The State Of The System Audit

As we write this, yesterday was the 2018 State of the Union address (SOTU), but today we heard and read something that was a lot more personal. We are calling it the State of the System audit (SOTS), and it was quantitative and qualitative look at the state of the foster care system in Oregon… where we are foster parents.  This audit of the Oregon Foster Care System and Oregon DHS, is a very detailed look and exposure of the issues affecting youth in foster care, foster parents, and caseworkers across Oregon. It is damning. For a summary press release from the Secretary of State, click here. It has also been heavily covered by local new organizations.

It is damning. For a summary press release from the Secretary of State, click here.

If you are a subscriber or regular reader of the blog, first, THANK YOU! Second, you have probably noticed that we haven’t posted much lately or frequently. One reason is that life is crazy busy, and we have found it difficult to find time to write our longer form posts about our journey as foster parents, that we hope provide insight, growth, successes, failures, heart breaks, and exhaustion we experience on a daily basis. The other reason is; every time we sit down to write a post, we feel like it quickly turns into a negative post complaining about the system, lack of support available to foster parents, the disservice being done to the children is the system, and overall frustration we have regarding the State of the System that we are experiencing. However, reading the State of the System audit provided validation for everything we have been feeling.

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One Year

We are writing this post after tucking Trevor and Ariel into bed for the night, 365 days after the first time we ever tucked them in. Today is the 1-year anniversary of them entering our lives and it is bitter sweet. When we opened our home to these kiddos (Possible Placements), we agreed to care for them for the weekend. If we said no, they would have spent the weekend in a hotel with a staff member from DHS.  After one weekend, and with nowhere else for them to go, we decided we would continue to care for them as long as we could, or as long as they needed us.  So, that is how we got from one weekend, to one year.

This anniversary is strange. We have been fostering for about 18-months now (Our First Year in Review), and have cared for 6 very special kiddos, but Trevor and Ariel have been in our lives longer than the other 4 combined.  On one hand, this anniversary is quite an achievement and a milestone representing a lot of love and hard work, as well as growth and progress. It is something we can be proud of. It represents our family and the bond and love we have grown and worked so hard for. However, the anniversary also symbolizes failure, loss, struggle, and uncertainty. So much has happened in the last year, but not much has actually happened.

So here we are, one-year in to fostering these awesome kids, and although we have done so much for them, an experienced so much with them, on paper, we are in the exact same place as we were a year ago. 

Continue reading “One Year”

Childcare… Or How to Improve the System

One of the biggest barriers for current foster parents, or people interested in becoming foster parents, is access to childcare.  As discussed in You Get Paid for This, Right?, the reimbursement rate provided by DHS in Oregon does not cover the expenses associated with providing for and raising these children, and it has no stipend for child care.  As any parent who has looked into infant care, daycare, after school care, or babysitting has realized, child care is expensive, sometimes prohibitively expensive. As a family of two working foster parents, we rely heavily on childcare to make being a foster parent possible.  Although paying for child care definitely takes a toll on our monthly budget, we also understand that we are extremely lucky/privileged to be able to afford child care for our kiddos. We also have family who live very close, and help with child care needs as well.

There are many people in our community who would make amazing foster parents, and so many of them would love to be foster parents…but they work, and would need childcare for their kiddos.  Realizing that DHS does not provide any reimbursement, stipend, or support in regards to childcare can be a major deterrent to so many potential foster parents. These people want to help, but they also work, and do not have the financial ability to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars a month for child care.  This childcare dilemma can be especially burdensome for single individuals interested in becoming foster parents as well as working couples. Continue reading “Childcare… Or How to Improve the System”

Foster Care Wishlist Pt. Deux

Now that we have been Fostering school aged children for over 7 months, and have been foster parents for over a year, we felt it was time to add provide an update to our list of necessary and/or helpful items for foster parents. Our first Foster Care Wishlist was one of our most popular posts to date, and we have heard from many of our readers, including perspective, new, and veteran parents and foster parents, that it has been very helpful for them.  When we first wrote Foster Care Wishlist, it was based on our experience as new foster parents, and geared more towards babies and toddlers, since for the most part those were the kiddos in our home. This list is an update, and is influenced by our experience with school age children, developmentally disabled kiddos, and behaviorally challenging kiddos.

For those fostering, or expecting a placement, we highly recommend setting up an Amazon Wishlist / Baby Registry. This is an easy way to keep tabs on what you need to help care for your kiddos, and also is an opportunity for those who want to help and support you on your journey to easily help you in a meaningful way.

