Mistakes We've Made As Foster Parents - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 23 Old 09-06-2010, 12:51 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I saw this post on another board and found it very educational so I thought I'd start the thread here, too.

Here's my answer. I hope others will also reply.

I made a mistake early on in my relative placement when I allowed my GS L's aunt to take him overnight without clearing it through our private agency.

I did not know then that anyone who babysat or took him unsupervised had to be background checked. My caseworker brushed it off and I didn't get into any trouble over it, but the aunt was very upset with me.

I also let my GS sleep with me when he had nightmares until I found out that no one, even relatives are allowed to co sleep with foster children.

Other than that the mistakes I have made pertain to me being a relative placement and letting my feelings for my DD make me feel conflicted about what I saw at the time were harsh rules. It took many months before I fully accepted that I couldn't help my DD and had to put all my energy into the welfare of my GS. It has been a heartbreaking experience and I think the relationship with my DD has been irretrievably broken.

Early on I used to think, "well, this will be over soon. I'll try to make sure DD knows I love her and I'm taking care of GS until he can go home. She'll get over her blaming me about this situation and someday we'll all be a big happy family again."

I now realize that relative placements are by nature adversarial and in my case it has been almost impossible to try to maintain any relationship with my DD.

That reminds me of another mistake: I have allowed the agency to make our situation even more adversarial by letting them push off their job on me. I have supervised almost all the visitation and got put into the unbearable situation of having to tell my DD that she couldn't have her visit because she called late. I should never have had to do that.

Oh, if I had known then what I know now. We live and learn, but I've lost so much in this process. I used to have a house full with extended family relationships and now I'm down to no husband, no children and only my one GS. He's worth every bit of the suffering, but I can't help but think a lot of it could have been avoided if my agency had educated me more about relative placement and done the job of visitation without putting me in the middle.
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Illinois granny---Oldest GS placed with me 11/08 , baby brother born & came home 8/09 , Moved to foster home 3/10 . TPR not approved 6/10
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#2 of 23 Old 09-06-2010, 11:53 AM
 
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We're not all perfect...
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#3 of 23 Old 09-08-2010, 01:03 AM
 
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We co-slept with the 14 month old boy placed in our care. He was our first baby every (first diaper, first bottle - every in our lives). Social services knew and didn't care. I wouldn't have changed it either because I am certain his mom slept with him and it would have been way too traumatic for him to sleep by himself.

I regret not hugging our 2 foster kids (who have gone home but we see for weekly visits now). I think they both (boy 7 & girl 2) could have used more touch. I also would have cuddled the little girl to sleep instead of letting her CIO. I have so much guilt about this now that I have my own daughter.

I also regret not getting the kids (the 2 above and their 13 year old brother) to do any chores. I could not keep up with them while being pregnant and working full time. Plus it is valuable life skills.
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#4 of 23 Old 09-08-2010, 11:21 AM
 
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I think I made a mistake by deciding not to go to court once. Foster parents usually don't go to court unless they've been told they need to, but they're often invited. It was one of those times. It was no big deal in the long run but it could have made things just a little smoother.

Another mistake I made was misinterpreting the babysitter guidelines. I gave my sister wrong information and I feel like that has caused her to delay becoming a nonprimary caregiver. She wants to babysit but she doesn't want to jump through the hoops of fingerprints, references, homestudy, etc. It's been frustrating because right now she can't help as much as either of us would like.

Other mistakes: expecting more people to understand and be supportive.
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#5 of 23 Old 09-08-2010, 07:46 PM
 
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mistakes i have made....
telling the caseworkers too much
taking on a friend's sister (destroyed our friendship)
taking things too personally
believing that the caseworkers have the kid's best interests at heart (some do, most dont)
taking on a placement when i knew in my gut it was a bad fit..twice!
not giving out SPECIFIC rules/chores/consequences on day one with teenagers
trusting teens not to steal (1000$ in valuables later....)

mdcblog5.gif   Liz mama to DS 10, DSS 9, DD 6, DS 3, DD 2 , Aquila- dec 19th 2009 died at my homebirth, and....welcome Willow born 9-16-10 (9 weeks early)  nut.gif
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#6 of 23 Old 09-08-2010, 08:11 PM
 
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Originally Posted by liz-hippymom View Post
mistakes i have made....
telling the caseworkers too much

believing that the caseworkers have the kid's best interests at heart (some do, most don't)
Could you please, please explain these more? What do the caseworkers actually have as their #1 priority, if it's not the child?

