October 31st, 2014

I have to believe in a better world

Foster care!

I have been meaning to deliver an update! I just hadn't done so because we were in the middle of it all. There's a lull, now.

So, how one becomes a foster parent:

Apply, get interviewed, have a home inspection (which results in a list of things you gotta do: get a lock for that door, figure out where you're going to keep stuff you need to access daily that the kid can't have access to (like my meds), etc.), then the training.

The training is a big part of what ate our September! Three hours every Wednesday night, eight hours every Saturday, covering a multitude of topics. And this is just the basic training. I, um, had to suppress a lot of hand-raising, because my background with BARCC and caring for medically-complicated kids meant that I knew a lot of the answers. But we learned a lot, too, and have a three-inch three-ring binder stuffed with information and resources.

In addition to that, we were given considerable homework, which mostly consisted of case files of actual kids to review and a huge questionnaire about us, our lives, our upbringing, and our parenting styles. The files were illuminating - not just in what they reveal, but in what they don't. They're put together when everyone's in a rush, of course. Some had information that was just not there - some had old information that hadn't been updated. So I had lots of questions to bring back! "This concerning behavior from 2010 - have they done it since?" "This kid's gone through puberty now - any behavioral changes?"

We were told at the end of the class that it would be a few weeks before they'd move on to the next step - the home study interviews. But we were called for ours just a few days after class ended!

The home study interviews are the penultimate weeding-out point. This is a series of multi-hour conversations with the foster care folks. Remember that in-depth questionnaire? Basically expanding on that for three three-hour sittings; one for me, one for Adam, one for both of us. That's... a lot of talking about my childhood family dynamic. And, since we have a kid, a lot of talking about parenting, discipline (Adam and I both grew up in pro-spanking households, but are anti-spanking ourselves), etc.

And that's where we are now. The foster care place is typing up those results; we can probably expect a call or e-mail to clarify stuff, because there was a *lot* of talking, and they might not have gotten quite everything down! Then they'll send us our file for fact-checking, and then we get fingerprinted, which is the final weeding-out point - if we have criminal records, no foster parenting for us! And, well, we know we don't, but it must be proven.

After our fingerprinting results come back, we'll be cleared and certified. (We'll need to take monthly classes to maintain our certification.) The process from there:

* The foster care place will match us with kids they think will be a good fit with us. (We've specifically told them that we're LGBT-friendly, so if they have a queer and/or trans kid that they're having trouble placing, that kid goes to the top of the list for us. LGBT kids are, statistically, the hardest to place, because many foster care households don't understand them or want to "fix" them.) We'll get ~5 case files to read.
* We'll narrow it down! Adam and I will pick the kids we think we'd work best with, then talk to the foster care place and get more information on them, gradually narrowing it down to one. (We'll be certified for two, but intend to start with one unless we have a perfect match with a sibling group.)
* We'll get to meet the kid. In an ideal situation, there are three meetings before placement: one in their current placement, one out and about (park, McDonalds, whatever), and one in our home, ideally a sleepover. There can be more if the kid needs more. There can be fewer if the kid needs an emergency removal. Three's the goal.

...and then we'll have a foster kid.

The goal with the organization we're working with is eventual reunification with the family of origin. So we'd have a kid for a few months to a few years while DCF puts supports in place for the family and everyone gets to a point where it's healthy to be together again. Conditions vary! It may be that the goal changes to adoption, or to independent living, especially with older teens. We might have a six-year-old who goes home or to a grandmother in six months. We might have a sixteen-year-old who we help apply for college. (There's a great program for that at a local university.) So far we're open.

Oh, and if you're at our house more than once a month, you are considered a Frequent Visitor and will have to be CORIed (criminal records check).

Timeline-wise, we're probably looking at January for a placement; fingerprinting takes six weeks, and we would be loathe to take a kid close to the holidays - one is allowed to take kids on family trips, but it's not a great idea to do that in the first few weeks of placement, and holiday trips can be fraught for kids who don't feel secure in the family yet.

Any questions?