I have been asked by many people how long the two foster toddlers are going to be staying with us. Several people have also asked if we are going to adopt them. So I just wanted to write a post today to explain foster care a bit and the course a case generally goes thru. At least in our area and from our experiance.
A referral is called into DFCS (Department of Family and Children Services) on a possible abuse or neglect of a child/children. It can be called in by anyone. Sometimes a concerned teacher, doctor, family member, neighbor or even the police department who made an arrest and have a house full of children that would be left alone. So DFCS takes custody till a family members home can be found for them.
Once the children are taken into care they can be placed in a foster home or sometimes in a group home. Sadly, sometimes they need to be hospitalized before going to one of these placements. Once in care, there is a hearing that takes place with in three days, to determine if the children need to be kept in care. To decide if the reason they were place into care is true and if the parents need help to get back on track. If the children stay in care, there is another hearing in 72 days to decided if the children need to continue in care while the parents get intense help and the parents are given a case plan. By this time DFCS had the time to check out any family members that came forward to take the children temporarily till the parents do their case plan. (home inspection, background checks, finger printing)
If the children stay in care and there is no "relative placement" that can care for them, they remain in their placement, in foster care, hopefully for the duration of their case and don't have to go thru any more upheavals and moves. Sadly again, some children go thru many moves while in care. Every time they are moved it does damage to the way they bond with people, attach and they develop a strange way to view relationships and love. (Often these children that have been moved over and over again, develop RAD...Reactive Attachment Disorder) I once had a teen in our home, that had been in care since she was four years old. (She was part of a sibling group of three) She had been moved from home to home thru the years. Over 10 moves. I see her in town once in a while now, all these years later. She is living in government housing and has had four of her five children taken away by DFCS. All four placed up for adoption. She is doing well with the one she has had since that time in her life, thank God.
While the children are cared for "in care", they get any help they may need. (counseling, therapy, treatments, maybe medication. Anything that might help them progress or catch up if they are behind in any area.) While the foster situation is working on these things, the parents are given a case plan to work on. It could be to get safer housing, take parenting classes, go to drug rehab, get a job and keep it, get counseling or take anger management classes. Also visits are set up regularly with their children. In our county also parents are told about and allowed to come to any doctors appointments, therapy appointments and medical type outings. So when the children go home, the parents will be familiar with what is going on with their kids, know their children's doctors and what is needed for them to keep progressing.
When a child is taken into "care" most of the cases are going to be labeled "reunification" cases. That means that the goal is to reunite the children with the parents. It also means that every point on the parents case plan will be done with DFCS helping the parent and often paying for the things needed to meet those goals. So if the parents are supposed to go to parenting classes, DFCS would sign them up and pay for those classes. If they are to be drug tested regularly, DFCS would pay for that. They would try to help them find affordable housing and so forth. They would assist in any way they can to help them meet their goals.
There is an evaluation (Panel Review) of the case every six months. After about a year of the children being in care...If the parents are not compliant, belligerent with DFCS, don't show up to scheduled classes or visits with their children and just don't do their case plan with DFCS helping them and paying for it... After a while the judge sees the parents are not serious about wanting their children back. The children need stability and can not linger in foster care forever. So once the case has been going on for a year with no progress, little or nothing done on the case plan, the judge will often move the case to "non-reunification" That means the parents have the same case plan but DFCS will not pay for any of the classes, drug test or treatment. They are no longer obligated to help the parents find housing or work. If the parent wants their children back, they will do their case plan on their own now. They will sometimes have to pay a small amount of child support to DFCS as well.
Often the case goes on for another year and if the parents still don't do any work on their case plan, the case goes to "termination" of parental rights. This is serious. It is the severing of the rights of the parents from their children forever. They can not see their children again. It is the death of a family. It is very sad but very often necessary for the sake of stability and safety of the children. What can often make the case stretch out even longer is if parents work their plan speraticly or work it and then all of a sudden fall back into drugs or bad habits and all their work falls apart. When they do well off and on, it is harder to determine if they will be able to be stable enough long term to care for their children. That is why some of the cases go on for so long. To show the court and judge that the parents can care for their children long term safely.
If rights are terminated, they seek an adoptive home for the children. Any relatives are sought out. But usually if there were any...by now they would have stepped forward to get the children out of the foster care system. The children are often offered to the foster parents for adoption, as the children have been there so long and are bonded to them already. If the current foster home is not an option, a permanent adoptive home is sought. Sadly, many times a home can not be found and these children are placed on adoption lists and sites to try to help them find a forever loving home. Not just infants and toddlers are taken into care. Young children and teens are taken into care as well and end up familyless and with no one. Many of them "age out" of the system never having found a family and end up in trouble. No family to call their own or go home to on holidays. No parents to seek out for advice as they go thru life. Since the fall of man, many parts of our world are so imperfect and sad at times.
This is one of the reasons why I write on this blog. It is why I share what goes on in our family. So people can see that these children are wonderful kids that just need a chance. That with God helping us, it is a beautiful experiace and enriches everyones life involved. But to also show the reality of it all, so people can make informed decissions when making hard choices. When the system works and children go home...Praise God! To see parents work hard to do their case plan and be reunited with their children quickly is a wonderful thing. But the children that are left orphans, need support and a home. The children that are terminated on, that have special needs, are even harder to find families for, bless their hearts. This is one reason why Tim and I feel led of the Lord, to do what we do.
It is not easy or even pretty all the time. But what Jesus when thru for us was not easy and definitely not pretty all the time. It was a sacrifice. It is a sacrifice.
I won't lie. I have fought the feelings of wanting more children often, all my life. I feel the Lord put that deep desire to parent in me. But this time around doing foster care has been much harder in so many ways. Tim and I are older and were in a small way settled. Also, these two little guys behavior was and still can be quite tough. So it has been much different this go around...But the rewards have been even greater in so many ways as well. Thru God, with a lot of hard days, comes huge accomplishments. To sit and rock a toddler and sing to them. Watching them blink slower and slower till their eyes are closed. Seeing their bodies relax into calm and peaceful sleep. Witnessing their transformation from tantruming, often violent, at times, little boys...into little boys that play with toys appropriately...that are starting to hug and pick each other up when the other falls down. To see them prefer us to strangers and eat real food. To see them pause and bow their heads when the rest of us pray over a meal. This is it. This is bliss. This is our family and even though it is hard at times....we are so very happy most of the time.
So, how long will the foster toddlers be staying? We don't really know as there are so many variables. As far as DFCS is concerned, hopefully they will stay till the end of their case. Tim and I have been working with the state a long time though and know anything could happen. Also life has strange twists and turns at times.
Will we be adopting them? I will have to put those thoughts in another post as this one has gotten really long!
May the Lord lead and guide us all, showing us ways we can help the orphans of this world. Even if it is praying nightly for the children to find families.
James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to
look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from
being polluted by the world.