Fostering: A Series of Bananas

bananas

Fostering: A Series of Bananas

The system, the cycle, and the to-do’s

By Momma Kiki

foster parent – noun

Individuals who provide a temporary home and care for children in the foster care system, often with the goal of reuniting the child with their biological family or facilitating adoption.

case plan – noun

A comprehensive document outlining the goals, tasks, and timelines for a child’s permanency and well-being while in foster care.

When you start off a family-based article about children and parenting, defining what a case plan is in relation to fostering, it makes the system, the process, and the lifestyle seem and sound so rigid and impersonal. Unfortunately, a lot of the work behind the scenes of fostering is just that: impersonal required paperwork and checklists. There is a laundry list of to-do’s that foster parents and caseworkers have to complete on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual basis. And although it is the least exciting and least personal part of this journey, it is absolutely important that as a foster parent you make it a priority. This process could assist in the change of or direction of care for the child or children.

A case plan is created by the state agency that handles all foster children and their placements. This directs a foster parent as to what is required and should be a priority for the child or children in your care. This is something that your caseworker will continuously review with foster parents, guardian ad litem (lawyer for the children), court-appointed special advocate (CASA) worker, and any other involved parties on a monthly basis in a group meeting and then again with you and the child or children at your home visit.

Watching a movie at sunset with Brother (Santa Fe Public Schools).

Watching a movie at sunset with Brother (Santa Fe Public Schools).

The following list are some of the priorities discussed in a case plan.

    1. Health and safety is at the top of the list of priorities. Have you taken your foster kids for their annual pediatric checkups, dental appointments, and eye exams? Are they seeing any type of therapist? Do they need or are they taking any medication? Have you had to take them to urgent care recently?
    2. Education is another at the top of the list of priorities. Is your foster child attending school, and how are they doing academically, socially, and behaviorally in the classroom? Are there any issues or things that need to be addressed in relation to their education? Are they receiving any extra support at the school or tutoring outside the classroom?
    3. Community involvement is asked about but not truly defined as a priority. Are the kids involved in any recreational activities such as sports, clubs, or anything else that might support their social interaction with others?
    4. Family unit and household environment—How are things at home? Are the kids getting along with each other? How are they interacting with you as a parent? Is there any concerning behavior? Do the children have the proper clothing, school items, necessities? What else should we be aware of in regards to the child or children?
    5. Foster child support is time when your caseworker will be one on one in private with each of the children in your care. They’ll ask questions like, How are you doing? How is school going, are you getting good grades? Anything exciting happening outside of school, are you in sports or clubs? Are you getting along with your siblings? Are you getting along with your foster parents? Is there anything that you would like to share with me in private? Do you feel safe here? Do you have any questions about your case or situation?
    6. Foster parent support is usually the last on the priority list but it’s still on the list. How are you doing, how are you feeling? Is there anything that concerns you in relation to the behaviors of the child or children toward you and your partner? Are you taking time for yourself or as a couple? Do you need respite care? Do you need anything or any other support from us?
    7. Parental visits are, in most cases, visits with the child or children’s biological parents that are scheduled in an effort to reunify the family. These can be scheduled weekly, biweekly, monthly, etc. This can be where the bio-parent is allowed to have the child or children alone for a set period of time, or this can be a scheduled visit with a certified case worker present. In any case this is a time for the child or children to bond and continue their relationship with their bio-parents. It is a hard balance as a foster parent to feel empathy toward the bio-parents and an understanding of the reunification process, and put simply it is a leap of faith in the system.

    On top of having two monthly meetings, you will also have to visit on a quarterly basis in person with your child’s guardian ad litem (children’s lawyer) and their CASA. Both of these parties are actively involved throughout the entirety of the case. What they see and hear from both you as the foster parent and your foster kids, they advocate and speak on behalf of the children at court hearings. In all cases, these two individuals are important and in support of the best interest of the child or children.

    Throughout your case with your foster child, there will be many court hearings in which you can attend and in a few instances will be asked to speak at. Here is a quick breakdown of potential court hearings that can occur during a foster care case.

    1. Initial Hearing: The first hearing after removal of the child or children where biological parents are informed of the reasons for removal, their legal rights, and the next steps.
    2. Adjudication: A fact-finding trial to determine evidence of a child being neglected or abused to determine jurisdiction.
    3. Permanency Planning: This determines a permanent plan for the child or children in relation to reunification, continued placement, and/or adoption.
    4. Placement Review: A review of the well-being of the child or children and the appropriateness of the current placement in relation to their foster care setting.
    5. Termination of Parental Rights (TPR): If efforts to reunify the family are unsuccessful, a determination to legally sever the bio-parent’s rights is determined, making the child or children eligible for adoption.
    6. Post-Termination Review: After parental rIghts are terminated, a determination of the child or children’s permanent placement and well-being are assessed.
    7. Adoption: The child or children are legally eligible for adoption and are placed with a potential adoptive parent or parents. If the court sees fit and the foster parents are willing, they have the chance to adopt if no other contested individual petitions.
    Learning to bake as Brothers
(Big Brothers Big Sisters).

    Learning to bake as Brothers (Big Brothers Big Sisters).

    Everything you just read is a continuous cycle in the process that is foster care and it is something that no foster parent—or foster child for that matter—gets used to. You can prepare yourself and the family for your scheduled and required home visits with your caseworker, you can try and prepare for the first, the second, or even the eighth court appearance, but it never is the same as the one before. You can try to make a list of all the appointments you need to schedule, reminders for all the follow-ups, and research of all the therapy or activities that might improve you or your child’s perspective in your situation, but the truth of the matter is that foster care is unpredictable, unusual, and simply put, hella hard. But remember, you are not alone in this journey and it is all worth it, as you are making a difference in the lives of the child or children you are caring for and they are making a difference in you.

    Foster Momma Kiki grew up in a loving home right here in Northern New Mexico. A home that openly took in children and teens throughout her upbringing. She learned from her parents the selfless act of caring for others. She currently lives with her husband and their three children (5, 9, and 17 years) who they have recently adopted or are the legal guardians. You can connect with Momma Kiki at fostermommakiki@gmail.com.

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