Reading the post of a friend the other day brought this subject matter to mind. It was the regular kind of post about a mom happy with the accomplishments of her growing child. The majority of the comments congratulated the mom. Part of the congratulatory comments were phrased as if the accomplishments were due to the mom and not a part of the child’s growth.

accomplishments

This happens all the time. It’s not new to congratulate a proud parent over their child’s accomplishments. Nor is the way in which we congratulate as if it were the parent’s accomplishment. Many of us do it without thinking. Being a proud parent and congratulating parents are both natural events.

In terms of fostering it is should feel just as natural. Sometimes it’s a bit more complicated than that. As foster parents we often have to set our feelings aside and accept that accomplishments, or our help with them, are not our own.

 

Scenario 1: Struggling and Finally Getting It

So many times kids come into care with a myriad of issues. There is nothing out of the ordinary about any of the issues on their own but when put together it’s not just a mild hurdle. Suddenly it’s a looming mountain the kid would rather avoid than figure out a way over or around.

Foster parents know that the mountain cannot be climbed in a day. It is more about list making and accomplishing one task at a time. Each task can feel insurmountable at times as well. That is why when each task is resolved/completed it is a big deal and should be acknowledged with pomp and circumstance. So many times these kids have never had heard one good word about anything they have done. Kids need accolades to build their confidence and show how they are valued even for the small things.

For each task accomplished, as a foster parent, you want to shout congratulations, give awards and give hugs. Do it. Do it. Do it.

Don’t expect to be congratulated for struggling with them. Most of us don’t. Sometimes a caseworker, teacher or other team member will acknowledge the struggles you have shared with your foster child. Acknowledge that the same way most parents do with turning the focus back on the child’s hard work.

What should you expect? The birth parents will take credit for all the hard work their child has done without really congratulating their child. This will be exceptionally frustrating. Nod your head and ignore all that drama. Focus on your foster child. Reinforce your foster child’s hard work.

Scenario Two: Growth Goals and Accomplishments of a Baby/toddler

Just like birth or adoptive parents, foster parents are excited over every small first from smiling and rolling to first step and first word. Everyone involved in the case will be excited with you.

Well that is mostly true. Birth parents are a mixed bag when it comes to this.

Some birth parents will be resentful and possibly confrontational. Why? They are missing these “firsts” while you are catching every precious moment. Even if you are a foster parent who shares photos and communicates regularly with birth parents they may still feel very resentful.

Don’t expect birth parents with resentful feelings to share in your excitement. Certainly don’t mistake their treatment of you as a lack of enthusiasm for their children. While the birth parents are showing you a lack of enthusiasm they may take to Facebook later to tell friends and family members the exciting news. When they share this happy news they will do so without ever mentioning the people taking care of their children.

Birth parents will treat you just like a nanny or daycare provider. You are just a place holder until they can step back into their child’s life. How you choose to take this is up to you. While it may feel like a slight ask yourself one question, “how would you act in their shoes?” Don’t expect people to instantly act grateful especially when emotions are running high. After all you aren’t doing this for their gratitude.

Even when you have a great relationship with the birth parents, don’t expect that they will give you credit for growth goals and accomplishments. The birth parents will be just as excited as you and share your joy. They will even share the accomplishments with others but it will be as if it were due to them because your involvement doesn’t quite exist. You know it exists but their friends most likely don’t. Would you share that kind of detail, that your child is in care, with all of your Facebook friends? I don’t think I would.

So don’t take this as a slight. It isn’t like they are doing it to turn the focus back on themselves or to discredit you. They are just acting like all the other parents out there: sharing their child’s accomplishments.

 

End Notes on When Accomplishments are never Truly Your Own:

Foster Parents are Valued

The point in all of this is to know that you are valued as a foster parent. Rarely will you receive a pat on the back about what matters to you like the accomplishments of your foster kids. Honestly that is not why we are foster parents anyway. Truthfully life is just like that.

Rarely do any of us receive accolades for the things that matter most to us. There are times when we receive congratulations for things that make us uncomfortable like being foster parents. I always feel a bit odd when I hear strangers say “God bless you for taking these children into your home. They are truly blessed now”

 

A Bit of Advice

During foster training we were reminded often, by our instructor, that the cases we handle are not about our feelings. Yes, we all have feelings and no one is asking us to remove our feelings. What is being asked is that we put our feelings on the back burner because we are here to represent our foster children. It is far more important to focus on your foster child’s accomplishments than it is to focus on your involvement.

I put this reminder out there because we are all human. We all feel slighted at times and we often don’t have control over when those feelings pop up. And in all honesty if this were a relationship involving two sets of divorced parents, often the adults forget it’s not about accepting ownership of involvement but the actual accomplishments of the children involved.

 

Keep in Mind

The whole time kids are in the care, the birth parents are coming to terms with, or not, that their kids are being raised by someone else.

There is no time line in which they will have an “ahah!” moment and suddenly see the foster parents as their best friends or their saviors. They may never see you as anyone other than the enemy. Then again, you may be lucky enough to develop either a working or lasting relationship.

The Take-Away

When talking about your foster children’s accomplishments the focus should always remain on the foster child.

When we were in training to become foster parents, we were told that some of our placements might be very short-term, on the order of just a few days. Sometimes this is due to DCS identifying other family members who weren’t immediately available to take the children when they come into custody. In other cases, the situation that brought the children into care might be resolved quickly. Until recently, 100% of the placements we’ve had since being approved to foster have been 9 months or more. That’s out of a sample size of 2 placements, sure, but those two totaled almost 30 months. At the beginning, our first placement looked like it was going to be short term, but until this past November we hadn’t really had a truly short-term experience. After a few months and a little bit of reflection, this is what I took away from our incredible sixteen hour placement.

Incredible

I didn’t sleep a lot on Election Night. For one thing, I come from a very civic-minded family that has been involved in the democratic process at one level or another for literally generations, so the presidential election process and Election Day have intrigued me since I first understood what they meant. For another, I spent five years working for an organization in which election seasons were quite busy and Election Night in particular meant long hours at the office, so that reinforced my habit of staying up to see the results.

This year, that meant that when the CPS worker called and apologized for possibly waking me up close to midnight I could reassure them with “on election night? I don’t think so”. We haven’t had a new foster child in our home since Stinkerbell left in February, so we fell back on the plan we established when we first became foster parents: if we get a call and we don’t currently have a placement, the answer is yes (assuming the child doesn’t have any cat allergies, concerns that we can’t accommodate, etc.)

