Creating a Family: Talk about Adoption & Foster Care

Introduction to Foster Parenting

September 21, 2022 Creating a Family Season 16 Episode 38
Creating a Family: Talk about Adoption & Foster Care
Introduction to Foster Parenting
Show Notes Transcript

Have you ever thought about becoming a foster parent? If so, this is the podcast for you! We talk with Arnie Eby, the Executive Director of the National Foster Parent Association and a foster parent for 22 years; and Angie Jones, a licensed clinical social worker and the Intensive Service Foster Care Recruiter and Trainer at Vista Del Mar, an agency placing foster children.

In this episode, we cover:

  • What is the goal of the foster care system?
  • How to become a foster parent?
  • What are the typical requirements for becoming a foster parent? 
  • What disqualifies you to become a foster parent?
  • What type of pre-service training is involved?
  • How long does it usually take to become a licensed foster parent?
  • Who licenses foster parents?
  • What types of questions should parents ask when deciding on which agency to work with?
  • What are the different levels of licensing for foster homes? 
  • Do foster parents get paid?
  • Can you foster if you rent your home or apartment?
  • Does one parent have to be at home if they want to have infants or young pre-school aged children placed with them?
  • How much control do foster parents have on which child is placed with them?
  • What is expected of foster parents when a child is placed with them?
  • Can you travel with a foster child? Out of state? Out of the country?
  • What is shared parenting or co-parenting?
  • What type of support should foster parents expect from the agency they are licensed through?
  • Is it possible to adopt your foster child? 
  • How do you foster and adopt?
  • How much control do foster parents have on visitation, medical treatment, mental health care, and reunification?
  • How to cope with the grief when a foster child leaves?
  • Where can foster parents turn for support?

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Please pardon the errors, this is an automatic transcription.
Welcome, everyone to Creating a Family talk about adoption in foster care. I'm Dawn Davenport. I'm both the host of this show as well as the director of the nonprofit, creating a Today we're going to be doing an introduction to foster parenting. We will be talking with Arnie Eby. He is the Executive Director of the National Foster Parent Association, and has been a foster parent for 22 years and counting. And we have Angie Jones. She is a licensed clinical social worker and the intensive service foster care recruiter and trainer at Vista Del Mar, an agency placing foster children in Los Angeles County, she is also a soon to be foster parent. So congratulations, Angie. Thank you so much. All right, this is going to be as the title would imply a general introduction. So let's start at the beginning of and, Arnie, I'll start with you. What is the goal of the foster care system in the United States?

Well, currently, the goal of foster care in the United States as we know it as a temporary place for a child to stay until permanency can be achieved. The first goal of permanency is reunification. And that's what biological parents or, or Secondly, with family. So Foster Care is a temporary or a stand down. situation.

Okay, excellent. And as you point out, the goal is to heal these birth families. And if we can't get the kids back with their parents, the secondary goal would be to look for extended family that can take them in. Alright, so Angie, this is a very broad question. And it's somewhat, I'm going to prepare everyone now that you're going to hear a lot of it depends in this interview, because the reality is, foster care is controlled by state law. And we have 50 states plus we've got territories, we've got the DC. So we've got a lot of different foster care systems and a lot of different ways foster care can look so we're going to be talking in generalities that can apply to many places to find out though the specifics for where you live, you will need to talk with either your county agency or a private agency in your location to find out the specifics, but the information is general and that we're going to be giving and it has general applicability. So with that as a as a prelude, let me turn back to Angie and say, how do you become a foster parent? And let's start by saying, what type of agencies can you work with if you want to be a foster parent? Mm hmm.

Yes. So you can work with? So in California, in Los Angeles County, we have the Department of Children and Family Services. So it may be CPS children Protective Services, and your

it goes by a totally just all sorts of different names, but it's basically the the state or the county child welfare agency. Go ahead. Yes.

So DCFS, or a foster family agency? And did you want me to go into the other question as well? Yeah.