I'm trying to learn all I can before we are in these situations. I appreciate all of your honestly

Wife, 27, to DH, 33, and Mama to DS1 Josiah - 8/09, DS2 James - 3/11, 10 angel babies, 3 foster children, and one adorable ALMOST ADOPTED son - 5/05 

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#7 of 23 Old 09-08-2010, 08:37 PM
 
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Originally Posted by JoyfamMama View Post
Could you please, please explain these more? What do the caseworkers actually have as their #1 priority, if it's not the child?

I'm trying to learn all I can before we are in these situations. I appreciate all of your honestly
Well, in my experience...i think they THINK they do...but i know w/ my workers at this point its all about putting out fires, passing the buck, doing the minimal amount they have to do to get through the day. My friend is dealing with a situation where they've been visiting with kids for six months, about to move them in as an adoptive placement, and the agency is basically saying "nevermind you're not the right family" solely to protect *themselves* due to the abuse the kids have disclosed happening in the FH, my friends reported it, and they are trying to cover it up. Its disgusting. WHen a relative popped up wanting my foster kids after TPR, the foster side went behind the adoption side's back to try to facilitate moving the kids (trying to find suitable housing for the relative, going immediately to visitation etc) even though it was the adoption unit that had the ultimate say about placement, the foster side went rogue and was acting like it was a done deal. Right now my foster(soon adopt) daughter is waiting for a bike...the agency somehow gave hers (that she got at the foster xmas party) to another child and has been promising to replace it ever since. Then they told her, oh you'll get it when the weather is warm. Then oh you'll get it when you move. June 11 during a team mtg i was told they would just give me a check for it, she moved in, we've heard nothing. Reminders to the worker gets blown off. Its now sept. Really nice, breaking a promise to a foster child yknow?

Some other ways might be if a worker has her own agenda...she might advocate for TPR or NOT terminating based not on the best interests of the child or the facts of the case but on her own prejudices or feelings about the case. Our worker looked kinda like an idiot on the stand, thankfully it didnt hurt the case. I had an adoption worker who thought i shouldnt adopt a black child and would tell other workers that (so when i'd inquire on a child, she would say oh well she doesnt really want a black child, which was a lie)...that kind of stuff.

But i'm in a kind of jaded place right now, totally OVER my agency and will be switching as soon as i can (because frankly i think some of what they are doing is possibly criminal and certainly unethical)...so i might not be the best one to give advice.

Katherine, single homeschooling mom to Boy Genius (17) geek.gif  Thing One (6) and Thing Two (6) fencing.gif and one outgoing Girl (12) bikenew.gif and hoping for more through foster care and adoption homebirth.jpgadoptionheart-1.gif 
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#8 of 23 Old 09-08-2010, 08:53 PM
 
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Foster care is a really difficult field to work in, obviously. Most workers do what they can to get through the day. The life expectancy of a worker is 2 years, but some can't last that long. A lot of people go into the job full force, but then quickly realize that they can't do it and have a life outside of the job at the same time. So instead of moving on (like I have), they just do the job with minimal effort. It's a very difficult place to be in when you have a child's future resting in your hands. You don't want to attach because you don't know what's going to happen. If you feel in your heart that a home isn't good for the child, but can't prove it in court because the parents are being compliant, you feel disgusting inside. You don't want to attach to the child because you don't want to fail them. But you kind of are failing them anyway. It really sucks, and the system turns good caseworkers into bad caseworkers very quickly.
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#9 of 23 Old 09-08-2010, 10:49 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by queenjane View Post
Some other ways might be if a worker has her own agenda...she might advocate for TPR or NOT terminating based not on the best interests of the child or the facts of the case but on her own prejudices or feelings about the case. Our worker looked kinda like an idiot on the stand, thankfully it didnt hurt the case.