After asking the standard allergy & health questions and getting what details we could from the CPS worker about the situation, it sounded like the placement was going to be longer than usual. I went to pick him up around midnight and the wife stayed behind to tidy up and make sure he’d have a warm bath and a comfortable bed ready for him with as little fanfare as possible.

On the drive to the DCS office I was equal parts excited and anxious. Looking forward to meeting him, certainly, and hopeful that it would be easy to get him calm and resting. More than that though, I was a little worried about the way the first several days might go and whether we’d be up to the task of parenting. We’ve felt like that to some degree every time we’ve gotten a placement, but previous children have been young enough that the challenges were different. We knew some, but not all, of his story, and the information we had gave us enough to know that we’d never dealt with anything like his situation before. Then I pulled up and met him and I didn’t have room in my mind for anything else.

Five-year-olds are much more talkative than I remember them from the time I was one, I’ll say that much. Come to that, I probably didn’t say that much the entire way home because he didn’t stop talking long enough for me to get more than two words edgewise. Even bone tired at the end of what was likely one of the roughest days of his life, he was chipper enough to keep a running narrative on what he’d had for dinner, the things he liked to watch, his bunny toy, and a million and one other subjects that I couldn’t keep track of while I was trying to focus on driving.

When I got him back to the house he was a little bit shy meeting the wife and her mom and the cats all at once, but he was calm and happy enough after a warm bath. A bit less talkative at that point, he wanted a good-night fist bump before dropping off to sleep less than ten minutes after he got in bed. Once I knew he was comfortable, I wrapped up everything I’d been working on, sent an email to the office to let them know I’d be out the next day, and tried to get some sleep myself.

The first day of any placement can be incredibly hectic regardless of the child’s age. With infants and toddlers, sleep and feeding schedules top the list along with any medications or allergies their pediatrician might have identified. With older children, I imagine that the first order of the day would be dealing with the emotional fallout of whatever brought them into the system. In this case, the morning brought with it no sign of terror or bitterness or confusion. I think he asked for peanut butter toast, actually.

The biggest challenge was really making sure that all of our paperwork was in order and that we communicated everything to our caseworker since the placement happened in the middle of the night. School was another top priority, knowing that his was likely to be a longer-term placement it was important to make sure we got him registered for the one that’s nearby so we could make sure he didn’t miss any more time than absolutely necessary. In between calling in to meetings so I wouldn’t be too far behind at work the next day I got him set up with toys, cartoons, and Minecraft so that he’d be able to occupy himself if he wanted to. That bought us a little bit of time to talk to the school and figure out everything that we’d need to get him registered.

We were tremendously productive throughout the morning, culminating in a visit to the school at noon to fill out all of the paperwork that would let him join his new class the next day. By the time we got to the office he was comfortable enough to start being a little bit silly, changing the calendar on the secretary’s desk to the wrong dates while we waited, changing it back again after I gave him a stern look. Naming things incorrectly, like referring to the ceiling to as the floor or pointing at the walls and commenting on how nice the windows looked. I’ve noticed similar things with the nephews so maybe it’s something about the age range? The more he joked around, the more comfortable he seemed to get and by the time we got back home he seemed more chipper than I’d ever seen him.

I had an afternoon meeting that I needed to call in to and planned to spend the rest of it hanging out with him and making sure he was adjusting well. The adjustment was apparently going quite well by the middle of my call because everyone who had dialed in was treated to an impromptu “can you unlock the computer so I can play Minecraft?”

They’re still getting a significant amount of mileage out of that at the office as I understand it.

Once I wrapped up my last meeting of the day, I devoted the rest of the afternoon to playing. Before the end of the day we got the chance for him to ride around on a toy jeep, take turns playing the Transformers video game that I’d been waiting for in one form or another since I was about eight years old, and play Minecraft in between bouts of typing nonsense in the middle of emails I was trying to write. He was pretty good at the video games and seemed to be having a great time the whole day of his unexpected vacation.

Lots of smiles and giggles and, if he wasn’t completely at home, he at least seemed sufficiently adjusted to his new environment that he was starting to push boundaries and get a little bit out of hand the way the nephews tend to do. I was happy that we’d had a good beginning. Sometimes that’s all you really get though.

We got the call about 5:30, right as we were getting ready to figure out dinner. “Can you bring him back to the DCS office within the next hour or so? He’s going back to his family.” That was definitely cause for some mixed feelings.

The goal of the system, as they keep reminding us, is to reunite families and do it as quickly as possible. I had my doubts based on what we thought we knew when he came into the system less than a day before, but I reminded myself of two facts that kept me from driving myself crazy over taking him back so soon. First, it’s ultimately not up to us. There are millions of variables that factor into those decisions. Situations can change quickly, and despite my sometimes cynical view of the world I know that sometimes they can change for the better. Second, the information the system gets can be wrong though no fault of anyone’s so it’s possible that only a small percentage of the things we were told ended up being correct in the light of day. Either or both of those could have applied in this case so the best thing to do was to be happy that we could go back home so soon.

It was a little bit of an emotional roller coaster in a fairly short time. We went from anxiety to relative ease in a flash and built what could have been the beginnings of a good relationship in the time that we had. He seemed to have a good time all day and it felt like he was already fitting in well in our home. He wanted a good-bye fist bump, too. The visit ended little more than sixteen hours after it began and didn’t even register as a proper placement in the system, it qualified as a “respite care” stay. In a lot of ways, it was kind of perfect.

Don’t get me wrong, we had a lot of fun and I’m selfishly sad that I couldn’t spend more time getting to know him. It was almost an ideal short form version of what we’d like every placement to be. There was all the joy of a day spent with all of us together, we were extremely productive with paperwork and everything we needed to do on the first day, and there were no real discipline problems the entire time. We didn’t have to sit through endless rescheduled court dates, worry about visitation schedules, or deal with any drama that might have come up with his birth family.

One can assume that his transition home was smoother than anything we’ve seen or heard about from any of the foster families we know because he was out of his typical environment for less than a weekend. Nothing went wrong, and we were able to provide exactly what he needed without feeling like we might fail him. It hit all of high points that we think of when we imagine being foster parents without the parts that make me want to scream. It left me a little bit wistful and missing a shy little ball of giggles that we barely got to know, but happy that we could be there when he needed a safe place.