Okay. So just to summarize, you can work with either the state or the county, it's the generally the county public agency, or in many places, you are also able to work with a private placing agency that has a contract with the state in order to place foster kids, not every state or every county does that but I think the vast majority to Okay, so yes, so now what do you do? So you're interested, you know that you can work with one of these two agencies? All right.

So the first step would be going to orientations. And I say orientations because I think you should go to multiple orientations to see what best fits your family. Would you like to go with? DCFS? Would you like to go with a foster family agency? It is a personal preference. So that is the first step. And then once you find an agency, then you would start training classes. And after the training classes have ended, you will complete documentation and start a home study.

Okay, we'll go into English required for their Okay. RNA, what are the typical requirements for becoming a foster parent? And she's alluded to some of them. But let's talk first about background checks. What do we mean by that? How detailed they are, how detailed are they who pays for them, all that stuff. Typically,

the background checks are paid for by the agency or the state if you're going through a State group. So Are those are paid for by them. They look at different things, different states rehab, different means test. And so some of them where you have very small states where state lines are within a dozen miles, you can need multiple state background checks because of people jumping from one state to the next. Then there's generally financial tests. And then of course, the training requirements.

Okay, so you have a, you have state background checks, do you also aren't I usually have criminal federal criminal records.

Normally, particularly I live in Maryland, and where I live in Maryland, within 20 minutes, you can be in four different states. So as a result, you generally do an FBI background check, which would cover all those states.

Okay. And that may may be different depending on where you live, but an FBI check may well be, and obviously they're looking for child abuse, or child neglect, registries and things like that as well. All right. Now, let's talk some about the training requirement. And you You are a trainer. So I will say that each statement, like I said, you're gonna hear this a lot, guys. Each state has slightly different training requirements. But can you speak generally not just for California or LA County, but generally, Angie, what type of training is provided for foster parents and isn't required?

Yeah, so training is required to become a foster parent, we have pre service training, and that is 12 hours. And then we have pre approval training, which is eight hours. So there's a total of 20 hours that you have to do before you get approved to be a foster parent. And then there's a lot more training along the ride. Yeah, once

you become, again, the number of hours depends, I think, last time I looked, most states required between 30 and 35 hours of training, there are you that the type of training or the curriculum that you are using is usually prescribed by the state. But again, there are some states that have more flexibility. All right, Arnie. Now let's talk about the home requirements. We're going to talk about the home study in a minute, but I'm going to focus on there will be a home inspection, there are usually requirements as to any number of things that must be present in the home. Can you talk with some about some of the typical requirements that you might expect?

Well, generally, if you live in the county, or in a rural area where there is not? Well, I mean, where you have well, or septic, where there's not public water or sewer, then you have to have those systems certified, you're well and septic, you have to have a fire marshal check. So you have to have adequate egress, so that the bedrooms, actually we're if you have a swimming pool, there are certain requirements state by state based on a pool. And some states are definitely more stringent than others. But the things that are the most important have to do with water quality, I think and fire protection either and making sure there's proper egress, and the right number of bedrooms for the children in your care.

Arnie does, do you know, does each child have to have their own separate room,

that's going to be dependent on your state requirements. And it is also in some situations dependent on if you're working with a private agency, and either the medical or other trauma needs of an individual child. So once each child has to have their own bedroom, it becomes that a little more defined by the needs of the child.

Okay, excellent. Is it required that you own your house or can you be in an apartment, can you be renting? Can you be leasing? I'm going to go back to you already on all the house questions.

My understanding is and the majority of states that I have dealt with, you do not need to own your own home. However, there may be requirements about having your landlord sign off on the fact that children in a temporary setting are there because there may be requirements in a lease that would need to be addressed.

Okay, Angie, can you think of any other home requirements for the physical property of the house? Oh, that might be included.

Yeah, I mean, I'm thinking of like you have, at least with foster family agencies, you have to have medications locked up, knives locked up, cleaning supplies locked up. So things like that within the household, you need to have, you know, secured and away from the kids.

Well, fire ladders, I will say that much when we were going through it, there were are considering it, there were you have to have safe ways of exit, which in our case required the purchase of a of an expandable ladder that could be rolled out from the upstairs, outside the window. That would not always be the case it had I don't remember the details. But that was something that they looked at and required.

