Tag Archive for: Foster Care
https://plummeryouthpromise.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/PYP-Groundbreaking-1-scaled.jpg 1706 2560 Jordan Caress-Wheelwright /wp-content/uploads/2023/04/logo-1-1.png Jordan Caress-Wheelwright2023-11-15 09:36:042023-11-16 08:11:10Plummer celebrates breaking ground on trauma-informed facility
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Through its Permanency Practice Leadership Division Plummer provides consulting, coaching, and training in permanency best practices to child welfare professionals working in government programs and in private, non-profit agencies. Our permanency work is carried out in the spirit of the Plummer Promise to work to ensure that every youth has access to “permanency”; someone committed unconditionally to nurture, protect, and guide them to successful adulthood.
One of the basic parts of permanency practice is family search and engagement (FSE). It is a practice that identifies and locates family members, community members and others who are significant to children and youth in foster care or who are at risk of coming into care. FSE includes safely establishing or re-establishing relationships between children and important adults in their lives.
Cheryl Peltier, a Senior Child Welfare Manager at Plummer, notes that the “search” part of FSE is the just the beginning of the work. As the term suggests, search involves identifying and locating people who have a connection to a youth which may in some way contribute to their finding permanency. “People”, are found in many ways, including through intensive case record review. Asking the youth who is important to them or who do they think of when they are going to sleep each night can lead to many potential connections. In addition, many families have a key person, often a grandparent or another elderly relative, who is most familiar with family history and who can provide many to links to other important family members.
Ms. Peltier notes that “search” is often the easy part of FSE. The real work begins with getting the people who have been identified and found to engage in working on behalf of a child. Individuals can contribute in many ways to the permanency process. They can provide relevant family history, serve as a member of the youth’s permanency team, contribute concrete supports such as transportation to appointments, offer to help a youth with important life skills like learning to drive or provide respite for a family member needing extra support to be able to successfully parent a child.
Many people assume that when they are contacted as part of the FSE process they are being asked to provide a permanent home for the child. The social worker helps people engage by assuring them placement is not the reason they have been contacted. Very often they can be most helpful by helping a child understand their history. Many kids in foster care do not have a clear understanding of why they came into care or who their family members are. With information gathered from parents, former foster parents, and others a child can develop a clearer sense of what has happened to them. And, in turn, be better prepared to attach to future care takers. While a permanent family resource eventually may emerge from FSE it is not the initial focus of the work.
Another important part of FSE is to ensure that the youth’s paternal side of the family is brought into the process. Frequently in child welfare the focus is on the mother and her side of the family. Fathers are often described as not being involved with or interested in their children. With the FSE process seeking out and involving fathers and their relatives is a standard practice. It often leads to establishing many enduring connections and supports for a child. In addition, the paternal family may provide important family history that could not be obtained from another source.
Jillian Chenault, Program Director of Intensive Permanency Services, notes that that the guiding principle beneath Plummer’s FSE work is to include people in the process for what they can do rather than exclude them for what they can’t do. There are many people who are unable to provide a home for a child and some who cannot have any direct contact with a child. But that does not exclude them from helping a child they care about find permanency. A baby picture from a birth mother, a letter from an incarcerated father, the contact information for a long lost relative or a phone call from a former foster parent can help a child. These are all things that can emerge from the family search and engagement process. And, as such, are all important parts of each child’s journey to permanency.
–Written by Diane Kindler, LCSW
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Child welfare agencies frequently place children with their relatives. This is kinship foster care. It is estimated that approximately 25% of children in foster care are placed with relatives. Most kinship care providers are grandparents but others filling this role include aunts and uncles; older siblings; cousins and close family friends such as godparents.
Kinship care offers many positives for kids and families and it is often the first choice for a child needing out-of-home placement due to abuse or neglect. Children who are unable to live with their birth parents have been traumatized. Transitioning into a familiar home is less disruptive for a child than moving in with people they are just getting to know. Kinship care allows children to stay connected to family and their culture and to be with people who know their history. Kids in kinship foster care move less often than their peers in non-relative foster homes. That stability often protects children from the frequent school changes that most foster children experience as they move from one home to another.
Sometimes kinship care makes maintaining contact with birth parents simpler than it is for a child who is not living with family. When birth parents and kin caretakers work well together reunification can occur within a shorter timeframe. Chances of reunification increase when there is an alliance between the child birthparent and foster parent. Such an alliance is likely to occur more readily when foster care is provided by kin.