Sometimes things happen exactly the way they need to even if they seem too brief to us, and it all fits into a bigger plan in a way that we can’t see until later if at all. That’s why I’ve tried to take a very Dr. Seuss approach to the experience. What was it exactly? “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened”? It was a really neat day, and I wouldn’t trade any part of it.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t occasionally wonder where he is and how he’s doing, though. Given the amount of time we spend with the other children who have come in to our home and left again, doing it the other way just feels odd to me. Still, it was a pretty incredible sixteen hours.

Fostering: Emergency Placement

emergency placement

Late Tuesday evening Rent-a-Dad and I received a phone call about a child needing an emergency placement. By Wednesday evening our emergency placement was able to go home.

During the day on Wednesday, we had received several phone calls and text messages. Friends and family were  asking if we needed anything. By the time we replied to those concerns our emergency placement had already been re-united with family. This news shocked several of our friends and family members. They were a bit confused thinking that foster parents provided homes for stays lasting longer than one day. It is true that the bulk of placements last more than one night, often the stay spans a minimum of eight months. Emergency placements are rather different.

Emergency placements are a little like they sound. Something has happened to the parent or caregiver and now the child needs some where to call home no matter how temporary.

The first priority of DCS is to find a safe place for the child in question to receive food and a warm bed. Once that house is identified DCS then turns its attention to finding other family or friends that could care for the child. The search may only last a few hours, a day or it could take several weeks to several months. The intention of an emergency placement is to re-unite this child with family/friends as soon as possible.

It is important to keep in mind that emergency placements happen for a number of reasons. A caregiver might unexpectedly be in the hospital. A parent may have passed away or be missing. Not all foster care placements are due to negligence, drugs, or abuse.

Sometimes DCS finds out about cases like this late at night. A warm bed and safe home need to be identified so the child does not need to fall asleep on the floor at the local DCS office. This was the case with our emergency placement. By the next afternoon everything was worked out and could be reunited with family. In situations like this the reunification process happened so quickly that the child never truly had to be in care.

There are so many reasons to become a foster parent from emergency placements to long term care. Not only are there many reasons but also many ways in which a person can foster. Foster parents do not have to adopt or even plan to adopt. They can open their home to strictly deal with emergency placements or even respite care.

Interested in learning more about the different types of foster homes and placements? I encourage you to contact your local Department of Children Services or local charity that works with the foster care system. Rent-a-Dad and I work through the state. However there are plenty of private foster care organizations in the area where we live that we could also work through. There are even group homes meant to provide more of a respite type of care for families.

The only sad bit of information I have to share is that terminology can be different from state to state. Not all state agencies have websites that are easy to navigate let alone explain what you need to know. Families United Network, Inc. in Pennsylvania has a good “go to” page that explains some of the terminology I have used in the past from emergency placement to kinship foster care.

Fostering My Village

village

In the early days of talking about fostering, Rent-a-Dad and I knew two things about our fostering path. We wanted fostering to be more than just a way to grow our family. It was always about opening our home to children in a way in which they would always feel it was a safe haven. In the process of creating a safe haven we have also built a village.

Birth parents describe the first moments of seeing their babies as “love at first sight”. It really was no different for us with each placement. Everyone has hopes that they will feel that way about birth and adoptive children. Not many people say that about foster children but honestly, for us, how could we not feel that way?

Our first placements were a sibling group. We went to the hospital to pick them up after a check-up. Rent-a-Dad gravitated to the 13-month old blond haired blue eyed bundle of energy that could have passed as his son. My own arms were naturally reaching for the cooing 3-week old baby that easily could have been my baby. For both us there was an immediate bond with these children.

Even with this natural connection we were not jaded into thinking they belonged to us or that we would instantly be better parents. The truth is we always knew the plan was for the boys to return home. If that was not possible there were plenty of biological family members who would have taken the boys if plans changed.

Another truth was that we didn’t really know what to expect with our first placement. We didn’t know what would happen with the case, how the family would act and ultimately what kind of foster parents we would be. What we did know was that we wanted the family to know the boys were being taken care of and that we wanted to show them respect. It is easier to reciprocate respect when it is first given. Respect is always a good foundation on which to build any relationship.

Respect, so far, is the foundation we have used to build relationships with each birth family. Respect, honesty, and patience are other good foundation stones. Thanks to those building blocks we have been able to do more than develop relationships. We have been able to grow a relationship that has gone past reunification.

At the beginning of each placement we have had no idea what would be the end of each story. Because we did not assume the end story would be adoption but rather reunification, we were able to have meaningful interactions with the birth families. These interactions have gone beyond what DCS, or us really, would have expected.

By the time our first placements went home friends and family were asking “what is the plan”. That question meant something different for each person who asked us. For some it meant “do you think you will stay in touch with the family”. Others who asked really just wanted to know if the pain and loss would prove to be too much for us and end our journey. Some gently urged us to re-consider outright adoption. No one quite expected what actually happened, not even us.

Our hope has always been to have some form of continued relationship with each placement and their family. The shocker has been how close of a relationship we have been able to have. While all of our placements have been successfully re-united with family, we have yet to go more than one week without some form of contact with each child.

The children are still a part of the village we are building. Not only are they a part of our village but they each are part of their own village as they all have growing friendships with each other.

Our village is more than a family. It goes beyond blood ties. Our village is about never giving up on the children who come into our care.

Our village is about providing reciprocal advice, support, and love. Because we have been there for these children and been supportive of the families, we are often asked for our input on care for the children. This would not happen without trust of the family. Often the questions we receive are on topics the birth parents are worried about asking their family for advice on. This knowledge is humbling.

When our friends and family first found out how involved we still are in these children’s lives we recieved a lot of concerned questions. The biggest two being “If DCS wanted these families reunited so badly, why are you still involved? Why aren’t you letting the parents learn how to swim on their own?”

The truth is often more complicated than we want it to be. Both Rent-a-dad and I know first hand how it can take a village to raise a child. If we all walk away from these children, pull this support network out from under these families, then we, as foster parents, are failing them just to be spiteful. That is not who we are.

It takes a village to raise a child. We may not be the permanent caregivers, parents, or blood relations of any kind, but what we are is bigger. We are the people who help create this village for this child.

Our home will always be open, just as our hearts will be.

This is how we want to help break the chain for the next generation. There are statistics that show a portion of children currently in care came from parents who were also in care. We don’t want any child in our care to be in a place where they will continue that cycle.