Yes. So if you live on a second floor, you do need an escape ladder. And if you have firearms or weapons, those also need to be locked. And then the ammunition needs to be locked and in a separate location. So those are important to know as well. And then the Room in Los Angeles County, you can if you have a one bedroom and you want to foster, you can do that. And as long as a child under the age of two, they can be in the room with you. They just need their own room at two years old.

So Angie, what would disqualify you from becoming a foster parent? Now, obviously not meeting any of the home or not being able to meet the home or the specific home requirements? But I was specifically thinking back to the background checks. What type of things are they looking for in the background checks? Let's say you had a DWI, when you were in college, would that keep you out? Would that prevent you from fostering? What if you had bounced a check or something along those lines?

Hmm, yes. So with I'm going to speak to a foster family agencies or the private agencies. So if something does come back on your live scan or fingerprints, we do have to get an exemption from the California Department of Social Services. So if it is things like a d y, or a bounced check, or something that happened 20 years ago, usually, like a non violent crime, you know, something not having to do with with child abuse, an exemption would just have to go through and we'd have to wait for that exemption. So I would say something like, violent or child abuse would disqualify you. And if it's something like I said, DUI, you would write a statement about it. And and we would talk about it, and you would talk about it with your social worker. Okay, excellent. We need

your help and letting others know about the creating a podcast, our mission is to reach as many people as possible who are involved in adoption or fostering or kinship caregivers, we want to reach them with our unbiased, accurate research based materials. And we need you and to be our, our voice to let others know. So please let them know about the creating a podcast. So how long does it usually take Auntie to become a foster parent? And I realize a lot of that's out of the control of either the foster parents and sometimes out of the control of the foster agency. So let's just talk in generalities. How long does it take?

Yeah, I would say four to six months, give or take. So it could be more on the four month side could be on the six month side, if you're not turning in documentation and you know, in a timely manner. It may take longer than that, but I would say generally four to six months.

And that would include your background checks that would include the home visits,

yes. Interviews with the social worker. Got it.

Okay. So that's just kind of and some of that is within your control as a foster parent, but much of it is not. And we've already talked about the WHO licensed the foster parents, either the public agency or the private agency, depending on who you are working with RNA, what type of questions should parents ask when they're deciding on what which agency to work with? And again, we have the choice generally, not always, but generally between working with the public agency or working with a private agency. So what are some of the questions that foster parents should ask or potential foster parents in deciding whether they should go with the private agency or the public agency? And Angie, be thinking because I'm gonna come to you after with that same question?

Well, I think the most important thing that I ask people to think about is what support services will they need to be successful? They don't always know that up Right. But it's very helpful and practical to ask about call emergency call routines, or Respite services, or how often the case worker or case management will be there. Particularly if you're having children that have medical or psychological needs, then you're going to want to be asking about the support of secondary agencies and who they work with. Are there waiting lists? Or how do you respond in a crisis? So those are the kinds of things in training, they often ask you, what is your support system? What is your village? And I think that that's a fair question to reverse, and say to the county or the agency, what's your village? How do you support me in a crisis? Who will be there? You know, COVID taught us a lot of interesting things across the past two years, where we've had foster families, where both caregivers became sick at simultaneously. And how then do we care for those children who have also been exposed? And so it's, I think, very necessary and needful for potential resource families, not only to evaluate their village, but also understand what needs and services are available to them through the county or the agency.

Yeah, and I'm so glad you raised that. And I will say that the ask very specific questions, because the the amount of support, post placement varies greatly. So great suggestion, Auntie, what questions would you suggest, potential foster parents ask when deciding which agency to work with?

