Foster parenting is just that: parenting a foster child. A lot of the ins and outs of being a foster parent is pretty much the same as being a parent. Feed them. Change them. Clothe them. Provide basic shelter and warmth. Attend to them when they cry. Drive them to appointments. It’s all the same responsibility whether you are a foster parent or a parent.
But the paperwork.
Guys, the paperwork is INSANE. Basically, it goes like this: document EVERYTHING. I mean everything.
Our last primary care team meeting (us, the caseworkers and Little’s Miss’ family), the caseworkers all laughed at me when I brought my ginormous notebook to the meeting. But it was a gracious type of laugh, a respectful laugh, a “I’m kinda jealous that you have gotten this organized” kind of laugh. What can I say, it’s the teacher in me!
Before coming foster parents, I spend an entire afternoon searching Pinterest for idea on keeping myself organized as a foster Mom. I didn’t find much, although I did use every little tidbit of information that I did find. Most of it was from rather outdated blog posts, so I thought I would do a little refresh with this blog post and show you what I do to keep myself organized as a foster parent with all the ridiculous amounts of paperwork. This post will probably be incredibly boring for anyone who is not a foster parent, so feel free to skip (or skim so you catch a little glimpse into what it’s like!).
I try to keep it organized, but simple. This are my basic organizing items: a hole punch, some pens (those colors are very specific, I’ll share more in a little), a regular old pen, a notebook and the biggest three ring binder you can possibly find!
First up: the notebook. This is my daily log book for Little Miss. I try to write in it daily, but sometimes it ends up being more like every 2-3 days. I write only a few sentences about how her day was, if she hit any milestones (smiling, cooing, rolling over, etc.). In this notebook I also do her monthly updates just I did for Tera here on the blog. I send this notebook with Little Miss every time she goes to a visit so that her Mom can read it and feel a little more connected to all these huge milestones that she hits every other day. I also want her Momma to have a window into how often she cries, how
much little she sleeps at night, etc. I don’t water it down. Plus, I figure that if Little Miss is to be adopted instead of reunified, this little notebook with all the recordings will come in handy for whoever is her forever Mom.
Next up: my massive, ugly three ring binder. I really need to print out some nice cover page or something, but that has not been one of my top priorities. In the front pocket I keep a small pad of sticky notes. I usualy jot down any questions that pop up in our heads, and have it on hand when I get random phone calls out of the blue with important info that I need to write down to file later.
Inside the front pocket, I keep all the stuff that is basically impossible to hole punch. Foster care rules (that is the toned down version….the real version has a whole massive 3 ring binder of its own!), our continuing ed schedule, business cards and contact info for the caseworkers and social services. On the right is all the paperwork that pertains to Theo and I being foster parents. It includes the original packet that we got when we first applied and all our paperwork up until we were licensed.
This is the original list that we were working off of. One thing I learned through the process of getting licensed is to make a copy of EVERYTHING. Drivers license, social security…that whole list. When you give them a document, make a copy for yourself. I can guarantee you that someone will call you one day and ask for such and such paperwork and no matter how much you insist that you have already given them that paperwork, it will be missing…and you will have to redo it. Problem is solved when you just make a copy before handing it in! Then, when it gets lost, you can just hand it in again!
I also have all original copies of anything that we had to fill out. This was the physical that we had to get done:
In the red folder is all those copies of things that I was talking about above.
After the red folder I have a section of just notebook paper. This is for taking notes during meetings, jotting stuff down, or just having some extra paper on hand. It’s always helpful.
And then we come to the foster child’s section of the notebook. Again, I should decorate it all nice and fancy, but at this point…I ain’t got time for that!
Inside the yellow folder is really important paperwork that I’m constantly grabbing. Our license, the medical clearance form, etc. I’d be doomed if I lost this folder! On the other side I keep any mail that Little Miss gets. Technically, social services is Little Miss’ guardian and there is a lot of paperwork that I will get in the mail (from doctors office, from developmental programs, from WIC, etc) that I’m just not allowed to fill out. I have to hand it on to her guardian, which is the state. Complicated? yeah.
The rest of the notebook I have divided into sections based on Little Miss’ paperwork. At the front, I have all the basic information. This includes her name, her bio parents info, her blood type, her social, her birth certificate…etc.
Next up, I have important papers, which I’m considering just combining with basic information. They are pretty much the same thing. I keep paperwork in this section!