There are specific challenges involved in providing kinship care. Since kin caretakers are often grandparents they may be challenged by taking on full time care of a child, especially a child with special needs. Older kin caretakers also may have to resolve specific resource issues related to taking on responsibility for a child. They may, for example, live in housing where minors are not allowed.
Relationships with birth parents do not always go smoothly. Kin caregivers may be in the difficult position of having to set boundaries with the parents of their foster child. There may be disagreements around visitation which can be hard for family members to resolve.
Often kinship placements occur during a time of crisis which impacts not only the birth parents and their children but also the prospective kin caregiver. It’s a complicated process. A grandparent may be overwhelmed by the idea of parenting again but also determined to keep their family together. They want what’s best for their grandchild and at the same time may resent having been put in the position of becoming a full time caregiver.
Fortunately there are helpful resources available for kin providing foster care. Social workers help them connect to needed resources such as financial aid and and medical and dental care. They also help kinship caretakers understand the child’s special needs and link them to the mental health services, community supports, respite care and other programs which will make it possible for them to provide a loving and stable environment for their young relative. Many kinship caregivers find very relevant help by joining support groups designed specifically for kin foster parents. Being with other people who are in the same boat and who understand the joys and pains of kinship foster care can be just the help needed to keep someone going. And, to help them continue to provide the love and nurture that can help their young relative thrive.
Diane Kindler, LCSW
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One of the myths about being a foster parent is that you have to be married. Well, you don’t. I know this because I’ve been a foster parent as a single mom for years. (You also don’t have to own a home either in order to be a foster parent but that’s another story.)
Are there particular challenges to being a single foster mom? I think they are similar to the challenges faced by other single moms. I have to be able to handle many roles and during those inevitable tough times, I miss having a partner to pitch in and help. It can be lonely at times. Fortunately, I have a network of foster parent friends, single and not, who are there to cheer me on and pick me up when I need it. Those late-night texts and e-mails are truly a lifeline. I think my being a single parent has made me understand the importance of building a support network.
How do I manage as a single foster mom? I do what all single parents do…..multitask, multitask, and multitask. I work hard at staying organized, have a huge dry-erase whiteboard hanging in my kitchen, and have learned to put everything on it. With time my foster children have learned to use it also. It is so important that we all know where we need to be and how we’re going to get there. I also have become very good at knowing when I need help and asking for it.
Do my kids have positive male role models? I do my best to involve them with reliable male relatives and friends. I put lots of energy into helping them connect with good male teachers, coaches, and members of our church including the pastors. I acknowledge that it can be hard not to have a dad around and am very careful to be aware when my foster child is feeling this absence in their life.
Is there any advantage to being a single foster parent? Most of the foster children I have cared for come from single-parent homes, most often headed by a mother or grandmother. Due to my being single I think I have an extra dose of empathy when it comes to my foster kids’ single parents. I appreciate their struggles and know how hard it can be to raise children on your own. And, I know that my foster kids always benefit from my understanding and respecting their birth families.
So, remember that there is a huge need for good, caring, competent foster parents who happen to be single!
– Written by Diane Kindler, MSW, LICSW
https://plummeryouthpromise.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/ben-collins-6UjejTrAVAw-unsplash-scaled-1.jpg 2000 1333 competenow /wp-content/uploads/2023/04/logo-1-1.png competenow2022-01-25 19:36:392023-04-29 07:10:30New Year, New Home: What Every Foster Parent Should Know
Dear Foster Parents,
I am writing to you to give you some ideas about welcoming a new foster child or youth into your home. I know a lot about this because I have been in a lot of foster homes….seven to be exact, during the two years I’ve been in the system. I won’t tell you the obvious things you probably know….. like being clear about what your rules are and showing me where I can find stuff I need like towels.
Instead, I’m going to give you some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind as you get ready to take on another foster child.
Do understand that moving to a new home is overwhelming. Please let my first few days be as low-key as possible. Keep things simple and save events involving lots of people for later. Even something as simple as a church supper can feel like too much for a new kid in your home.
Don’t expect to get to know me very well at first. When I met new foster parents I usually kept a pretty low profile while I checked things out. Giving a kid space to settle in at your house will help them feel comfortable sooner. I may just need some time to get used to a new environment. But don’t worry, before long I’ll let you know who I am and what I like.
