Before entering into the world of foster care, I didn’t realize how many people were involved in the whole process of fostering a child. I thought I would just list some of the “cast of characters” here. This cast of character is all involved in the life of the child, although their level of involvement really depends on the case and the person. I’ve heard some horror stories about caseworkers, but I have nothing bad to say about ours (although I will point out that they are humans, too).
As the foster parent, every single one of these people plays a role in the foster child’s life. One of the jobs of the foster parent is to schedule and maintain all these relationships, and this is one huge role of a foster parent that often goes unsaid!
- Birth Parents. The first and most important people involved in the life of the foster child is the birth parents. Often, there is just one birth parent in the picture, but it is important to remember that there are two parents. The child may not have any memory of these parents, but they will still be involved in the whole case/process. Visitation may or may not be a thing.
- Initial Caseworker. This is the caseworker who takes the initial call and removes the child from the home/parent. This is the first point of contact that the child has with Children’s Services. After placing the child with the foster family, this caseworker will sign the child over to their permanent caseworker. It is easy to forget about this caseworker since they aren’t involved anymore, but keep in mind that this is the foster child’s first point of contact with Children’s Services.
- Foster Care Specialist. This is another caseworker, and is usually the caseworker who represents the foster family. This caseworker is in charge of home inspections and making sure that everything is up to date in the foster home. This is also who all the paperwork gets handed into! Visits with this caseworker happen in your home bi-monthly.
- Caseworker. The child’s caseworker is their advocate. They are always working to make the best decisions for the child. Sometimes this caseworker and the foster parents will not agree on what is best, and that is where it can get tricky. This caseworker has contact with the birth parents and is the one who is really fighting to get the child back with the birth parents, or the best outcome if it’s not going back with the parents. Meeting with this caseworker happen once a month in your home.
- CASA. A CASA is a court appointed special advocate, and every child in foster care should have one. These are volunteers from the community who meet with ALL parties and interview/assess how the situation is. They are supposed to be the unbiased outside source who gives their opinions in the court of law on the best outcome for the child. They are supposed to meet with you and the foster child once a month in your home. They are also supposed to meet with the caseworkers, the birth parents and anyone else involved in the situation. A CASA is an extremely important character in the life of a foster child!
- Doctor/Dentist. As with all children, foster children have the need to go the doctor and dentist for routine checkups. These checkups can range from the “normal” schedule to frequent visits due to health needs or concerns. Little Miss needed to visit the doctor twice as often as Tera in the beginning because she had so many severe health concerns at the beginning. A foster agency will provide a doctor, but you are also more than able to use your own pediatrician/dentist as long as they will accept the insurance provided by the agency.
- Therapist(s). Many/most children in foster care quality automatically for therapy. This can range from physical therapy or speech therapy to counseling. Little Miss qualified for a local resource called “Help Me Grow” which was essentially therapists who came to our home to interact and observe her, then give me some tips and pointers on things she physically and emotionally needed to improve on. We worked toward goals (sitting up, sleeping through the night, grasping with fingers) and they came once a month to our home. Many children in foster care have counseling/therapy for trauma or grief on top of physical therapy. This can be anything from daily to weekly to monthly!
- Relatives/Kin/3rd Party Interests. Often, there are more people involved in the foster child’s life, too. There may be a Grandma who wasn’t able to take the child in, but still wants to be a part of their life. There may be relatives who are looking to adopt the child, or other people who knew the child before and want a place in their life. It’s important to include these people in the life of the child as well. (Note: make sure to check with the caseworker to make sure that you are allowed to have contact with ANYONE, and the extent of that contact!)
If you have any questions at all about foster care or adoption from foster care as I go through this series, please don’t hesitate to ask. You can leave a comment or send an email. At the end of the series, I will have a Q&A day and will be answering any questions I receive throughout the month.
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