Too many times the reason a child came into care goes beyond neglect or drug use. It goes beyond one bad decision. The circumstance is complicated and situation did not happen overnight. One big reason children come into care is because of a lack of resources and knowledge of available resources. Birth families feel isolated in their situations. Isolation leads people to bad decision making and reacting instead of planning. We hope that as birth families get to know us that they feel comfortable turning to us for advice knowing we care about the future of their children.

There is always room to expand one’s village.

While we do not expect that everyone will understand how we are growing our village or how the village is meant to function, we hope that there will be respect for what we are attempting to accomplish.

A couple of weeks back our case manager sent out a mass email to all of her foster parents asking for volunteers. She needed a couple of foster parents to sit on a PATH Q&A Panel to field questions and give advice to prospective foster parents. As preparation for the class tonight we sat down and discussed what 10 tips we felt were most important to potential foster parents. Of course there is so much more information and tips we could share. For that you will just have to keep reading our blog!

advice

Rent-a-Dad and I remember all of our PATH training classes. Each foster parent must participate in training classes before having a placement. The classes prepare foster parents for all possible outcomes of the system. While all of the classes are useful, the Q&A session give foster parents the opportunity to speak with DCS (Department of Children Service) staff including CPS and actual case workers as well as receive tips from seasoned foster parents.

Every time Rent-a-Dad and I hear about a PATH Q&A Panel needing volunteers we try to help. One part of being a foster parent is to give back by helping to educate and giving advice to those who are interested in becoming foster parents. There are many ways to give back as well as to educate the general public. Serving on a PATH Q&A Panel, as well as writing our blog, is how Rent-a-Dad and I choose to give back.

Even though Rent-a-Dad and I have been foster parents for 3+ years we still wonder if our experiences and take on fostering are relevant enough. It has only been a couple of years since we went through PATH Training. A little over a year has passed since we sat as seasoned foster parents on our first PATH Q&A Panel. In so many ways not much has changed and yet there is enough new information out there that we want to make sure we our advice is not out dated.

 

10 Tips for Potential Foster Parents

10. Privacy and Personal Space

Say goodbye to privacy and personal space!

Children of all ages will challenge what privacy and personal space means. If you have never had a child in your life then you might not know that toddlers have no idea what either means. That they will come join you in the bathroom and don’t care about closed doors.

In some ways DCS is a little like a toddler in this respect. The home study process is exceptionally invasive but don’t let that put you off. DCS is trying to ascertain what kind of person you are and what experiences you are bringing to the table. After all you are asking to take on responsibility for children that the state is legally liable for. On its own, this responsibility is greater than generic parent hood.

9. There will always be hoops

Your first year as a foster parent is the hardest. You feel like you just went through boot camp and yet there is still so much paper work and requirements to fulfill. If you feel like you are unsure of being able to handle all of this solo, ask DCS for a mentor. Many foster parents give back by shadowing new foster parents and giving them advice when the system seems overwhelming.

At least in the state of Tennessee, once you are certified as foster parents your obligations and training do not stop there.

Every two years you must re-certify. This is a much more slimmed down process then the original home study involved. Generally it includes just a walk through of the home to make sure nothing has changed, paperwork to make sure everything is up to date from home insurance to pet vaccines.

On-going training is a requirement. The first couple of years there are specific classes required. After that foster parents are allowed to take classes that interest them except for on odd years they need to re-certify their medication training as well as first aid and CPR.

8. Be Prepared

There will always be paperwork to keep up with. Keeping a binder or folder with blank copies of DCS forms is just one way to stay ahead of it.

Keep a few toys and clothes on hand that are appropriate for the age range you have been approved for. Having fostered a good range of infants and toddlers means we have zip locks bags with a range of diaper sizes as well as clothing and toys. As new foster parents we invested in diapers in a various sizes. What worked for us was buying a small pack in every other size so we had something we could make work for the first few hours without scrambling. A few outfits and some used but well maintained toys rounded out our supply closet.

Keeping your friends and family aware of the age ranges and gender of children is a great way to keep them involved! Keeping your support network in the loop makes them feel needed and more likely to lend a hand when you need. Our support network helped us find a second much needed crib.

Foster parents should always open their hearts to the children in their care. It is a rewarding experience for both the children and the foster parents. The downside is that your heart will be broken when they leave. From our experience, there is no way to prepare for the empty space they will behind as they return home. Just because we know the downside of love doesn’t mean we should close ourselves off to it. We have also found that the birth families recognize love and sincerity. So far we have been blessed in that the birth families want us to stay involved in their children’s lives.

7. Document Everything

With all of the paperwork foster parents need to keep track of this can seem daunting but consider it insurance.

The toddler class our foster daughter was in last year had 20 kids and 3 teachers. Even with this large number of adults working with the toddlers not every incident was documented. After a weekend of tummy bugs, Rent-a-Dad took our toddler to the doctor where a question arose about a mark on her knee. The doctor thought it looked like a bite. He took a photo and measurements as he ensure we didn’t bite our toddler.

The events at the appointment concerned both of us. Our home could have been shut down because of a mark the doctor thought we caused. We took our own pictures and measurements to give to the case worker. After speaking with the daycare about the possibility of a child having bit our toddler the daycare provided us with a letter.

After all the worry and documentation nothing came of the incident but it easily could have gone badly. We try to document every bump, bruise, fall… you get the idea. These are not our children no matter how much we love them. While they are in state custody we must provide documentation and information concerning the care of these children. That is what notes from professionals are good for but our own notes are just as important.

Every time there is a boo boo, that I am aware of, I take a picture and email it to the case worker. It takes just a moment with my phone and a few minutes to email what took place. This level of documentation may seem excessive but I would rather do this then have our house closed because of some allegation we could have avoided.

 

6. Easily Accessed Information

Two years ago we had to rush our baby to the ER because she was having retracted breathing. I was terrified. If she had been our own child the anxiety over the incident would have been limited to her health.

As a foster parent when emergencies happen caseworkers must be contacted. The ER will even ask you if you contacted the case worker and if someone from DCS will be joining you.

The first incident gave both Rent-a-Dad and I new concerns. The DCS contact information we had was outdated. While we had left messages for babygirl’s case worker we also had to reach the on call DCS caseworker but we didn’t have the new phone number. Thank goodness we have other foster friends so they were able to get us the new number.

Since then we had to update our emergency contact list that is framed next to our fridge. We also make sure to have the information programmed into our phones anc accessible via email.