Yeah. So I think the first one, we just kind of talked about it, but asking how long it would take to get approved, because each agency is different. And they may have, they may be really busy in that season. So asking how long it will take to get approved? I think another big one is, do you have different days for training classes that are not, you know, on your own speed online, like maybe it's some that you have to go to zoom? Like we have 12 hours that you do with our social workers that are set in stone on a certain day? So sometimes you can't make it that day. So I think that's really important to ask that question

to ask what what alternatives if you can't make it on the day? What alternatives they can make? Right? And it makes it Yeah,

and if and they may not have an alternative? So then you're looking at another agency. So that's why it's important to kind of look at all different agencies, are there zoom or virtual trainings that you can attend? Maybe you live a little bit further away. And you know, here in Los Angeles, traffic can be a lot. So zoom, or virtual, especially in COVID, talking about COVID? Are there any fees associated with fostering? I know, some agencies charge a fee for like their training manual. So that's also important to ask. And then I think the last one I would say is, it was really important for me when I was looking for a foster family agency, is if there were people that weren't going to, you know, they want and are open to having LGBTQ families. So a lot of agencies have the HRC Human Rights Campaign, all children, all families. So it's important to ask if they if they have that, because then they are doing the work behind the scenes and learning about LGBTQ families and children.

Okay, and another thing that I would add all excellent points, I should say. But another thing I would add, and I think RNA specify this, if you need respite, either because of the level of placement for the child and you need a break or because you're going to be in the hospital having something done or you know, you have an elderly parent that you periodically have to go visit asking specifically how many respite families they have, how often they're able to provide respite, how long the wait is how far in advance do you need to let them know things along those lines are also good. And I think Arnie you mentioned his support services, but how how much help they're able to give you in finding a specific therapy that you think that has been recommended for the child. So how, how much help they can give you along those lines. Let me pause here to remind you that we have 12, free online courses available to you now, our wonderful listeners, they come to you through the support of the jockey being Family Foundation, you can find them at Bitly slash JBf support. And that is the I T dot L, Y, slash j, b f support. And be sure to tell friends about these free courses as well. They can be used if you are a foster parent, they can be used as foster parent continuing ed credit, or they can be used just to improve your parenting. All right, Arnie, can you think of any other questions that that you would suggest foster families ask?

Well, I think that 22 years ago, I didn't think about this. But I recommend that people think about it now, as a resource, foster parents, we are asked to heal not only the foster child, but also now in lots of situation, work with the healing process for the biological family. I don't think there's enough emphasis on the fact that those healing systems are those that that exercise of healing also brings up situations in our own lives that need healed. And I think that there needs to be an incredible and an increasing awareness among foster parents, and the agencies that serve them, that they act of healing brings up areas in our own lives that need healed as well. So I asked him now about what support are available to me, as I process the unexpected things, psychologically, that I deal with, as in the requirements of being a healer, and I think that's a service that is missed far too often, but is very necessary to the retention of quality foster parents, we have to help them feel as they perform the duty of healing.

No, that's a that's powerful, what you've just said. It's very true. Something that we have not spoken directly about but such a good segue, I will go ahead and use this now. We are at foster parents are expected to it's called different things, share parenting or co parenting, we're expected to help with the reunification of these families and help were we foster parents need to be the the cheering section for the birth families. And and that can be challenging at times. And so yeah, so that is a part of fostering. And I'm really glad you brought that up. Arnie, what are the different levels of licensing are licensure for foster homes, again, it is called different levels are called different things in different states. But if you could just give us an overview of some of and I can throw in some of the I know some of the different names, it is called a few don't. But what are they are some of the different? What do we mean when we say levels of foster home?

Well, I will have to speak from my experience, and that's coming from the Maryland foster parents system for many years. There are two areas that they are the public and the therapeutic or the private providers. So the public providers work for counties, or essentially the state government where therapeutic or private providers work for agencies, typically, therapeutic or private providers deal with medically fragile or other a deeper psychological need. I think what my personal feeling is that 20 years ago, I may have seen a difference between those two. But with all the efforts and the efforts to provide family stability before a child comes into care. I think that the playing field has been leveled that the children that come into care now need a very similar set of support. But anyway, that that doesn't answer your question. What says yes, there are public providers who generally work for the state or the county. And there are private providers who then deal with medically fragile or special needs populations.

