One question that I get frequently from people (especially Christians!) is a question about the rules of foster care.
It usually goes something like this:
How do you manage a government agency having SO MUCH control over your life?
You see, when you become foster parents you are willingly submitting yourself to not only insane background checks, but also probing personal questions, regular inspections and many, many rules that can frankly go against some of our basic rights as American citizens.
Let’s take guns, for example. The second amendment clearly states that we have the right to bear arms. I’m not going to get nitty-gritty here, but to most people who believe in this amendment, that means that an American citizen can have a gun and they have the basic rights to use it on their own property.
When you become foster parents, you don’t have to relinquish the rights to your guns, but you do have to follow all of the extensive rules that the agency puts into place. Rules that essentially make having a gun for self-defense pointless. The rules state that your guns must be locked up, and the ammo must be unloaded and locked up separately.
So, basically…if you are a foster parent you don’t really have the right to bear arms.
Another example would be in the thorough questions that the agency constantly asks (and declares they have a right to answers). In order to be become foster parents, you not only have to submit to background checks, fingerprints and driving abstracts, but you also have to go through several thorough interviews that are a part of the homestudy. Basically, they ask (and will find out) everything about you.
But the biggest question that is raised over the rules we have to follow are the rules regarding discipline. The agency is very strict about physical discipline and restraint and under no circumstances are we allowed to spank or physically discipline foster children.
How do we respond to these types of rules?
First, I will say that the home inspection rules vary greatly depending on the worker who is inspecting your home. Obviously, we don’t have guns just laying around (that’s stupid), but we don’t have them locked up to the extent that the rulebook lays out. This is a personal/safety preference for me as I am home alone with the children for long periods of time, and multiple times overnight a week.
As far as the government knowing every detail of our lives, it doesn’t really bother me. And to be honest…I don’t think anyone cares. Sure, maybe if you have a record or a felony, you will be investigated pretty thoroughly (and quite possibly denied becoming a foster parent), but to the average person going through the process to become foster parents, this won’t affect you…at all. We were asked hundreds and hundreds of questions and had to provide very thorough background information in order to get licensed, but I highly doubt anyone has even looked at that paperwork since then. Theo and I never felt disrespected or like we were wrong when we answered a question a certain way. It seems to be more procedure and less right or wrong answers. And I think that we can all agree that it’s a good thing that they want to thoroughly examine anyone becoming a foster parent.
The discipline issue is much harder to address. I don’t have too much to say about it because we have only had one foster placement so far, and she left at nine months old. At nine months she was certainly headstrong and often needed to be corrected, but she had not reached the stage where we needed to address discipline issues. So instead of writing out what we think, I will ask several questions that need to be thoroughly addressed in the area of discipline before becoming foster parents.
- First, where do you stand on discipline? This is important as any type of parent- biological or foster. You need to know how and why you chose to discipline or not discipline in certain ways.
- Will you discipline your biological children differently from your foster children? If you believe that spanking is a necessary part of discipline, will you spank your biological children and not your foster children? Why or why not? How will you explain this to your children (both bio and foster)?
- Have you done research into trauma, attachment and trust? Although you may have strong convictions towards physical discipline (and good reasons to believe that it works/is mandated by Scripture), does the foster child have any understanding of this in their life?
- Have you considered the needs of the particular child that you are dealing with? For example, a child who comes to you due to physical abuse would probably react much differently to spanking than a child who comes from a home with addiction but no abuse. Are you sure that you are aware of all the things that have happened to this child (sometimes a case file can contain SO little information).
- Finally, I would recommend sitting down with your spouse (and maybe even the biological/foster children) and come up with plans of discipline. Talk it out, be open. Get creative with your spouse and agree on how discipline will be carried out. Remind the foster children that there are consequences for actions.
- Document everything. Seriously, everything. When you have a toddler or a preschooler, discipline can seem like an all-day thing. Keep a daily journal and what you are doing consistently. For older children, I would high recommend incident reports, and recording behavior/consequences. There is such a fine line between discipline done right/effectively and discipline that might raise red flags to a case worker.
If you are a foster parent, how do you handle some of these issues? Even if you are not a foster parent, I would love to hear some feedback from you!
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.
Day 1: Introduction
Day 2: Meet the Hines
Day 3: Shop Feature: Karla Storey
Day 4: Why We Chose to Foster
Day 5: The Process
Day 6: The Cast of Characters
Day 7: The Paperwork
Day 8: The Goal is Reunification
Day 9: Reflections
Day 10: Shop Feature: Ransomed Cuffs
Day 11: The Placement
Day 12: The Daily Life
Day 13: The Extra’s
Day 14: Bonding
Day 15: The Goodbye
Day 16: Reflection
Day 17: Shop Feature: Together we Rise
Day 18: Finances
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