This is the third and final part of a 3 part series about Foster Care. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and it’s followed in May by National Foster Care Month, so what better time to dive into the world of foster parenting.
As of March 31st, 2015 Vermont had 1,251 children in the custody of the Department for Children in Families (DCF).
All of those children need somewhere to live.
Some of those children will never return to the homes they came from. Children need families that will be there for them forever, or what we call “permanency”. DCF policy states that “Permanence is achieved when a child or youth is living in a nurturing family setting that offers legal commitment and continuity of relationships. Permanence is an important goal for every child and youth in care. Legal permanence is achieved when the child is successfully reunified with the primary family or when the child is adopted.”
DCF social workers always have permanency in mind for children.
Not only are social workers trying to work with parents to achieve goals to help them become better parents, but they are also thinking about Plan B. In fact, if a child is in DCF custody for fifteen out of twenty-two months, DCF must file a petition to terminate parental rights unless there is a “compelling reason why such an action is not in the child’s best interest”. A petition to terminate parental rights is necessary in order for a child to be “freed for adoption”. This means that a court hearing will be held where a judge will make the decision about whether or not it is in the best interest of the child for their parents rights and responsibilities to be permanently terminated, making it possible for the child to be adopted. As a foster parent, you may be asked if you would be willing to be a permanent placement for a child from the moment the child enters your home. This does not necessarily mean they will be in your home forever, but DCF strives to provide stable placements for children, so the social worker may already be thinking of their “Plan B”.
Ideally, when children are placed in foster care, they would be able to remain with their siblings, live in a home that is consistent with the child’s cultural background and remain in their school district.
Sometimes, infants and young children come into DCF custody and do not have childcare. Sometimes children have specialized health care needs and aren’t able to be in group care. DCF is in desperate need of parents who can provide “stay-at-home” care and who are able to take in sibling groups. Head to this link to find some specific children and youth who need care and who you should contact to help.
As I began this series, I contacted some foster parents, who I have worked with in the past and have provided amazing care to children and youth in DCF custody. I spoke on the phone to one foster parent who adopted a child a few years ago. She told me stories about the child she adopted that had me cracking up! Pride was oozing out over the phone line with each question I asked. Does this remind you of how you talk about your own kids? This foster parent continues to provide care for youth in custody on an emergency basis, but is raising a sweet, hilarious little charmer of a child and she can’t imagine a time that he was not a part of her family. He has a brother and two incredible, loving parents, many aunts, uncles and cousins and, no doubt, will continue to awe and impress his parents for years to come.
Here are a few more testimonials from real, live foster parents:
“I had heard of a a young woman that was unable to parent her new baby and they had exhausted her family. I was a friend of a friend and became a foster parent asap. I started taking the little girl on weekends and then the following month, she came full time. She was 3 months when I first met her and I adopted her when she was 23 months ! She’s happy and amazing! I am blessed everyday to have her in my life and she now has a huge family. Mom, dad, big sister and two big brothers!!!”
“Someone I knew needed a home and at 22 I became a foster parent in 45 minutes! This was my first exposure to foster care. She lived with me for about 5 years and I still have a relationship with her now. Her mother had a baby who was born addicted to drugs and listening to that child cry was the worst sound I had ever heard. I sat holding that baby just sobbing that someone could do this to their child. I knew that once my life simmered down I wanted to do infant care.”
“Life as a respite parent was not at all as we expected. In two cases the kiddos situations changed and we became full time foster and then adoptive parents. This was a journey for us to navigate as it meant many changes in our lives for years to come. Navigating ‘the system’ can be challenging. Seeing children routinely disappointed and let down by their parents is difficult to watch. Knowing the trauma background is also emotionally difficult. Watching kiddos make huge or even small steps of success makes it worth while.We did not realize the life long connections of extended family of our two adopted children and how the families would continue to be a part of our lives.”
You are a wonderful parent. Vermont’s children need you. If 1 person makes the decision to be a foster parent that means 1 more kid in Vermont will have a safe, stable place to call home. Will that person be you?
Contact your local DCF office if you think Foster Parenting is for you!