Okay. Now, here's an interesting distinction that I think is that there are some other states who follow that model. But that is not at all a universal model. So I will answer it just very generally, as a general rule, most states, in fact, I would think all states have different levels of homes based on the needs of the child coming into the home. And Arnie was giving his opinion that, in fact, some of the distinctions are as to what needs are, but there's usually the basic foster care, and then there's usually some form of higher level care, it could be medical needs of the child, very often it is emotional and behavioral needs. And those higher level homes can be called therapeutic foster homes, treatment foster homes, or if they give a numerical system, it's a level three or level four home depending on on where you're at. And the higher level homes the therapeutic homes, usually have specialized training for for their families. In some states, apparently, Maryland, we're going to turn to Angie and find out it's more than just money. But some states, the therapeutic homes may be handled only with private, other states. It's both public and private. And they may be states that only public agencies handle the therapy to count. I actually don't know of any of those. But that doesn't mean that they don't exist. As I said, there's 50 plus different foster care systems. Angie, how is it handled in California?

Yeah, so for regular foster care, we do have the level of care. And that goes from one to four. And just like you all were saying, it could be medical needs, it is a lot of high emotional and behavioral needs. And then our next step is intensive service, foster care. And with intensive services, foster care, you get an added 40 hours of training, you get a wraparound team, which has a whole whole lot of professionals, social workers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, a lot of people wrapped around the child and the family. And then there's also therapeutic foster care. And that's more of like a short term, intensive treatment. And then we also are starting a program which is enhanced, enhanced, intensive services, foster care. And so that's new and it's coming and the foster parents are going to be more hands on. And as you can imagine, with these levels of care and the higher needs of the children, the more hands on you are, the higher that stipend is every month.

Well, that begs the question, I was just getting ready to ask Angie do foster parents get paid,

foster parents get paid there is a monthly stipend, it is for the child's needs, and then having another person another head in your household. So I wouldn't say it's essentially them getting paid like a like a check just for them. It is to take care of your household and an extra child or multiple children.

And you mentioned that the different levels of care the higher up the level of care of the foster home. Usually, if not always comes with a higher monthly stipend. Yes, because the expectation is the expenses for that child will be greater as well. Aren't they do our foster parents expected to pay many of these children come in and they need certain therapies, they need medical treatment they need, you know, behavioral therapy, they may need grief therapy or just different things that these children need. Who pays for that?

A child that comes into care does receive a medical services card. And those services are covered for under that vary state by state. If you have to cover the mileage to get to those appointments or what the breakdown is, particularly in rural communities. You can drive an hour plus one way to find a provider that will provide those services now. An hour commute time in LA is going to be very different than an hour commute time in Nebraska. But it's still time that you're away. It's still an hour running.

Still an hour, the different the distance might be different but you're still burning gas whether you're sitting in traffic or you're plowing down an open road, but go ahead

right. So in some some places, I was making that up drawing that parallel because a lot of times It's based on mileage. And mileage is not always an accurate way to do means test the availability of additional remuneration. However, we do see on gaps in dental services, gaps in the realities of the mental health issues, or support services that many of these children that come into care need to be successful. So I know of one person who went to a doctor with a child and they were given a therapy or a different appointment that they wanted the child to see. But only three of them were available in a 30 minute radius, and some of them weren't even available in the state. So it is very difficult sometimes. And we really need to think about the kind of mental health or support services that all these families need in order for these children to be successful and move to the level of healing that we that society desperately needs them to achieve.

I think it's the case correct me if I'm wrong, Arnie, I believe that in every state foster children are enrolled in the Medicaid system so that their medical, their dental and their behavioral health and their emotional health needs are paid for by the state Arnie, is that correct? For every state?

As far as I know, that's correct. For every state,

Yeah, same here. And it makes sense because the child is in the custody of the state it the the the state is responsible for those for those expenses. All right, so the answer is that that you as a foster parent, are not responsible for the medical, dental and mental health care of the of the child. I want to pause here to remind you or to tell you actually about one of our partners, Spence shapen. They are a recipient of the Human Rights Campaign. All children all families, a seal of recognition, spins shape and is committed to equality and adoption and is proud of the many children they have placed in loving, stable, same sex households. Spitz champions international adoption program in South Africa in Colombia, encourage applicants from all types of families. You can visit and get more information at Spence hyphen Angie, does one parent have to be at home? If they want to have an infant or young preschooler age preschool age child placed with them? Or having one person home? Does it increase the likelihood that you will get a young placement?