Along this theme, we also have some of the most used forms saved on our phones and in email. This means when a birth family looses a medication sheet and we don’t have any on hand we can easily print another. I also keep a DCS folder on my personal computer. In that folder I keep forms, documentation and folders for each child who has ever been in our care. Foster parents become the authorities on each child who lives with them. Even if your house is closed, if a child ever comes back into care you may be contacted because of your bond and your knowledge of the child.

5. NO ONE IS PERFECT

Sometimes this is a concept that is easier on paper than in reality. Fundamentally we all know that no one is perfect. However when a child comes into care and we witness first hand the abuse or neglect they have been exposed to we tend to go into over-protection mode and forget that life is filled with imperfect people. We do this with good reason. We want to erase all of the pain and hurt these children have suffered. Just keep in mind that when we forget that no one is perfect we begin to build a wall. We may think that wall will keep us safe but it also divides us. Sometimes that wall will even close out the children we are meant to care for.

Along these lines keep in mind that not everyone is exposed to the type of parenting or opportunities we each have had. Not only does this shape who we are but also our parenting skills. Some of the birth parents were also children in care and come from places of limited resources. This greatly affects how they parent.

4. Preconceived ideas go both ways

Rarely do any of us enter into a situation without a preconceived idea. As foster parents our initial ideas are formed by what hear in the news, in the PATH classes, and from other foster parents. Most likely we will form preconceived ideas for each birth family. What surprised Rent-a-Dad was that negative stereotypes of foster parents also abound. Those preconceived ideas that birth families have are difficult to over come.

In his post, Thoughts from a Path Panel, Rent-a-Dad has said “As much as those stereotypes can make it hard to see the humanity on either side of the equation, focusing on the shared humanity can help get past the stereotypes. It may not guarantee a perfect relationship, but with effort it’s possible to prevent the situation from becoming any more unpleasant than it already is.”

3. Keep an Open Mind

This is both the most difficult and most important of all the tips. Keep an open mind, and try not to form preconceived ideas, as you begin to work with the birth family. We know children are not removed from perfectly healthy families. This can lead us to jump to conclusions but be cautious as those ideas can taint the experience you have with your foster and their family.

With each case, Rent-a-Dad and I have tried to keep an open mind. One has to give respect to receive respect. Keeping an open mind and providing respect are both important in relationship building. That is what all foster parents are doing with their foster children and the birth families.

As foster parents we can not operate in a bubble. The birth family is and will always be apart of this child’s history and life.

Even when birth families loose birth rights, children will always be genetically tied to their families. Not to mention how they have already been shaped by experiences with their birth family. A good example is family medical history. Knowing that the birth mother is bi-polar is important not only explains the actions of the mother but may be something that was genetically passed down to the child.

Sometimes the only way foster parents find out information about birth families is through the birth families. When birth families feel comfortable with you all the skeletons in the closet tend to come out. Sometimes you are the one that ends up sharing the information with the case worker and gets the birth family the help they need.

How you treat the birth family will impact your relationship with your foster child. When your foster child knows you genuinely care about their family they will open up to you.

2. Take Care of Yourself

We all know there is a need to replenish from emotionally draining experiences. Sometimes we forget it is just as important to replenish from day to day life as well. Most often we don’t even think of that need because we do simple little acts each day to renew ourselves from taking a walk to connecting with our friends.

As a foster parent it is almost double or triple the importance to make time for yourself and your loved ones. Being a foster parent can be draining. Some days it will be obvious while other days you won’t even know why your cup feel so empty. Three little things can help improve your outlook on foster care as you remember to care for yourself:

  • Make sure you keep in contact with your friends and support network
  • Keep your children involved in after school activities
  • Stay involved in activities that give you pleasure

Want some additional information on how to care for yourself while being a foster parent? Read our blog post: Time to Replenish

1. Patience

If we could only give one piece of advice it would be to focus on patience.

While sitting on our first Path Panel, a DCS caseworker said that her parting word of wisdom needed to be patience. She reminded everyone that DCS is often flooded with cases beyond what it should handle with fewer resources than they would like. Phone calls won’t always be returned in the time you want. The information you need may not be at the case-workers finger tips. Through it all try to remain patient.

At the same panel, Rent-a-Dad also referenced patience. He remarked on the importance of foster parents being patient both with birth families and with themselves. Any of the positive interactions we have had with birth families have been born out of patience. Focusing on how we would act if our children had been taken away and sent to live with strangers reminds us to be patient.

Rent-a-Dad says I often have to remind him to be patient. I believe we remind each other. We both have expectations for ourselves, the system and birth families. Sometimes the expectations are too high. We both need to remember that no one can be perfect 100% of the time. Rent-a-Dad is always asking himself if he is confident that he has done everything he could for our foster(s) that day to make sure their lives were as good as we could make them. That the kids know that they are loved especially since we don’t know how much time these children will be in our care. It is important to us that these children know we would always want them in our lives regardless of the rules of the system. That we need to be mindful that tomorrow is never guaranteed.

 

 

Foster Classes: Training and Understanding

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Back in September I shared a quick post about a training course that Rent-a-Dad and I were looking forward to taking at our first DCS Foster Parent Conference. The class was titled “Loving and Letting Go” and our post Never Letting Go was a little bit about a hope that we never really want to let go of our foster children if we don’t have to. What we know as foster parents is there is a difference between what you hope will happen and what takes place. The classes we take as foster parents are there to teach us what we don’t know and to help bridge that gap.

The first year we were foster parents we attended an adoption day conference given in our county. Our first DCS Foster Parent Conference had a similar feeling for us: educational and re-affirming.

The conference in our state takes place over three days. While there were a variety of classes available due to our own time constraints we were limited we could take. When we arrived at the conference we found out that one of our requirement classes for the year was being given in the slot of the class we most looked forward to. That meant we were unable to take “Loving and Letting Go” that day. We have already looked at the class schedule for our county and found another session for that class will be given soon.

Even though what excited us the most about our training that day changed we still learned new terminology, met some new people, and had an enjoyable afternoon. Since we are required to do 14 hours of training each year, we were very happy to get 8.5 of those hours completed in one day.

Some years the 14 hours of training seems to go by quickly while other years it feels like an insurmountable task. This year we only have two classes yet to take and seven months left to take them. Other years we have been down to the wire as life and circumstances are not always kind to any of us.

So why is there a need for on-going training for foster parents? After all don’t foster parents go through enough? Aren’t they already on the front lines? Why burden them with more classes when they have court dates, review boards, home visits, doctor appointments… and so on, to deal with?