But i'm in a kind of jaded place right now, totally OVER my agency and will be switching as soon as i can (because frankly i think some of what they are doing is possibly criminal and certainly unethical)...so i might not be the best one to give advice.
I totally get your frustration, queenjane. I've felt this was a problem in my GS's case. I feel totally jaded, but am wondering if krisnic would be willing to validate this thought:

Are they motivated by the large funding stream that comes from DC out of the Title IV Social Security funds???? And the adoption bonuses???? I see very little concern for the "best interest" of the child in my county and a lot of chasing the almighty $$$$$.

Maybe that's another mistake I'm making. I wish it were, but I truly doubt it.

Thanks for all the replies so far. Keep 'em coming!

Illinois granny---Oldest GS placed with me 11/08 , baby brother born & came home 8/09 , Moved to foster home 3/10 . TPR not approved 6/10
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#10 of 23 Old 09-08-2010, 10:53 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by marsupial-mom View Post
Other mistakes: expecting more people to understand and be supportive.
Oh yeah, me too. I found out the hard way that foster parents have a huge job, tons of responsibility and nowhere near enough support. I'm in a relative placement right now and oh, my gosh, it's sooooo hard. My CW never prepared me for the difficulty of family dynamics and how hard it would be to basically turn my back on DD for the sake of GS.

Ouch....will my case ever end???? 22 months and counting and my support system keeps getting smaller and smaller.

My DH even flew the coop in February. He couldn't take the stress. We're still friendly, but I have lost so much trying to keep fragile GS together and in our family.

Illinois granny---Oldest GS placed with me 11/08 , baby brother born & came home 8/09 , Moved to foster home 3/10 . TPR not approved 6/10
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#11 of 23 Old 09-08-2010, 11:15 PM
 
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#12 of 23 Old 09-08-2010, 11:23 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Oh, Krisnic, thank you for validating my suspicions! I think my private agency is dragging their feet because I am a relative placement. They pushed and pushed to get me licensed and now I know why. I did finally go through all the licensing process and was told in May that I was licensed, but I still haven't gotten a copy of it and haven't ever gotten the licensed rate. I have called our state advocacy hotline and asked about that. They are still researching for me.

Sorry to have gotten off the track of the original intent of this post, but again, it shows another mistake I made.....not knowing in the beginning the real motivations of the private agency handling our case.

Illinois has a rotating caseload basis. Reports start with DCFS and then get handed out to cooperating agencies. I wish I had been one of the lucky ones who got to stay with the state because they have less motivation to grab for the $$$$$.

Lesson learned.

I just wish someone had told me about this board (and others I've found) early on so I wouldn't have had to live with the results of my mistakes.

Hopefully our mistakes we have brought to light here will help others who are just beginning their journey!

Illinois granny---Oldest GS placed with me 11/08 , baby brother born & came home 8/09 , Moved to foster home 3/10 . TPR not approved 6/10
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#13 of 23 Old 09-08-2010, 11:52 PM
 
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I don't have a lot of regrets. One of the few things I regret, and probably the most important, is my belief early on that foster care could ever = permanency/stability for a child. I learned a very painful lesson very early on that as long as the child is in the system (even a kid aging out of the system who has NO other viable options), the child can and often will be jerked around by people who have no idea the damage they are causing.

I also have a twinge of regret (albeit not a ton) about believing my first agency when it *promised* that it would provide us all kinds of specific supports if only we took their child with the greatest needs for whom they could not otherwise find a placement. That lasted about five or six months until their new "favorite family" rolled around. Maybe I don't regret that one so much because I half expected it. They promised stuff that was sustainable for them.

