a licensed foster parent. During that time, I drove myself crazy researching everything I possibly could about foster care. I could tell you how many children were currently in care, the percentage of cases that became adoptable, the percentage of cases that ended in reunification and the general requirements to become a foster parent. I pretty much thought I had it all figured out… until I stepped foot into my first IMPACT training and realized I knew almost nothing about what foster care truly entailed. Although my husband and I learned way more than 5 things during our training process with Necco, we sat down together and compiled this list of things that surprised us the most.
Alternative Caregivers must be approved by the state
Becoming foster parents doesn't mean our social lives have to come to an end. We still make time for ourselves and our marriage! Date nights, weekend getaways, and vacations are a must have… and maybe even more needed now. But there are rules when it comes to who can watch our foster babies. Alternative caregivers (a person who is trusted to watch your foster child(ren) for more than 2 nights) must be approved by the state! They must pass background checks, drug screens, and home studies in the same way foster parents are required. The state must also be notified when the children will be under the alternative caregivers watch.
For any amount of time under 2 nights (48 hours) foster children are allowed to stay with anyone we, as foster parents, trust and feel comfortable with! This can include friends, family, neighbors, babysitters, etc.
Mental & Behavioral Issues and RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder)
Yes, we were very aware that children in foster care typically have some form of a mental or behavioral disorder. They have experienced outstanding traumas.. so can you blame them? But what we did not know was the many ways it affects the entire family, the steps it takes to help control the issues, and the extent of some disorders.
One particular disorder that stood out to my husband and I is called RAD- Reactive Attachment Disorder. RAD is commonly seen in children who have been grossly neglected and unable to form a bond with their primary caregiver. Because of this disorder, children experience depression, aggression, learning disabilities, low self-esteem, unable to form relationships, behavioral issues, and so much more.
What breaks my heart is knowing that a child entering my home has never felt LOVE. And no matter how much love we show them, they may never feel a bond with us. But instead they will continue to push us away until we are finally able to make a breakthrough!
This was a whole new world for us. Through all my research, I had never come across the words Respite Care (shows how well I knew how to research…) Respite Care is the temporary care of a foster child to give the usual caregiver a time of relief.
This means if at any point during our foster care journey we feel overwhelmed by a particular situation or placement, we have the opportunity to place our child in respite care for a day or two. This does NOT make us bad foster parents! Everyone needs a break now and then. Not even just us as parents, but the children as well. Have you ever needed to step away from a friend, spouse, or coworker because things got heated? You needed some time to cool off before things were said that weren’t really meant? That’s exactly what respite care is for!
The state gives us 10 paid respite care days, per year, per placement. More days are allowed to be used, but after 10 they become unpaid.
Traveling out of the state with a foster child is 100% allowed, if approved by your state case manager
Because we live 10 hours away from our family, traveling over state lines is very common for us and was a huge concern when we decided to begin fostering. Would we have to put our foster child(ren) in someone else’s care when we traveled home to visit? Would they be placed in a strangers home, again, just for a few days so we could go on vacations as a family without them?
Thankfully the answer was NO! With our case managers approval and a letter of notice within 2 weeks of travel, our placements are allowed to cross state lines. Their biological family is made aware of the travel and allowed to have a say, but in the end the state has the final say in whether they can travel. In most cases, if safety is not a concern, the state will grant the travel!
It’s such a blessing to know our foster children will be able to meet our families back home, go on vacations with us, and truly feel like a part of our family!
Kitchen knives MUST be locked away and inaccessible to children.
Now, as biological parents, we weren’t overly shocked about this rule! Knives are dangerous for children and accidents happen daily. So why would this come as a shock to us? Well because this rule exists not only for the accidents, but for the intentional. Kids in foster care have experienced traumas some of us may never be able to wrap our heads around. They’ve been exposed to more in their short lifetime than some people are ever exposed to in their entire lifetime. These traumas cause mental and behavioral issues (we will touch base on this shortly) and each child will handle things differently. Kitchen knives, for obvious reasons, seem to be a common way for a child to self-harm or even harm others. Having your knives locked away safely, helps remove the terrible possibility of something happening to your foster child or another member of the household.
This also added a little fear and anxiety to our mix of emotions! It’s a little scary to think about the possibility of having a child enter your home with the intentions to self-harm or harm others.
These things didn't change our outlook on foster care or our want to follow this calling, they simply prepared us for the reality that’s coming our way.
If you were debating on becoming a licensed foster parent, would any of these things change your mind? Would they encourage you to become licensed? I’d love to hear your input and takeaways! Feel free to leave your comments and questions in the comment section below.
Every state and agency has different trainings, requirements, rules, etc. We are located in the state of Georgia, fostering through Necco
Want to know more about starting a foster parenting journey? Visit here to get all the info.
This post was originally on Fostering In Faith, follow their journey on Instagram, @fostering.in.faith