I can’t answer that question from a DCS or legal standpoint. Honestly I am not sure if you asked every DCS employee that you would hear the same answer twice. What I can tell you is that legally we are required to take refresher courses every two years for medication administration and CPR. Nurses and other health care professionals have similar on-going training. It is true that we don’t need that kind of training to raise our own kids but we aren’t raising our own kids.

It is true that as foster parents we are more liable for the children in our care than regular parents. Truthfully we should be. We have the life of someone else’s child in our hands. Life is precious and should never be taken for granted. Sometimes we get caught up in the minutiae of a case. We are keenly aware that we are responsible for these lives but we can forget how we would feel if these were our children in someone else’s care.

That points out the need for those two courses. Why do foster parents need to take other courses each year?

Again this is just my opinion but rules and regulations change over the years. Even if they didn’t the changes the world sees can be reason enough. There are classes every year that help address theses changes as well as classes to help give foster parents new ideas and techniques for any number of topics from discipline to finding hope while raising traumatized children.

We have seen topics come up from “creating teachable moments” to “stress relief & self care”. Each topic has merit and value on its own. When thrust into the world of foster care it is not just about taking another class but throwing out a life-line to foster parents who may be struggling with the system, birth families, etc.

A recent class we took was going over new terminology for new born babies that are opiate dependent. The class was to help teach understanding as much as terminology. A common thread through the class is that not all babies born dependant on opiates come from bad situations. Our interest in the class was two-fold; we want to stay current with new care options for opiate dependent children and we hoped to learn what medical science can teach us about what to expect once they are no longer babies such as verbal or physical delays.

As medical and health professionals are becoming more aware of the needs of foster care there is new terminology and new ways to approach old cases. Taking these classes will only prove to help those who honestly want to help the children in their care. The classes should also help the foster parents deal with situations they feel unprepared for.

Case in point, police brutality is not new but how socially aware of it we are as a society might feel new to a lot of people. In recent months I have been advocating for more classes that help foster parents of different races help relate to the needs of their foster children. At the conference there was at least one class set up to help with this topic.

Sometimes I might grumble that I have to arrange for childcare so I can take a DCS mandated class. Even though I am grumbly I understand the need for the classes. Truthfully I look forward to interacting with other foster parents and learning what I can do to help better myself and help those in my care.

Overall the DCS Foster Parent Conference was a success in our books. At the end of the day as we were wrapping up our classes and preparing to head home when we spotted a beautiful rainbow in the distance. As a symbol of hope and new beginnings it seemed a fitting end to our training that day.

To Co-Sleep or Not to Co-Sleep: Part 2 Co-Sleeping Habits

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As birth or adoptive parents, our co-sleeping habits are up to us. As foster parents it is a different story. Each state has different rules and guidelines that govern co-sleeping habits. No matter the state the basic part of the official rule is “NO co-sleeping”.

End of story. Right?

In simple terms NO means NO. So it should be the end of the story but it isn’t.

Co-sleeping isn’t just about some “bad” habit formed during infancy. It is true that infancy is when co-sleeping habits form but it is not a habit that simply stops because a child is no longer a baby. And it doesn’t just stop because it is not your kid and you don’t have the right to co-sleep.

Tennessee is no different than most states with officials telling parents of any kind to stop co-sleeping. The official take on the best way to raise a baby to childhood is to follow the ABCs of Safe Sleeping. While this is the official take on the matter it doesn’t mean that all birth families follow these guidelines.

Truthfully there are enough co-sleeping options available so families can co-sleep and still follow those ABCs. All one needs to do is a web search for “bedside co sleeper”.

When it came time for our first placement, Rent-a-Dad and I had already gone through the classes and had been told by the state, pediatricians, and the local health center that co-sleeping was a “no-no”. From our personal standpoint, we fight with our cats for space in our bed each night. Why would we ant to worry about adding a baby or a toddler to that mess?

Usher in our first placement: a baby and a toddler. They each had their own bed/crib in their own bedroom. We did use a bassinet and a pram for the baby when he wasn’t in his own crib.

Good. Right?

Not exactly.

The toddler had already developed co-sleeping habits with his father but we weren’t to find this out for months. Due to the co-sleeping habits the toddler refused to go to sleep without an hour worth of crying and screaming each night. To him no dad equaled no sleep.

At this time Rent-a-Dad had evening commitments for the first two months of their stay with us. This meant I handled setting up the bedtime routine. The infant was relatively easy as he would be napping around his brother’s bedtime. The bedtime routine for the toddler was physically and emotionally draining for me.

I would spend between thirty minutes and an hour each night trying to calmly get the toddler to sleep.

This difficult and draining nightly event was discussed with all the caseworkers. The caseworkers were worried over the amount of time it took to get the toddler calm enough to drift off to sleep. We discussed techniques such as using noise machines to bed-time stories to even co-sleeping.

Yes the caseworkers and I talked about trying co-sleeping with the toddler. They asked if we had tried it and I told them we hadn’t.

The reason? Not only had the state already expressly said “no co-sleeping” in our training and paperwork, it honestly felt weird to Rent-a-Dad and I to think about a little human not biologically ours crawling into our bed.

That however did not mean we didn’t try a variation of co-sleeping. I would put the TV on in his room, turn off the lights, and sit with him on the twin bed. My hope was he would fall asleep and I could move him to his crib. I even tried quiet time with reading a book or putting the noise machine on. Each attempt at setting a bedtime routine would take five nights as five days is about the time it takes for routines to get set in a child’s mind. Any quiet time activity had the opposite affect on him. He would jump on the bed, laugh, and refuse to calm down. Co-sleeping habits of any kind were not going to work.

So the answer was no. No we did not try co-sleeping, at least not by DCS measures.

At the end of the first month what worked more consistently was turning on the noise machine/nightlight, putting the toddler in his crib, and then I would lie on the floor and hold his hand through the slat of the crib until he fell asleep. This was by no means bed-sharing but it was a form of co-sleeping habits.

Due to the difficulties we had with any bedtime routine for the toddler the birth parents were asked frequently about their bed time routines. Each time they denied any form of co-sleeping as to them it meant bed-sharing.

After getting to know the birth family better we found out that the birth father would get home from work and try to decompress. He did so while watching evening shows and the toddler would fall asleep on the couch curled up next to him. When the toddler was a baby he would fall asleep in his dad’s arms.

