Saturday, January 5, 2008

I went to the Dentist for a broken foot

One thing I've learned in my time as a foster parent is that all of the people you have to deal with have very distinct roles in the system. Should you go to the wrong person for the wrong situation, it could be like going to a dentist for a broken foot. This happened recently to a B.O.T.H. family that we've met through our group.

I haven't know these people long, nor do I know them well. I do know they've been married for 15 plus years, they've gone to our church for several years, they've served in our church several years, and Mr. seems to have had the same job for several years. Not so much judging a book by its cover, but stability says a lot about people and I have no reason to believe that they aren't getting up each and every day and doing the best they can do for that day.

Several months ago the family had a situation, not knowing how to deal with it they went to their agency. I have no knowledge of this agency, but the ones that I have dealt with all say the same thing...."if you ever need anything...." Well, this family needed something, they went to their agency and said, "we need something" and their agency turned their life upside down. A simple request for respite turned into four months of having their B.O.T.H. baby living in another home. Their were allegations made but never investigated. Their baby is home now, but it has been a nightmare for them.

What I've gathered from talking to this family is they needed a break, and a lot of times what happens is we wait too long to take a break, we wait until we've reached a breaking point and we relinquish our control. They should have been able to trust that their agency would have their back, the sad truth of the matter is the agency is too busy covering their own back to have had the back of this family. Agencies in general have a tremendous case load. They want autonomous families, if your family blips on their radar one too many times they will make a change. They only want from you what their licensing agency needs from them. They only want to give you what their licensing agency requires them to provide. Should this be the case, absolutely not, but it is in my opinion the way it is.

The caseworker that I've had for over four years, recently stopped being a caseworker. She and I had become friends over the years, but there were still things that I didn't share with her. It's not that I don't trust her, but when push comes to shove, whose back is more important to her? Same with me, if it had come to the point where it was a choice between our friendship and my family, she's the one who'd have gone under the proverbial bus.

My husband and I live our lives very differently than we did five years ago when we started our fostering journey. We take breaks often, and happily. I originally thought it would kill me to leave the kids scattered all over town for the weekend. It hasn't. I also thought we couldn't afford it, but what really is the price of rest and relaxation?

I am strictly name, rank and serial number when it comes to dealing with my agency now that my caseworker is gone. I turn in my paperwork, I allow them their two visits per month, I call after an emergency. I do not let them pick respite providers for me. Nor do I have to. Respite rules clearly state that I can make an arrangement with a friend to provide respite for me. Texas code 745.117(6) states that the following is exempt from regulation....8) Arrangement Between Friends (A) It is an arrangement between friends for temporary residential child care for one child or a sibling group; and
(B) The care does not exceed 40 continuous days or 150 days in a calendar year. there.

I chose my respite provider. She is my friend, she loves my children, but does not see them as foster children who could one day be hers. She knows that they are mine. She reaffirms to them while I am gone that they belong to me. this may seem a no brainer, but if you didn't know that my kids have been my kids for three years and we would adopt them immediately if given the chance, you would want to snatch them up and keep them, they are that cute. By me picking who has my children, I pick the problems I'm going to have when I get home.

It may seem like I'm saying that this B.O.T.H. family did something wrong, I am not. They did what they thought was right. They went to the people who should have the most interest in making sure they were being taken care of.

So my recommendations for all B.O.T.H. families, this does not apply to foster only families, of who should deal with what is...

Fostering agency should only deal with aspects relating directly to licensing requirements. Making sure your requirements are up to date, and keeping your license current.

Counselors should deal with any and all problems. The agency should not have permission to speak with your counselor. If they choose to launch an investigation against you they can subpoena your records, but never give them access. Make sure you have a counselor who is gutsy enough to tell you when to throw in the towel. There may come a time when it is not recommended that you continue fostering, at that point you can simply withdraw your own license, there need not be an explanation. Remember anything you say can be used against you.

Use respite!!!!! Take respite from your kids, from your spouse, from your house. Take a break before you need it. Pick your own respite provider, if you are in Texas and your agency tries to bully you into one of theirs cite Texas code 745.117 (6) 8. They are only trying to cover their hineys and if you do it for them they'll be ok. They might not be happy, but they will be ok.

Remember, most people within the system do not care about your kid or your family. They only care about getting home to theirs. If your problems or situations prevent this, they will move the kid and not think twice about it.

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