What we do well and how we can get better

Last fall, the Division of Child Welfare hosted six town hall meetings across the state and one telephone town hall. We wanted to hear directly from foster parents about what works well and how we can better support you. During each of these conversations foster parents shared their experiences, gave praise where praise was due and gave honest, constructive feedback to help child welfare professionals do a better job.

Thanks to each and every foster parent who attended. Your feedback is invaluable and we’re committed to addressing the concerns you raised.

During the town halls, the following themes emerged. These current concerns are consistent with previous surveys the state has conducted to understand foster parents’ experiences.

Respect and being treated as professionals: Foster parents said they want to be part of a collaborative team and want to be considered professionals as part of the treatment team. This includes involvement in decision making related to young people in their care.

Foster parents also expressed concern about the impact foster care has on the entire family unit, including biological children in the home, and normal routines, such as meals, studying and family time.

Access to respite and other supports: Foster parents report that it is difficult to locate respite, especially for older children and teens. Foster parents reported that it is difficult to understand who can watch the young people in their care, who can transport, who needs to be cleared and who does not. Other identified supports include mentoring, transition planning, foster parent preparation, child care and access to therapy.

Information sharing: Foster parents said receiving as much information as possible helps them to understand the needs of the young people in their care. Some experienced foster parents reported that they learned to ask for specific information, such as expectations about visitation, before accepting a placement because it makes the transition smoother. The extent of information provided initially and ongoing varies by county and sometimes the CPA. The information that is shared can also vary among different staff members in the same county or agency.

Transportation: Working foster parents said that sometimes their jobs are put in jeopardy due to the time-intensive needs of the young people who are in their care. Foster parents reported having multiple weekly appointments, including medical, dental, speech/language, physical therapy, occupational therapy, mental/behavioral health therapy appointments and parental visitations. Some also transport the young people in their care to and from school. This is generally done with little or no support.

Inconsistent practice and decision-making: Foster parents reported inconsistent expectations and policies from county departments and caseworkers regarding foster parents’ involvement in family engagement meetings, information sharing, access to resources, and providing guidance and support. Foster parents also reported inconsistency in relationships with caseworkers, family search, the reasonable and prudent parent standard, and a child or teen’s access to cell phones and social media.

Foster parents and courts: Many foster parents did not know they had rights in the court process regarding the young people in their care. They didn’t have an understanding of intervenor or special respondent appointment. Foster parents reported both inconsistent and timely notice of court dates.

Foster parents also reported that court officers did not consistently invite them to be heard in court. The differences in practice happened among judicial districts, as well as within judicial districts. In some instances, the GAL was instrumental in asking the court to invite the foster parent to be heard.

This article summarizes the themes and feedback. The Division of Child Welfare issued an informational memo, which includes more detail and specifics. Read the memo here.

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