Even though the birth father would move him to his crib once he was asleep this was the toddler’s bedtime routine. While technically this was not bed-sharing it most certainly was developing co-sleeping habits.

Once we learned what the bed time routine really was we were able to adapt what we were doing. The toddler still would not curl up with us, nor did we expect him to, we used the TV in his room on a timer to help with a fuss free bedtime routine.

As for the baby…

One very important thing to remember is that co-sleeping does not mean bed-sharing. Because the government uses the two terms synonymously so many people are against co-sleeping. Broken down into the most basic explanation co-sleeping means sleeping in close proximity to an infant.

Our first foster baby had a need to know his caregivers were near by at all times. We found this out quickly as not every time he cried was it for food or a diaper change. It sometimes just meant he wanted to be rocked or soothed. After the first week of letting him sleep in the pram we had, because the crib did not work consistently, we invested in a bassinet. The bassinet could be locked still or in its unlocked position it could be rocked. It also had music and light vibration settings.

That bassinet ensured that we received some form of sleep and sanity each night. At bedtime the bassinet sat in our room next to our bed. During the day I kept the bassinet near me in our family room. After the first few months the baby slept in the bassinet at night and napped in his rocker during the day. After most bottles the baby would fall asleep in our arms.

Both Rent-a-Dad and I are big believers in skin to skin bonding for newborns and infants under 3 months. Skin to skin bonding does not mean anyone needs to be naked. I would generally wear a tank top and Rent-a-Dad an undershirt and we would hold our clothed foster baby with his face in the crook of our neck while we burped him and rubbed his back.

Foster parents are constantly reminded that children in the foster care system have hard times bonding and being able to create bonds is an important life skill. When babies are removed from their mothers so close to birth there needs to be some kind of bond formed between the care giver and the baby. This bond is an important part of early learning. Skin to skin bonding can help make this connection.

Have questions on how to bond with any foster child? This article, 10 ways to bond with your adopted or foster child, has a lot of good ideas including skin to skin contact even with older children.

For concerned foster parents, here are some important questions to discuss with your caseworker:

  • Does co-sleeping strictly refer to bed-sharing?
  • As long as the plan is for the infant to move to a crib in his/her own room after a few months, can a bassinet be used in the foster parent’s bedroom?
  • When a toddler/child is having trouble getting to sleep, can you utilize co-sleeping habits like rocking them to sleep, rubbing their back, or sitting in a chair beside their bed until they fall asleep?
  • What should I do if the child/toddler is consistently crawling into my bad after I go to sleep?

No one ever really thinks about these questions when it is your own biological or adopted child. As foster parents we must think through each of our actions not just because of how others see them but also because of the child in our care. There are many forms of trauma. While one child could use a back rub to get to sleep another child might scream out in fright. Once a child is in your care, and you are taking each day at a time, it can prove useful to talk to your caseworker about habits and routines.

In most states the “no co-sleeping” rule is geared toward newborns and infants as SIDs is a top concern. The rule is also more about “no bed-sharing” than it is about utilizing co-sleeping habits. Talk with your caseworker so you know what your boundaries are.

Getting children to sleep and stay asleep is a struggle most parents sympathize with.

For foster parents I urge everyone to document as much as you can. If you have questions send your case-worker an email. Email is a good way to communicate and document concerns. Most case-workers document the sleeping habits of children in care anyway. Any answers you receive concerning sleeping habits need to be documented so if questions arise in the future you have something to refer back to.

Most foster parents will find that while bed-sharing is a “no-no” that utilizing co-sleeping habits is normal. In Tennessee where the system is working on prudent parenting and creating normalcy for foster children, using co-sleeping habits such as holding a toddlers hand until they fall asleep is just a normal part of life.

To Co-Sleep or Not to Co-Sleep: Part 1

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To co-sleep or not to co-sleep, it is a very good question.

First and foremost this article is not a place of judgment. Every child is different and each family situation unique.

If you want to explore some of the pros/cons of co-sleeping then you will need to do your own research. Two articles that I did find refreshing are Safe Co-Sleeping Guidelines from the University of Notre Dame and Dr. Sear’s article Co-Sleeping: Yes, No, Sometimes. Neither article passes judgment but rather provides advice, and re-assurance. Every parent can use a little, or a lot, of both at times.

Several years back one friend, a new mother, was seeking both of those. She was receiving quite a few judgmental comments about her co-sleeping with her daughter. I believe the only advice I gave was the same advice passed from my grandmother to my mother and from my mother to me. Give the baby, or toddler, his/her own designated sleep space and opportunities to sleep on his/her own. My mom said co-sleeping isn’t bad but we need to make sure that as the baby turns into a toddler and a young child that he/she understands the need for his/her own bed.

After sharing that advice I know I explained my own history. There are pictures of my dad and me taking a nap together in his recliner. Nap times were the times where my parents chose to co-sleep with me. At bedtime they placed me in my bassinet (as an infant) and then later a crib. When I was visiting with my grandparents I tended to co-sleep with them more often than not.

At the age of four my world was rocked by the passing of my grandfather. After which I had frequent nightmares. My father had a chair next to my bed where he would sit and read me stories. On nights where I had difficulty falling asleep he would sit with me until I fell asleep. Sometime overnight I would still find my way into my parent’s bedroom and fall asleep on the foot of their bed if I didn’t crawl in-between them.

Over night stays with my grandmother now meant I rarely slept in my own bed. I have memories of waking up at night and watching her sleep to make sure she wasn’t going to leave me as well.

When I was five or six my grandmother moved three states away to be closer to one of her other daughters. By this time I was school aged and spending more time in my own bed at home and less time visiting my grandmother.

The point of sharing that story with my friend was that “to everything there is a season”. Co-sleeping for me was not something that took place 100% of the time since I was a baby. Co-sleeping was tied to needing re-assurance and safety. Two things parents want to provide their children with.

Three years ago my nephews lived with us for a while. My youngest nephew was only a baby at the time. Even though he was the best baby ever, the first two months were still difficult. He easily fell asleep in my arms or on my husband’s chest, in his swing and when he was rocked in his bassinet. Once he was asleep we could leave him in his bassinet or move him to his crib. Any co-sleeping were the times he would sleep in our arms while we watched TV.

When there were late-night wake-ups, my nephew would easily fall back asleep in his bassinet. At three months old he was rolling over and by the fourth month he was lifting his head with ease. This meant more crib time for naps and bedtime. He would easily fall asleep with a few minutes of lullaby music by the time he was nine months old and sleep at least six hours. He was the perfect little baby.