Yeah, so not necessarily. So there are families that work full time single parents that work full time, you know, two partners that work full time that are taking in infants and toddlers. We do have like child free childcare. So it's an emergency childcare here in Los Angeles County, and you get a stipend, so you're not paying for childcare either. So if you do have to go into the office, and you know, work, there is childcare and a daycare for you that's approved through DCFS. And, you know, I think if the child has more needs more medical needs, it probably would be helpful to have a stay at home parent, because you know, you got to be more hands on. But other than that, I would say, you know, you can both work full time or be a single parent and and do it.

Yes, and your childcare is another expense that is covered by this state. I do know certain counties will preference if there is a stay at home parent, they will preference that because it saves money because they don't have to then pay for the childcare. But the reality is generally there are fewer of those and more children. So it's it's as far as getting a placement not much.

Well, there's not complete. I've wanted to jump in there. Yeah, absolutely. The childcare is not fully covered in a lot of states. And we see their waiting lists for childcare. There are some states that have a childcare crisis because coming out of COVID we have seen so many small providers go out of business. So right now, it's certainly not the majority of states that childcare is completely covered. We I'm seeing multiple reports come across my desk where foster parents are paying their entire stipend to supplement childcare reimbursement because of the the lack of childcare beds and so they have to pay a higher price to get it accomplished. So child Care is a crisis. And that's a question you should really be asking, What support? Would you as a potential foster resource parent received in the area of child care? Because it's different right now than it was two years ago?

That is such a good point. I am so glad you brought that up. Childcare is a crisis right now. And you are so right, even if they even if, for the, I think most states say that they're going to provide it. But they barely may provide a nice, small, the amount they're going to provide will only cover a small portion. And here's the reality, if there's no childcare available, they can't make it appear. They usually have contracts with certain centers. But if the center doesn't have openings, then yeah, that is such a good point. And yes, we are in a crisis. Arnie as a foster, and you've been one for many years, how much control do foster parents have on which child is placed with them?

I don't know that they have much control at all. They do have the the ability to say no, however, the majority of children we took, we took on an emergency basis on Friday night, or, you know, on a Saturday night, Christmas Eve when children were dropped off at the psych ward at the local hospital, and abandoned. So we have in those kinds of situations, there's really, you're really governed by your ability and capacity to meet an incredible need at a very inopportune time. So, and most of the times when we weren't, we would not have said we were ready. So as a resource parent, you and a potential resource parent, you really want to be able to say, I am willing to step outside my comfort zone, because there is no real comfort zone in taking a child it is an opportunity to make a difference. And sometimes the biggest differences in your own life.

Wow, yeah, I thought you were gonna say it's really dependent on your ability to say no, if you're going to have any control, and that is in your right, so often, what you're asking is, can you take just now we just need you for an emergency, this won't be long. And then and then you find that you can do it and you start caring about the child and you don't want it to be short term. And you anything to say to that, from your experience from as a policing agency. I certainly know that that foster parents are encouraged to think through what is a good placement for them. I think RNA is giving us the real life of that, which is you can say what you want. But when they need a family, and they don't have any body, they're going down their list. And they're going to call you even though you say I'm only open to for this, this age child or this gender, child or children that only have these things, but if if they have nobody else they're going to call so anyway, what's your experience as a as a placing agency?

Yeah, so as a foster family agency, our families do have a little bit control over that, right. So they can choose ages, ethnicity, gender, or sex. And, you know, they're put on a list for those specific things. Sometimes we will call them if they if they're a little bit out of their, their, you know, age range. And then they can also talk about what type of needs they're willing to take. Because we, you know, we we don't have a specific contract with emergency foster care, even though all of it is emergent in a way, but we don't know how long the kid is going to be with you, or kids. And so it just really depends. So if you are very, you know, I want zero to five, I want this, I want this specific type of child, you are going to be waiting longer. And there are kids coming into the system. Every single day, I get emails and calls all day of kids that need homes. So the the more specific you are, the longer you're going to wait. If you are open, you will get a placement super, super quick.