Do understand that if I am entering a new school that will be a huge issue for me. When I knew that I was starting a new school, especially if it was in the middle of the school year, I was always very nervous although I didn’t tell anyone that. So, assume that might be true and do whatever you can to make starting school easier. Try to get your foster child a tour of the school before they start. Make sure that on the first day they and you know who will be their “go to” person if things aren’t going well. Try to get a supply list before they start school so that they’ll have what they need….like a particular type of calculator…. on Day One.
Don’t be afraid to check in and ask how things are going. Don’t bombard me with questions, but give me some chances to let you know how I’m doing. Remember that I’m more likely to open up when I feel comfortable and don’t have to make direct eye contact…..like when you’re driving me somewhere. Sort of raising a question aloud….saying something like “I wonder what it’s like for you to get used to being with a new family” can help me open up to you.
Do show me that you get how important contact with my birth family is for me. Right from the beginning, you can show your foster child that you respect their ties to their family. Make sure you understand what the plan is for them to have family contact and do your part to make sure that things happen on schedule. Reminding me that I have a call with my brother scheduled after supper and making sure I have a quiet place to make the call shows me that you get how important my family is to me.
A new kid comes into your home with lots of questions and not much confidence that things will work out. I hope these do’s and don’t will help you make their entry easier. That will be good for everyone.
– Written by Diane Kindler, MSW, LICSW
*This is a fictional letter based on real people and relationships.
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October brings thoughts of Halloween to mind. Here from the perspective of foster children and foster parents are some of the season’s tricks and treats:
For foster children, the tricks are way too many. Having to move from one home to another is very tricky. It’s very hard to start over with a new family, new school, and new community. Many of us have had multiple moves from our birth families to a number of group homes and foster homes. Because of this, Plummer is committed to keeping moves to a minimum and using foster care as a means to finding each child a forever family connection. Each move to another temporary home makes it harder for us to trust people. Life is very tricky for a kid who doesn’t trust grownups.
For foster parents, the tricks are apparent when we have to balance the energy and passion we put into caring for our foster kids with the reality that if we do our job well, they will leave us to move on to a permanent family. There is no doubt that it’s hard to see the child we have come to love leave our home. But we not only have to help them prepare to move on, but also be the biggest cheerleaders for their move. Our kids need to hear from us that we support their next steps whether it is return to bio family, to an adoptive family, or to guardianship. It’s tricky to let go gracefully, but we do so because we know that is truly in their best interests to do so.
There are many things that can happen in foster care that feel like treats. Being treated like a regular a kid, getting to do regular kid stuff like having a costume and going trick or treating is really a treat, even before we get the candy. We may have missed out on normal childhood experiences, like celebrating Halloween, because things were just too chaotic in our lives before we came to your home. So, doing this kid stuff is really a treat even if you won’t let us eat all of our candy on Halloween.
The treats are many for foster parents, but some of the less obvious ones feel really great. It is a treat to see a child who has been very guarded come out of their shell. So many kids in care have learned to keep a low profile in order to feel safe. They are very watchful and reluctant to be a part of what is going on around them. It is a treat when you see this sort of child begin to relax and feel more comfortable in the world. You see the signs when their sense of humor begins to emerge and they seek out opportunities to interact with others, especially their peers. Seeing a child who has been reluctant to do so engage in a lively game of backyard Wiffle ball is a very special treat.
Written by Diane Kindler, MSW, LICSW
https://plummeryouthpromise.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/helena-lopes-PGnqT0rXWLs-unsplash-scaled-1.jpg 1333 2000 competenow /wp-content/uploads/2023/04/logo-1-1.png competenow2021-09-29 17:26:402023-04-29 07:10:31Welcome to My Family Forest
Dear foster parents, I am a teenager in foster care and I want to tell you about my family forest and why it’s important to me. For a kid like me the idea of a family tree is sort of lame. I have lots of family trees….my birth family tree, my first foster family tree, my second foster family tree and so on.
Think of me as having a family forest made up of trees which represent all of the people who have been important in my life….. the people I’ve lived with like my birth parents, foster parents and my grandparents. Don’t forget to include the people at the group home I lived in a couple years ago. Also, there are some special people I haven’t lived with but who have had a big influence on me like my current social worker, my godparents and the guy (Mr. K) who coaches my baseball team. He’s sort of a mentor to me.