Continue reading “Foster Care Wishlist Pt. Deux”

Dear Foster Curious

We didn’t come out as potential foster parents until we took in our first kiddo. We didn’t tell anyone we were taking classes to become certified as foster parents, because we wanted to give ourselves the ability to back out. Becoming a foster parent is a very big and very personal decision, that for better or worse, tends to define a part of you. For us, we went into the first foster parent orientation class as a curious couple, not sure if foster care was for us or not. We left, feeling like it was something we were interested in pursuing… but we didn’t tell anyone.  As we got farther into the process, and closer and closer to being certified, we told a few family members, a few coworkers so we could adjust our work schedules, and some of our closest friends. Most of our family and friends had no idea that becoming a foster parent was something we were interested in doing until we posted on Facebook the night Ava (4-hours) was sleeping soundly in her crib the first night she was placed in our home.

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Request for CASA

An e-mail to Ava’s lawyer and formal request for a CASA for Ava

When we began to sense that Ava’s caseworker may not be making decisions in Ava’s (or her family’s best interest), we began pushing back. We would write e-mails to her CW, to our Certifier, and her lawyer.  Often we would get a response that sounded something like “We hear your concern, and we will take it into consideration”, and we would realize that in the end DHS is not obligated to listen to the concerns of foster parents, and foster parents have very little clout regarding the legal decisions being made for the children they are caring for.  It was at this point that we started the process of requesting a CASA for Ava. Continue reading “Request for CASA”

It Takes A Village

“It takes a village to raise a child”.  This saying is such a cliche, but as foster parents, we have an ever expanding village helping us raise our kiddos. We are so thankful for the village we have, and we know that without them, this journey would be impossible for us.  This post is about our village, how they help us, and how thankful and fortunate we are to have them in our life. It is important to recognize though, that the reason why many of these children are in care, is because their parents are not fortunate enough to have a village supporting them when times get tough, money is tight, or they make a mistake. But that is a more depressing topic, and will be discussed in another post. This post is about some of the people in our village who make our journey possible. The people in this post are proof that “not everyone can be a foster parent, but anyone can help a foster child”. Continue reading “It Takes A Village”

All About My Child

When we “graduated” from our foster parent training classes, we were given a few ugly photo copied versions of “icebreakers” to send with the kiddos on visits to their bio-family. We felt weird sending these on visits because they looked like bad photocopies of doctor forms, and seemed cold and impersonal. Initially, we purchased a cute notebook and used it to start a conversation with the bio-family, by “passing notes” in it on each visit.  After multiple “notes” we realized that we wanted something that could be a keepsake. We also quickly learned after using these questionnaires that we were pronouncing our first kiddo’s name wrong! * Continue reading “All About My Child”

Foster Care Wishlist

*If you have kids over five, please see our updated post, “wishlist part 2.”

No matter how much you prepare yourself to be a foster parent (or parent in general), you will never be fully prepared.  Being a foster parent throws some additional curveballs in the preparation process for becoming a parent, and honestly, with each placement the only thing that gets easier is that you are more prepared to be unprepared.  As many of you probably know, during our certification process we anticipated being foster parents to school-age children, but our first placement was Ava*, an infant, who arrived at our home 4-hours after the initial placement phone call.

When becoming a parent, you often have 9ish-months to prepare.  You can use this time to freak out, paint the bedroom, clean the house, stock-up on necessary and unnecessary supplies, over-analyze, host a baby-shower, spread out expenses over months, and yes, freak out.  To become a foster parent, it took us a little bit less than 6-months from the start of our journey to our first placement.  During that time, we prepared our home to pass the DHS Home Inspection (fire extinguisher = check!), and emptied the room that our future kiddo would occupy, save for a twin bed.  Beyond that, we had no idea if we should get toys, clothes, and decorations for a 5-year old boy, or an 18-year old girl, or anyone in between.  And it turns out, we should have ditched the bed, set-up a crib, and prepared for an 11-month old little girl!

All we are trying to say is, “preparing for a placement is very difficult”. Our first placement was just as difficult as preparing for our 5th and 6th.  These are little humans, all with their own needs, and the amount of time you have between when you know they are coming, and when they arrive can be measured in minutes or hours, not months. Many of the items you purchase for your kiddos need to be and should be sent with them when reunification occurs (clothes, toys you bought them, hygiene products, etc.), but some things you buy, are considered items for the house, and you can keep for the next placement.  This phenomenon explains why we have a double jogger and single jogger as well as a pack-n-play taking up valuable storage space while there are no toddlers currently in our home. Continue reading “Foster Care Wishlist”

You Get Paid For This, Right?

When you are a foster parent, you get asked a lot of questions by people who are curious.  Some of the questions are awkward or personal, but we like to think of ourselves as an open book for people to learn about the foster care journey. One question that seems to come up repeatedly is about compensation for being a foster parent. Depending on the company, this question usually comes up one of two ways.  The first scenario is as follows:

“So forgive me for asking, and please, don’t feel like you need to tell me, and definitely let me know if this is too personal…but, you get paid to do this, right?”

The second scenario that often occurs is:

“Wow, that sounds crazy and like a lot of work, how much do they pay you to do this?”

Continue reading “You Get Paid For This, Right?”