In this blog, I want to help you understand important sources of support. Department of Child Services (DCS) is definitely one, as well as the agency you may have gotten licensed through. (in this blog I presume it to be Children’s Bureau).
Many of you have probably heard less than positive stories about DCS; I have heard those too. But, as a foster parent my experience with DCS has not been negative at all.
DCS is a protective agency with the unimaginable responsibility of responding to concerns of safety, health, and stability of families across the state. Yes, it is true that DCS caseworkers are often overwhelmed and overloaded with assignments; their caseload exceeds what the system ever intended for one person to manage. And with a current and projected national shortage of social workers, it’s a challenge likely to continue. The state sets a benchmark of how many cases a worker should reasonably manage. But there are often too many kids in care and case workers are spread thin. So, they are forced to focus and prioritize high risk placements. The result can be that a case manager seems unsupportive or not as helpful as one might like.
Contrary to what is often publicized, I choose to believe that most of the DCS case workers want to do right by the children. And often times this does not leave much margin for extra time and attention for the foster families. It may seem as though DCS is not doing what they should, but that is not usually the case.
As reflected in their mission statement, DCS has designed a system that works with partners in the community to provide or supplement quality services for families. One service offered by Children’s Bureau, as a partner with DCS, is the placement and support of children in foster care. Foster parents working with Children’s Bureau do indeed experience great support. Here are just a few of the ways that Children’s Bureau supports their foster families:
- Each child placed through Children’s Bureau has an individually assigned FCCM (foster care case manager) to monitor his case, coordinate treatment, and provide guidance and assistance to the foster family. At initial placement of a child, the FCCM will come to your home within 48 hours to complete a needs assessment and to provide you with support and guidance. Then, meet with you and the child for regularly scheduled visits.
- Their FCCMs have a much smaller caseload than DCS, and a big part of their role is to connect with you, listen to you, support and encourage you.
- Now, some children referred to Children’s Bureau have needs that require more supervision and care from both their foster family and treatment team. When these children are admitted to Children’s Bureau’s foster care program, the staff does an amazing job matching staff and foster families to the child’s specific needs or diagnosis.
- In addition, CB foster families receive specialized and focused training around the trauma which foster children experience. This TBRI training (mentioned in an earlier blog) enhances the foster parent’s understanding of challenging behaviors and nurtures an empathetic, structured approach to therapeutic parenting.
- An on call 24/7 emergency line is answered by a foster care professional.
- Children’s Bureau recognizes the need for respite (which we’ve discussed in a previous post) as a supportive service to its foster parents. In order to prevent fatigue and burn-out, they provide relief for foster families by allowing foster children to stay overnight with another Children’s Bureau licensed foster family.
- Childre’s Bureau provides a competitive per diem reimbursement for each foster child in placement, and offers partial or full reimbursement for summer camps and activities when donor funding is available.
- DCS provides a reimbursement for gifts/expenses associated with a child’s birthday and “holiday celebration”. Each occurrence has a maximum benefit of $50. In addition, Children’s Bureau provides an additional $50 reimbursement for the “holiday celebration”, bringing that total up to $100.
- As a service agency, Children’s Bureau has many community and corporate partners who provide donations for services and needs. These are sometimes available for use by their foster families. These donations might include tickets to special events, athletic games, admission to museums, theme parks, restaurants, and other entertainment or activities.
I have to say that CB truly goes above and beyond when it comes to support. I will admit, we were with another agency prior to jumping on board with Children’s Bureau and we’re so thankful that we made the switch. They are caring and compassionate, and highly attentive to the needs of the foster families. They listen to concerns, and help formulate a plan to help both the foster families and the foster child reach their greatest potential.