We have been fostering for over ten years. Some days that seems like a long time and others it seems like such a short time. Our fostering days will end this year. In our state you are only allowed to have 5 kids under the age of 18 in your home so we are full. Once we adopt our last little one we will close our license.
It seems strange, we didn't start to foster to adopt. We just figured that we would adopt if our foster child(ren) didn't go home. At some point we decided to go straight adoption and then get out of foster care. With Emma and Michelle we did have the adoptive placement but we didn't stop fostering like we planned. We didn't stop because there is such a huge need for foster parents.
It seems as though there haven't been any great improvements in foster care since we started.
The subsidy rate of a little over $11/day hasn't changed since 2001. I do believe that the cost of living has increased in all that time. In our home we have always lost money when we foster. Our foster children are treated the same as the other children in our home. They go out to eat with us, go to the movies and family trips. We also do all transportation although DSS says that they can offer it.
Support has pretty much disappeared. There was a time when you could call the social worker if you had questions. Now a majority of the time you get a voice mail and no guarantee that they will answer. Our babies foster worker has been out to our house only a few times in the last 15 months. I am OK with that because I have gotten to the point where I don't need that much support. However, I hear new foster parents complain about it. New foster parents don't always know what to expect and how to navigate some of the aspects of being a foster parent. They drop this kid off at your house and leave. Then what?
With our current baby Sarah and I went to the NICU to take infant CPR classes and then I took the baby from his mom. No social worker showed up for that. That was the first time I had to take a baby from the mother. No, it is not fun and didn't feel that it should be my responsibility. Even the nurse on duty was a little surprised.
I then did all of his follow up appointments, his well baby check ups, his cardiologist appointments. I was responsible for all of it. I transported him to town for his appointments and discussed his medical condition with his specialists. I then called his social worker and left her messages on her voice mail to let her know what was going on.
Visits with his mom stopped in July (because she moved out of town) so he no longer went to DSS. For months I had no contact from DSS and no one checked up on him. At some point it started to feel as though he was our son.
Recently he was wheezing so I took him to the doctor. They were hesitant to do a breathing treatment because of his earlier racing heart issues. After a quick consult with the cardiologist they decided to give him breathing treatments. (Which he enjoyed)
However, they were leery so I had to keep bringing him back to have his heart checked. I was told to watch for problems with a racing heart. It is at those moments when you really think to yourself that this is not my child that I am responsible for. He didn't have any racing heart issues so has been cleared. DSS didn't even realize what we were going through with his breathing issues.
Communication has really diminished. Most of the information I get is through the GAL. Very little information comes from the social worker. I hear that this is a problem with many foster parents. Foster parents need information. They need to know what is going on and need to know that they can talk to someone about their foster child. When they can't get answers they tend to get frustrated. Frustrate a foster parent enough and they quit. When enough foster parents quit you have kids sleeping in hotels and at the DSS offices. We have had toddlers go to children's homes because they don't have enough foster homes.
Our county is in the middle of a crisis and the social workers are struggling to keep up. In spite of all the challenges I encourage others to foster. The children need good foster homes. However, connect with other foster parents. Find a mentor. No one else really understand what you are dealing with more than another foster parent.
So, I am curious. Any foster parents out there? How are things going in your area? Is this just a local problem or is it more of a national issue?