Okay, that makes sense. And you can you travel with a foster child either out of state in the state out of the state or out of the country. Yeah,

so in my experience, I have seen families travel out of county out of states, not a lot travel out of country, because there is even more involved with that. But most of it is you know, you have to tell your social worker, and a lot of it will need court approval, and it'll take about four to six weeks. It varies by Usually it takes about four to six weeks. If you are trying to go out of state with the foster child, it also depends on bio parents and if they say yes to, you know them going out of state, out of county out of country. So there are a lot of factors, but you can usually travel with notice.

Okay, RNA, is it possible to adopt your foster child?

Yes, we've adopted four of our foster children from care from foster care. years ago, that wasn't the case. I think now, statistics are Ascar shows that more than 50% of foster children that find permanency through adoption, find it with their foster family. So it is a possibility. I do. I think it's one of the areas though that if we highlight it too much when people were coming into the foster care to be foster parents, that gives very mixed messaging, because the emphasis on foster care is re unification and return home. And so it is one of the areas that can give very mixed messaging to new foster families. So yes, we've done it. But we've adopted for from foster care, and in 22 years, we had over 150 different children live with us. So I'm certainly thankful we couldn't have adopted all that was not possible.

No, no, that would be quite, there would be quite a bit. And I and I totally agree with you, we were walking a fine line. I mean, if a child has been placed and has attached and is in a loving foster home, and they're not going to be able to reunify, we certainly want them to not have to be removed from that home, if at all possible if the parents, so we want to encourage foster parents to adopt from that from that standpoint. But as RNA very well and eloquently said, the goal is is when you become a foster parent, is that you're not signing up, you're signing up to be a temporary place. So if you really want to parent permanently you want to adopt, you need to get your mind around the fact that if honestly, this is what I saying. And from my years of this, an RNAi would be curious to see if you would agree or disagree. But if adoption is what you want, and you are willing to be a soft landing place for many children, chances are very good, you will be given the opportunity to adopt one of your foster children if you adopt if you have enough kids in your home. It used to be about you know, you could already had mentioned the Apgar that is the statistical data that is collected federally on children in foster care. And so if you're fostering enough that chances are good, there will be a child that you are going to be asked to adopt. But that can't be your goal. Because as I already said his his his stats are, I've always heard about one in four. You know, if you have one out of four foster kids, you know, that's because that comes from Apgar. But his is very different 104 to 150. So, yeah, so there you go. You can't count on, you can't count on anything. Angie, what is the process? How do you foster and adopt? And how does that work? You're a foster parent, you're not an adoptive parent. So how does that practically work?

Yeah, I mean, here,

I really want to piggyback on what Arnie was saying is that I think we focus a lot, you know, the foster care system on adoption, and we miss all the other steps and all the other things and and so when we're talking about Foster, to adopt or foster and adoption, you know, we really need to hone in on the fostering piece you know, you're you're fostering this child you are that you are this child safe place while their bio family heals and and we hope that they heal and we're there to support biological family and and, and, you know, research does show that the more support you have for bio families, the more they're going to reunify and so that's really, really, really important here when we're talking about fostering and so I mean, I really want to leave that question like that and maybe Arnie since he has adopted through the foster care system can can add on to that, but I do want to just I want to focus mainly on fostering because that is the goal and and that's where we need to be at.

And I do want to have RNA answer that question. I wanted to touch on something you said. I see it much less now but it used to be fairly common that you would see it A the term foster to adopt. And in many states, if not all the states that 15 years ago, that was a fairly common thing that you saw. And it's no longer it's it's less use, I shouldn't say it's no longer it is less use now for all the reasons we're saying, as Angie, I liked how she said, We've got to focus on the foster part of that. And as RNA said, by including the adoption part, where we're almost setting families up to fail, and that they're coming in thinking, I really want a child, I want my my child I want a permanent child, and not realizing that the adoption part is the fostering part is gonna be many more kids in the home before. So RNA is is was your process similar to the after the they you are asked to adopt the children after it became clear that their parents, we're not going to be able to successfully reunify? Yes.