That’s a pretty big forest, right? I have mixed feelings when I think about it. I can see that I have had a lot of grownups who have helped me out. I’ve been through some rough times and some of these people have been there to support me when I really needed it. On the other hand, I think that my life has been pretty complicated. I have friends who have just lived with their one family forever. I can’t imagine what that would be like. I’ve been with some really good people but I’ve lost a lot of people too. And sometimes it all feels like too much and I wish I was one of those “just one family” kids.
So, if you are wondering what my family forest has to do with you as my foster parent, here are some ideas. First of all, remember that you are part of my family forest now. (Welcome to the club.) You are important to me. Even though there are times when I’d never admit that! Also, try to remember that the other “trees” are important to me too. I miss some of them. I worry about some of them. And I’m kind of angry at some of them. I think about them a lot. Please remember that. It’s really ok to ask me about them. In fact, most of the time I like that. I don’t want to forget them so help me keep in touch, ok?
Well, that’s enough for now. Welcome to my family forest. There is definitely room for you.
Written by Diane Kindler, MSW, LICSW
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Written by Diane Kindler, MSW, LICSW
We are all familiar with the concept of a family tree, that symbolic representation of an individual’s immediate and extended family. With a little help most children can draw a family tree on which they can place themselves, their siblings, their parents, and grandparent, as well as extended family members such as aunts, uncles, and cousins. Membership in a step-family may enlarge a family tree. But the process of creating one remains fairly simple.
That is not the case for children and youth in foster care. They have a birth family, as well their foster family. They may have lived for an extended period of time in a group home where staff and other children became like family to them. Also, most children in care have lived with more than one foster family. Given this reality, the concept of a family tree may not be relevant for your foster child.
It may be helpful to both your foster child and you to think of them having a family forest. A family forest can have multiple trees representing the different families of which a child has been a member. There is room for birth family, other caretakers, previous foster families, congregate care settings such as group homes, as well as your family.
On occasion, someone such as a social worker may help a foster child draw their family forest. Doing so provides a way for a child to better understand where they have been and how they ended up in their current home. It can be a very useful tool to help a child make sense of their life and to identify people who have cared about them.
As a foster parent, the concept of the family forest may help you better understand your foster child’s world. When you think of them as having lived with multiple families, some of their behaviors may make more sense. If they have seen other families come and go in their life, they may have a harder time planting roots in your family. It may take them a very long time to accept that a move to another family is not imminent.
The concept of a family forest can also serve as a reminder that there are people in your child’s past who still are important to them even if they see them infrequently or not at all. It can help us work harder to help foster children maintain connections with the many people who populate their family forests. Foster children usually benefit from ongoing contact with people who have cared for them in the past. As long as such contact is safe, it can help a foster child understand their own story and struggle less with feelings of loss and abandonment and, consequently, become more able to develop healthy and loving relationships.
If it takes a village to raise a child, isn’t it fair to say that it also takes a family forest to keep a foster child from getting lost?
Written by Diane Kindler, MSW, LICSW
https://plummeryouthpromise.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/pichara-bann-6TV5x9ADHvI-unsplash.jpg 1428 2000 competenow /wp-content/uploads/2023/04/logo-1-1.png competenow2021-07-29 15:42:372023-04-29 07:10:33A Foster Mom’s Day at the Beach
by Diane Kindler, MSW, LICSW
The sky has cleared, the temperature is just right, and somehow, we made it to the beach without any meltdowns. I’m here today with my two foster sons, ages 8 and 11. The kids have been with us for three months and this is our first time spending a day at the beach. Ever the optimist, I have even brought a book to relax with!
Like many kids in care, my guys tell me that they have never spent a whole day at the beach. Everything looks new to them. We discuss what to expect and how to stay safe in this type of environment so they can best explore it, enjoy it, and have fun.
We walk down and check out the water. It’s cold! Fortunately, it’s low tide so they can splash around. The boys are brothers, and the older of the two is used to being responsible for the younger one. We are gradually working on letting us be the parents, and today they are able to share this new experience as just two kids.
There are loads of other families with kids here today. My boys watch a group of other kids tossing a football around and look like are eager to get in the game, but don’t know how to make a connection. But later, they are able to share some of the toys we brought with another little boy and all dig in the sand together.
Before you know it it’s time to leave. I never did read my book, but my guys got to enjoy a part of childhood that many take for granted. They had fun, were able to adjust to a lot of new experiences at once, and even played with another kid. That’s a very good day in my book.
by Diane Kindler, MSW, LICSW