Happy Children Playing Kids (Photo credit: epSos.de)
I see so many people on the internet complaining about needing foster care reform yet I never see anything being done about it. There are so many things wrong with the foster care system that are in desperate need of reform. The laws do not protect the children, they protect the parents and the social workers. I have seen so many times kids going to places they should never be just because the social workers don’t want more work or because the judge believes the parents lies. Its horrendous.
Wisconsin overall has a pretty good foster care system, but it is still lacking in many areas. Including the fact that some homes in the state remain with unfilled beds, and children in larger cities are housed in shelter care which is basically jail for kids because there are no beds for them to go into. This is ridiculous. There is no system for the various counties to communicate with each other. And since everything is run by the county, instead of by the state there is no obligation either. So in smaller counties like mine, foster parents complain of open beds. Counties with major cities in them have severe bed shortages. We are less than an hour away and our county has open beds. It is ridiculous.
Not to mention, the children who have to be repeatedly traumatized and abused so as not to hinder the parent’s rights before the court will step in. Another problem is the kids who sit in foster care for years because of loopholes in the laws. State of Wisconsin mandates that children in foster care 15 out of 22 months are required to go to termination of rights. However if the parents basically work half their plan and do just enough to get by, the judge won’t authorize the termination. The laws are written for the express reason of preventing kids from sitting in foster care for years and YET the judges disregard this law because of loopholes. It is awful for the children. It is disheartening for the foster parents.
I don’t even know what can be done to change this. The laws are there but the judges have final say and they disregard the law. Foster care reform will get nowhere if the judges don’t crack down and start making these parents work their plans.
Lately I have been getting a lot of people asking me about what it takes to be a foster parent and how to get started with foster parenting. I am always happy to help a new home get started. So here is the best “Getting Started” advice from Temporary Mommy:
First and foremost, contact your local Department of Human Services or Department of Children and Families and set up an initial appointment. If you are even slightly interested now, it could take months or years to complete the licensing process depending on your location and the workload of your social workers. Get started immediately. You don’t have to go through with it, if you decide it is not for you. It only took us three months to get licensed but I have known homes that had to wait over a year before their licensing was complete.
Get in touch with the local association. In Wisconsin, it is the Foster and Adoptive Parent Association. Each county has their own association. The association can get you set up with a mentor family to answer any questions you might have. They are also a great resource for training hours and certification processes. For areas that don’t have mentor foster homes, the local association can guide you through the foster parenting process.
Decide what you want to do and be firm. If you are only willing to work with children from five to ten years old, make sure it is clearly understood. A foster family can burn out quickly when dealing with children that they are not equipped to handle. If you are not willing to work with certain behaviors, then be firm. Everyone has something that is their drawn line and don’t be afraid to vocalize it. Mine is animal cruelty. We will not tolerate it and we will not keep kids that are going to hurt our animals. With more than 30 children, we have only had one incident and that incident wasn’t intentional. But we stuck to that point and we refuse to take children with a history of it.
Talk to your family. Whether or not your family supports you can play a big role in your future of foster care. I never really thought about it and we never consulted our family before we decided to do it. But with our kids, our families are the ones who remember birthdays, babysit on weekends, and spoil them every now and then. If your family isn’t fully on board, it is not a deal breaker. But really consider the implications before pursuing it further. With our family we were about half and half for support. However, our whole family is 100% behind us now. Sometimes people who are a little skeptical come around when they see how great it is to make a difference in a child’s life.