And the majority of our situations were multiple years, significantly longer than the timelines of any of us want to see. And achieving permanency for children, which hopefully is somewhere 24 months or very soon there. After all, those situations were significantly longer than that, partly because of the court process and appeals. But I do think that it's really important to help people understand that that process is never easy. But it is very, very important to have resource families willing to stand in the gap to fill that need. And then understand that you may encounter an unexpected opportunity or busing as you go through that journey, but not without some peril.

And let's talk a little about that the peril are the reasons that it is not easy. RNA, how much control do foster parents have? How much say, do they have on visitation? Medical treatment, mental health care, and reunification? How much is the foster parent in control of these things? Or how much say Do they have?

I don't think that foster parents really have very much control over that at all. That's one of those things that you have to be willing to stand on the sidelines. It is important, I think he used the word to be a cheerleader. I mean, we tried to do that sometimes, sometimes at work, sometimes it comes back as a nasty boomerang. But it is important to be there for the child. However, there are case managers managing the case. And I tried to help resource parents understand that advocacy has its place, but we are not the case manager. So having say in some of those situations that you mentioned, has more to do with case management than being a foster parent. And I think that's one of the other places sometimes where the lines get a little blurry, which could create confusion.

And, and make it difficult. It's part of just the nature of you fall in love with this child. Hopefully you do these children need. They need people to fall in love with them. And so you fall in love with these kiddos and you. You think you can't help but you're you're you're stepping into the role of a parent, you can't help but think you know what's best. And sometimes you may know what's best, but it still doesn't mean that your voice is going to be the one that carries and accepting that it's just part of it. And and that can be tough. Yeah, it I mean, it really can be and how speaking of of not being in control and a child leaves and maybe you are in control and this is the answer to what you have been working on. You have been the support system for this birth family. They have gotten their proverbial act together and they've met their plans and the child is going to reunify or you don't think they're ready, but the child is the caseworker thinks that the child is and so the child is going to reunify either way. There's a grief you experience because your family is experiencing this you are experiencing issue care about this child. You love this child. What can you say about how for for foster parents where to go and how to cope with the grief that you experience when a foster child leaves whether it's a celebration that you're a part of and think is wonderful are a decision that you strongly disagree with? Whoa,

yeah, we're humans, right? So even if it's in all our power for these children, Sure you reunify and they do and you've had this child for a year, year and a half, two years, three years, I've heard four or five, you know, it's, it's going to be heartbreaking, you are going to have loss and grief and in your life. So I definitely think the number one thing is therapy. And that's even prior to becoming a foster parent, while you're a foster parent, so that you kind of have that, that mechanism when a foster child leaves you have, you know, we talked a lot about the support from these agencies. And, you know, do I still have that support after a child goes home? And, you know, who do I get that support from and, you know, joining support groups and having family and friends, which can kind of teeter right, because a family and friends are not in the foster care world, they may not truly understand. But sometimes we do have people in our lives in our close lives that really, truly understand. And so finding those people so I would say, therapy, support groups, friends, family, social workers, other families that are doing it with you and your agency, people that you've used for respite, there is a lot of help out there. And you know, to help you grieve through that process.

And RNA, this is a time I want you to mention the national foster parent association. What resources do they have to provide for foster families, both whether they're going through the grief of having a child leave, or just in general,

most of our resources are on the NFPA ti that's our training institute. There's that's a free site that's available that has resources, some tips, they're working through that and how you think about it, because so much of it is being able to either verbalize it or to at least put a mental process around it so that you work through it. Healing is something that happens gradually, and it's a journey for all of us.

I will add that creating a family has a lot of free resources at creating a you can click on the foster care and our horizontal menu. We also have one of the largest online support groups in this area. It's a Facebook group and it's a family. Thank you so much Arne EB and Angie Jones for being with us today to talk about foster parenting. I truly appreciate your sharing your expertise and your wisdom with us.

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