That said, I have a lot of things I DON'T regret:
  • I don't regret getting involved in the foster parent boards of both our first agency, and later of the state.
  • I don't regret parenting any of the kids placed with us.
  • I don't regret attending any of the social events for foster families.
  • I don't regret any of the trainings I took.
  • I don't regret diplomatically but forcefully working my way up the chain with an incompetant social worker...as worried as I was at the time that I might jeopordize the placement.
  • I don't regret getting to know the heads of the departments in both the agency and at the state.
  • I don't regret going to court all those times I did (I do regret not having been able to attend dd's mother's termination of rights...we had moved by that point all the way across the country).
  • I don't regret getting to know the parents of all my placements except in the first case when they no longer had any relationship whatsoever with the child and were completely out of the picture. I only wish I could have met dd's dad.
  • I don't regret spending lots of time on here and other boards to help me learn from others as I took the foster care path.
  • I don't regret loving (or at least caring deeply about) all the kids who came through my home (I do regret not keeping in touch with all of them, each for different reasons...some for reasons largely beyond our control).
  • I don't regret risking my own emotional well-being to journey this tough road called foster care with kids who had no choice.
  • I don't regret seeking therapy when I had a lot on my plate.
  • I don't regret inviting my ds' social worker to our adoption finalization.

I'm pro-adoption reform, but not anti-adoption.
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#14 of 23 Old 09-30-2010, 02:57 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks Sierra, for posting all the positives as well as negatives. It touched my heart and I agree that foster kids don't ever have permanency until they're out of the system. I thought for many months of turning in my license after my GS is safely out of the system but I'm rethinking that now. I have thought about getting involved in our county and state foster boards and think I'll really finally do that once he's settled. I think with a relative placement it's gotten so personal that I've had some emotional blinders on, so to speak.

Illinois granny---Oldest GS placed with me 11/08 , baby brother born & came home 8/09 , Moved to foster home 3/10 . TPR not approved 6/10
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#15 of 23 Old 09-30-2010, 10:09 AM
 
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I regret not doing straight-foster when I was newly married, living in a richer and more progressive state, and didn't have any kids in my home yet. I thought that I was not strong enough to see kids leave. I believe that I underestimated myself, WAY underestimated DH who would have been the best straight-foster dad ever, and missed a chance to be of great service.

I'm trying really hard not to have regrets about getting involved in foster-to-adopt in my current state, and thus far nothing has gone wrong but the normal incredible foot-dragging on my homestudy, but honestly, I am scared. I feel like I am giving a whole lot of power over our happiness to some severely overworked and underfunded bureaucrats, and I worry that they will hurt my family horribly.
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#16 of 23 Old 09-30-2010, 01:37 PM
 
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To IL Granny - it sounds like some of your mistakes were the result of CPS not educating you properly on what was expected.

I can't think of a lot of mistakes that I made, or things I regret. Most of the frustration I have with CPS (we adopted our FK, and now are OUT of it all) have to do with the way they are so set on following the rules, and not on what is best for the kids.

I think everyone goes into being foster parents with a certain sort of innocence about how it works and the priorities of the people involved. Even when the caseworker is concerned for the welfare of the child, they still answer to others. And in our case, the others were concerned with doing everything by the book, and they were the ones who made decisions in the case. I didn't find that CPS in our area was only concerned with money.

I do wish I had taken a picture of the kids with their birth mother at visits, because now we don't have any. I wish I had pushed harder when at the last visit, the "goodbye visit", the birth mother didn't actually tell them goodbye, or that it was the last visit. The problems that led to with my daughter were a real headache.
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#17 of 23 Old 09-30-2010, 04:16 PM - Thread Starter
 
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It's normal to feel that way, Smithie. The bureaucracy with CPS can be a scary thing. If you want to adopt, however, they're probably the best route to go and not spend a fortune on fees. Reading these forums and getting as much information as you can is a huge help. I wish I had found this forum and others at the beginning of my journey instead of much farther down the road. You'll get a lot of support and help here. There a couple of other boards I'm on that are great, too. If you want to PM me, I'll give you their web address. I don't want to have people think I'm spamming!

