Last night I spoke at a department of family and children’s services panel for prospective foster parents.
It reminded me how passionate I am about this service we offer to the children of our state. And how confident we must be that our children are cared for well. And that the best way to do that is for foster parents and dfcs and families to feel connected and empowered.
I don’t think I’m some pie in the sky dreamer either.
I have a great relationship with dfcs. Even when I don’t particularly like a case worker (as would be the case now with Baby D’s worker), even when I don’t have a lot of faith in the family.
I know that I am incredibly fortunate to live in the state that I do. What we lack in funding (no transport money, I’ve never been given assistance with diapers, or formula and our clothing limit can be, well, limiting) we make up for in support. Our county has a strong foster parent organization in which we are actively involved. We are also blessed with an organization that serves as advocates for us and I’m constantly in touch with our liaison.
Still, I think the greatest thing that has helped me understand my role is self-education. I ask questions. I do my research. I send emails. I participate in trainings. This education has helped me to understand and define my role in this wacky, sometimes dysfunctional system.
And the thing I feel most passionate about is letting foster parents know that they have rights. They have a place of value. Without us, these children would be in a whole heap of trouble. And we need to remember that. We don’t work for caseworkers, our job is to partner with them. We need to be confident in that role.
I am not spoken to disrespectfully. I am involved in decision making for the children in my home. Afterall, I am the one who lives with the child 24/7. And I get involved by finding out when meetings are…. and going. I don’t miss a court date. I call CASA’s and ad litums (Lord knows, they won’t be calling me). I’m constantly calling caseworkers. And complimenting them. And appreciating them. And talking to parents. Confidently. Afterall, I’m not the one who failed here.
I know for some foster families that seems overwhelming. But that’s the thing. We’re not just baby sitters. We’re not just temporary shelter. We’re family. For these kids. For their parents. And we have a voice. We MUST have a voice. Because our children do not.
So the thing I want other foster families to do is to find their voice. Stand firm and proud. You do a world of good for these kids. Know it. Own it. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
Research your states laws, rules and traditions concerning foster families. Get to know other foster families. Make contacts. Don’t be scared to phone or email your state representatives. Ask questions. Brown nose the higher-ups (a simple thank you goes a very long way). Go to trainings.
And if you don’t know where to start, let me know. I’ll be happy to google search for you (really, it’s that simple).