Life and sleeping were a different story when he was fifteen months old. He had moved back home with his parents and only spent the night at our house from time to time. During these visits he refused to sleep in his old crib and he no longer liked the nighttime routine we once had. After a few sleepless nights when he visited we decided to see if he would sleep in his playpen in our bedroom. This seemed to work for a few months.

One night both Rent-a-Dad and I woke up to a very upset toddler who was trying to climb into our bed. It seemed as if my nephew was having sleep anxiety and wanted to make sure none of us were going to leave him while he slept. Ever since that night we have become used to waking up with our nephew at the foot of our bed, on the pillows above our heads or wedged in-between us. Even with a nighttime story book routine and settling down in his bed, some point overnight he would wake up and find his way to our bedroom.

More and more my nephew does sleep the majority of the night in his own bed. His season of co-sleeping is winding down. Whenever he needs it we re-assure him that we will not disappear on him.

As for how we as foster parents feel about co-sleeping and the guidelines we have to follow… well you will need to read Part 2 of this article.

Never Letting Go

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Tomorrow Rent-a-Dad and I will be attending our local DCS Foster Parent Conference. So tonight we have been getting ready by making sure we have pen, paper, and of course directions. As Rent-a-Dad is making sure our GPS is set up in our car, I decided to note down what classes we want to take. There is one class that we have been discussing for some time: Loving and Letting Go.

The title of the class is rather ironic to us but for one main reason. So far we have not learned how to love and let go. In fact we are in contact with not only the children and immediate families of each of our former placements but also extended family members. So far loving and letting go just hasn’t worked out for us, nor do we want it to!

So why take the class?

Sadly we both know that our track record won’t remain perfect. At some point we will have a placement where we won’t be able to remain in contact. While we don’t know what kind of circumstances those will be, because for us it is hard to imagine, we are certain it will come to pass. So taking this class is preparing for the inevitable.

The thought of loving and letting go being inevitable seems sad but it is something we all do throughout our lives. Even though it is something we each experience it is not something we ever want to get used to. By taking the class the hope is to gain some new techniques that will help us cope when it becomes necessary to let go.

There are certain arrangements of words that seem to call to each of us. Recalling back to childhood the phrase that I always called my mantra came from Shakespeare. Hamlet was one of my mom’s favorite plays so I often heard this line. I just always wanted to attribute it to one of his other plays because Hamlet hurts my head, heart, and soul. The line, from Polonius, is “This above all: to thine own self be true”

In my heart of hearts, I know I will never be good at loving and letting go. Doesn’t matter how many coping mechanisms I put in place or the classes I take. I still think of every child I have ever cared for from distant relations to children of dear friends. Not to mention all of the kids in programs I have helped operate over the years.

Letting go is never easy, not for me. Above all else I know this about myself.

Since becoming a foster parent there have been additional phrases, idioms, and quotes that have called to me. Some of the Disney re-writing of Winnie the Pooh has been quite inspirational. In fact a few of the quotes grace the spare bedroom wall where most of our placements have slept.

You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” As said by Christopher Robin in “Pooh’s Grand Adventure: the Search for Christopher Robin.

When Rent-a-Dad and I re-decorated our spare room we felt that quote needed a prominent space. Even if the children who sleep in that room can not read it is the quote we feel that needs to define their life. It is a quote we feel the need to read to them each night. When we ourselves feel sad and a bit lost, it is a quote we need to read to bring us strength.

In the past couple of months I have found that another adaptation of literary lines to be equally meaningful in my life. It just so happens that the line was also adapted by Disney. Although which movie it hails from is still being debated on the internet.

Never say goodbye because saying goodbye means going away, and going away means forgetting.” As said by Peter Pan. Adapted from J.M. Barrie’s novel.

As a foster parent I feel it is my duty to never forget. While some of the little loves who pass through our doors, and lives, may never be old enough to remember their time in our home, we will never forget them! We will ALWAYS love them! And even though time and space may separate us, we will never truly let them go.

Fostering Privacy

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There are so many topics I could use when this phrase comes up: “when we began the process of fostering…” In part that is because of all the assumptions and preconceived ideas associated with fostering. Some of the notions we had were spot on while others not so much. When it comes to confidentiality and how it applies to each case, our ideas of implied privacy were not too far off.

Our society is at a stage where there is a struggle between private and public knowledge. Half of society wants to post every little emotion and be followed by a million people. The other half is wondering where any kind of implied privacy has disappeared to. Because of that we can no longer assume something is so; it needs to be defined, labeled, and made crystal clear. That is certainly true for every aspect of the foster care system.

We thought one could assume that each child is due his/her privacy especially since the system is clear on how foster parents must handle it. Foster parents are required to sign contracts for a multitude of reasons, one being that we must not discuss personal aspects of a case. When tackling that bit of privacy we also thought there was an unstated rule for not sharing information of any kind on social media. Soon after becoming foster parents that unstated rule became an official policy. The policy (in Tennessee) is not as strict as one would assume. Yet it is also meant to protect all parties involved, which sometimes feels laughable.

On social media foster parents are allowed to share that we have a placement, the age and possibly gender. We can not share specifics like a full name or the names of the parents. An approved nickname may be used. While we can share family photos that the placement may be in, most still need prior approval. This is also the case for status updates that concern the foster child. Approval can be done at the discretion of the caseworker if the child is very young otherwise it must also involve the consent of the child and the child’s family team. Sometimes policies and rules, like these, may seem to be excessive however it is as much for the protection of the placement as it is for the foster family.

Privacy is a wonderful thing. So much with the foster system seems invasive and as if there is no such thing as privacy. It feels like ones movements and actions are scrutinized, not just the foster child but also the foster family. People are treated like mechanical things that need to be kept tabs on with a high level of accountability. On paper it all makes perfect sense because of the foster children who have being taken advantage of by the system, the foster family, or the birth family. In practice it certainly feels as if there is no such thing as privacy.

While foster families must keep close tabs on their social media posts, birth families are still allowed to post whatever they feel. This can be hard as they are allowed to post pictures from court sanctioned visits while foster families may not be allowed to post a family photo. To make matters more interesting (in the state of Tennessee) foster children are not permitted to have Facebook or other social media accounts.

There are a lot of blurry and confusing lines in the foster system. Privacy is one of those. On one hand we are due a certain amount of privacy but on the other we need to be aware that as a foster parent privacy is only an allusion.