Illinois granny---Oldest GS placed with me 11/08 , baby brother born & came home 8/09 , Moved to foster home 3/10 . TPR not approved 6/10
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#18 of 23 Old 10-30-2010, 04:14 AM
 
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I'm only nine months into this but mine is: not seeking childcare ASAP (my state pays for it).

Foster DS is is our third kiddo and we are HSing my bio-kids and working opposite shifts. I've never been a proponent of childcare for infants but I don't think DH and I could keep going much longer if we hadn't finally conceded that we needed give ourselves and big girls some baby free time.

Also, I learned that sometimes babies really do need to cry a bit in the middle of the night and self sooth back to sleep and that some babies really do reach a point developmentally where they sleep better in their own rooms.
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#19 of 23 Old 10-30-2010, 10:18 AM
 
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I wanted to thank you all for this thread. Placements are coming up very soon in our future, and this is a great help. Keep 'em coming, ladies!

Sarah, mom to 15yo dd, 11yo dd, and 8yo ds. Licensed as a foster mom 12-13-2010. Currently waiting on our first placement, of up to two, ages 0-4.
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#20 of 23 Old 10-30-2010, 11:10 AM
 
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This is going to sound awful but I don't think I've made too many mistakes. I've got a great relationship with the people at my DSS office and try to maintain relationships with the children's birth families when I can. I've learned A LOT from people that I've met in real life and much more from people I've met online. I think I've been able to avoid a lot of mistakes because of this. I went to every court date except for one. I would never have thought to do this if I hadn't been on message boards.

Natasha, Early Head Start probably saved my son's life. And his sisters. His EHS teachers noticed things that worried them, the Mental Health Specialist gave support to his (and his two sisters) birth mom, and made the calls to CPS when they were necessary.
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#21 of 23 Old 10-30-2010, 11:58 AM
 
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We used to foster. My biggest mistake was advocating for my foster children (which you are SUPPOSED to do). All it ever brought was grief, to us, our kids and our foster kids. Our agency (both of them, we switched at one point) just wanted babysitters, yes people who wouldn't question anything. I'm not like that.

We were also told at the first agency that the sw is more important to the child than the foster family. They moved two kids that didn't want to be moved, that we wanted to keep, whose parents wanted us to keep (until they could go home), because the worker was incompetent, and we reported her. So they moved the kids. I cry when I read the paperwork on it still, and it's been 10 years. And that worker that was "more important" than us? Left the agency a few months later. In the intervening years, both kids have moved homes 3 times, and had numerous workers.

But in that case (it was two sisters), both have made FB contact with me in recent years, and both want to keep our relationship going.
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#22 of 23 Old 10-30-2010, 08:48 PM
 
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We were also told at the first agency that the sw is more important to the child than the foster family.
We worked with an agency for a while that had that philosophy also. Basically, their argument was that foster families come and go for these children, but the social worker assigned to the child nearly always stays the same. They said some kids have the same social worker over ten year periods in the system, while at the same time having as many as ten, eleven, twelve foster homes.

What I noticed at the agency was this:

When social workers have the attitude that they're what is most important to a child, they are less likely to think twice about moving the child for any reason whatsoever. So then the child is moved, and this reinforces the belief that the social worker is most important because foster parents come and go. And so the cycle continues.

Also, social workers have way too high a turnover rate to count on them as the sole stability for the child. Sure, I have definitely known social workers who have done the work for 10...20...30 years. I have also had one of my children go through three or four social workers in a year because of social workers getting out of the field.

I'm pro-adoption reform, but not anti-adoption.
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#23 of 23 Old 11-01-2010, 12:50 AM
 
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mistakes i have made....
telling the caseworkers too much
Can you share what you told them that was a mistake? We're just starting the process for foster care and I do tend to be very open.

Midwife (CPM, LDM) and homeschooling mama to:
13yo ds   10yo dd  8yo ds and 6yo ds and 1yo ds  
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