What is Foster Care?
What is Foster Care?
Foster care is taking care of a child who has been placed in your home because he/she has been taken from his/her birth parents usually because of abuse or neglect. Foster care itself is temporary and children can be returned to their birth parents upon completing a court-approved Child Permanency Plan (CPP). This plan can include things such as the parent completing a mental health evaluation, being able to provide suitable housing, financial stability, completing counseling (metal health, drug/alcohol, domestic violence, etc.), going to rehab, staying out of violent relationships, etc. The requirements of the plan are dependent upon the reasons that the child was removed from the house and usually parents have several requirements to complete. In Pennsylvania, the parents have 15 months to complete the plan (although there are exceptions and they could be granted more time). If the parent(s) complete the plan and if the courts approve, then the child can be returned to the birth parents. If the birth parents fall back into old habits, the child could be removed again and the time starts from where they left off (they do not start over again from 0). Also, at any point along the way, children can be removed from the foster home and placed with suitable family members if family steps forward. This is called “kinship care.”
If after 15 (or more) months the birth parents do not complete the plan, then TPR (Termination of Parental Rights) is filed with the court and they start the process of terminating the birth parent’s rights. Their rights can either be terminated voluntarily (the parents sign their rights away) or involuntarily (the court takes them away). The parent’s also have to right to appeal the TPR, which means that the process will take longer. Once TPR is approved by the court and any appeals are denied, the children become adoptable and the foster family can start the adoption process. Sometimes the parents may voluntarily sign their rights away much earlier in the process, although this is more rare.
Although it is labeled a 15-month process, it can last a lot longer and it depends on the particular case. Court hearings can take longer, continuances and appeals can be filed, and it could go on for 2 years or more.
What is a Foster Parent (Resource Parent)?
Some information from this section is credited to “The Foster Care Experience” by Rita Laws, Ph. D.
Is fostering a career? Yes, but it is unique among careers. It doesn’t pay well enough to be called a job and there is no way to advance up the ladder like there is in a traditional business. It can’t be entered into it based on skills or education alone because it is also necessary to have a strong desire to help kids in order to be effective. However, training, certification and re-certification are required, just as with any other profession. Foster parents are expected to behave like professionals. Nevertheless, it shouldn’t be seen as a career, it is a calling to serve Christ by serving children. It requires special, highly-dedicated people who are willing to serve children, because that is what God commands us to do.
Foster parents report a great deal of frustration with their roles but they add that theirs is a highly-rewarding role. This is the foster parent paradox. The pros are as amazing as the cons are overwhelming.
In addition to seeing to the child’s routine care, and specialized medical care if necessary, the foster parent must also help arrange social worker visitations and visits with the birth parents (usually one hour a week, or 2 hours if the birth parents are not together) and attend court hearings. Birth family visits can throw children into emotional tailspins, something else a foster parent must be prepared to deal with. Finally, foster parents have to be ready to help the child transition into the next living space, whether that is back to the birth family, to an new foster or adoptive home, to a residential setting, or emancipated out into the world.
Foster parenting is a unique and difficult role and one that is vitally important to our society, today and tomorrow.
What are some pros and cons to being a Foster (Resource) Parent?
- Making a difference in the lives of children
- Watching children bloom and achieve goals
- Reuniting or keeping siblings together
- Helping to halt cycles of abuse, poverty and addiction
- Strengthening society one child at a time
- Opportunity to use parenting skills
- Facilitating a smooth transition back to the birth family, into adoption or residential treatment or into independent living
- Exposing the family to the joys of giving and serving
- Serving God through caring for children
- Low pay — Foster parents receive a stipend which is to cover the cost of the child’s expenses while in their care.
- The expectation of professional behavior without receiving professional respect or remuneration
- Dealing with serious behavioral, mental and physical disabilities in children and birth parents
- Lack of respect and understanding from society
- Being given little or no chance to offer input into decisions that affect children’s futures
- Foster family under stress 24/7
- Having children removed from the home when you think they should stay
- Foster parents are rarely given the amount of support they need to do their job.
- Children may arrive in their homes with very little notice, and owning only the clothes on their backs. Unlike adoption, where there is preparation and anticipation, a foster family can receive a phone call and pick up a child an hour later. Sometimes, the foster parents are given full disclosure on the child’s past, and current needs, and sometimes not.