A lot of my sections are interchangeable. For example, some medical forms are also basic information and important papers. In that case, I just pick one and stick it in there. This is for me, and so it’s whatever works for me!
The medical section is one of my most-used sections. The agency requires that I fill out a form every single time we go for a pediatric visit. Dang, I forgot how often newborns have to go the pediatrician. She also had to have a physical immediately upon placement, and we have to keep very good record of any prescription meds she is on. If she is referred to a specialist for anything, this is also included in this section.
Visitation section is another one that gets used a lot. In this section I printed off a monthly calendar. Since Little Miss is so young, I keep it really simple, but I think if I had an older child who was able to talk and tell me about the visit, I would consider a page for each and every visit, or a notebook like my daily log. As it is, I just use the calendar and color-coding.
For each day that there is a planned visit, I outline that day in purple. If Little Miss and her mother end up having a visit, I color code that visit by highlighting around the date box. Green = great. Yellow = not so great. Red = bad, the visit was terminated. I leave the actual box to write notes. Since Little Miss is so little, it’s hard to determine how the actual visit went, but for now I color code based on how Little Miss responds when she comes home.
If Mom misses a visit, I put a red line through the box and write a note on why she missed that particular day.
For Little Miss, the plan is that she will be reunified with her Mom, and so this is not a huge deal. HOWEVER, I highly recommend doing this because it can carry a lot of weight in a court of law should you ever think parental rights should be terminated. You can show if the child has consistently good or horrible responses to spending time with the bio parents, and you can also have a visual clue as to how many times the parent was able to show up for visits.
Under the visitation tab, I also have all respite information. We haven’t put Little Miss into respite yet, so I don’t have a lot of info on this, but I recommend having paperwork to give to the respite providers, and then doing paperwork after the visit so that EVERYTHING is recorded and nothing can be used against you!
The next three tabs in my binder have not been used at all, and I don’t know if they ever will be. Court records, school/education info and behavior. Since Little Miss is so little, she won’t have any paperwork for education and it’s also pretty hard to keep tabs on her behavior. Eat/poop/cry/sleep is a pretty boring behavior plan :). However, for an older child or a child who has a lot of court cases, this tab would be very necessary!
The financial section of the binder is another one that I use all.the.time.
It includes a mileage reimbursement form. Yes, I do THAT much driving for Little Miss. There have been weeks where I have had an appointment for her every single day. Visits are twice a week so I automatically am going places twice a week with her, and then you add in the very frequent pediatrician visits, the WIC appointments, the specialists and then any meetings we adults may have on top of that. Yeah, recording mileage is necessary!
I also have a clear, cheap plastic folder to put my receipts in. Children’s services will reimburse for pretty much any legit expense. So, they will reimburse for a needed item of clothing, like a coat or shoes, but they won’t reimburse for the $25 bow you decided to buy off Etsy. Either way, I keep track of all our receipts in this folder. I also keep track of our stipend and when it was paid/how much.
This notebook seems never-ending, huh? yeah, to me too. Trust me. One of the last tabs is the monthly reports that I have to fill out. Our agency requires a monthly report to be filled out and handed it. It’s basically a progress report.
Sorry this picture is so blurry…I was most likely bouncing a baby while taking it 😉
The agency provides this form, and I just printed off several copies. Near the end of the month, I fill it out and send it in! Not to hard. Oh, also…I keep a copy for myself.
The last tab in the notebook is for pictures! It’s really important that Little Miss doesn’t have a huge gap in her life when she was in foster care, so I need to make sure that I am staying on top of pictures and mementos. If someone sends her a card, I slip it in here and at the end of every other month, I order a handful of pictures off snapfish and also put them in the folder.
Eventually, I have to make a scrapbook-type thing called a lifebook for Little Miss, but for now this is where I can slip all those important things to eventually put into that Lifebook.
That’s it for Little Miss! Now, I went ahead and printed off all those sections…twice. I figure it’s possible to get a second placement, and that child will have all their own paperwork. I haven’t decided if I would turn it into two notebooks instead of one, but for now I have room for all the paperwork for a second child in the back.
And that’s it! It doesn’t look like much, but it sure is a ton of work to put together and keep organized! I find that I have to spend a solid hour or so once a week just catching up on and filing paperwork for this dear girl!
And that’s it! Did you find this helpful? What other things do you include in your notebook/organization for your foster children?