Kris’ Corner-From the Trenches: What I wish I’d Known part 7

by Andra Martinez

I  touched on this a little bit already but want to emphasize this particular point: you need to be flexible when you’re a foster parent. This is always true at the initial placement, but this need for flexibility WILL, most likely, run the entire course of the case. That’s not to say it is intentional or that it’s being done on purpose…it is simply the way foster care often goes. 

Here’s what one foster mom had to say about it: “I was surprised to see how OFTEN appointments and plans change. About 3/4 of the stuff we schedule gets changed by someone being late, rescheduling, etc…it takes A LOT of flexibility.” 

So, when I initially discussed the concept of flexibility, it was in regards to the day-to-day functioning of the household and behaviors of the child, for those first few days and weeks after a child comes into your home.  

This post deals more with the fact that sometimes it might feel a little bit like you’re walking on shifting sand; not just at the beginning, but all the way through. Because there are so many people involved in a case, schedule conflicts are common and it often feels like the foster parents are the ones who have to change their schedule.  It’s not always the case, obviously; but it does feel that way at times. 

But I will say this: at the start of a case, DCS and your CB case manager and the visit supervisors and anyone else involved is experiencing the same thing as you…because they are all trying to create the baseline for the child from which to move forward. And to create the baseline, they have to figure out what was happening (or not happening) prior to the removal. 

And while everyone else in the case is looking back and looking forward, you, as the foster parent, are in the trench. It is true that you are looking at what is coming in the future, but mostly you are also looking at what is happening right now in front of you and what needs to be addressed immediately.  

That means you have the initial doctor appointments (and often times it will be your job to track down the previous doctor, who is probably assigned by Medicaid); you’ll possibly need dental appointments, and First Steps Appointments or other therapy appointments. And it’s your responsibility to schedule those (and possibly reschedule them if need be). 

And while you’re planning those things, it is possible/probable that the initial visit with the biological family is also being planned. And the first court hearing. And a visit from your FCM. And a visit from your CB case worker. And a visit from the CASA. And after the first hearing, the visitation schedule will be put into place. 

That’s not to mention getting the child to and from school (be it his regular school or a transfer to the school close to you). Or figuring out childcare. 

And I’m certain it’s not difficult the see how some of those might end up being double (or triple) bookings. So, the point I’m making here is to know that you’ll need to be flexible. And understanding. And just know that no one is trying to make you reschedule things, but, as an example, oftentimes if a doctor appointment and a visit with biological parents are scheduled at the same time, you’ll be the one who makes the change. Not always, of course, but often. 

Now, as I mentioned above, this flexibility is not needed just at the start of a case, but potentially all the way through. 

Though there are many examples of how your flexibility might be called into play, this particular one comes to my mind because it was the case for us. Because our son was so high medical, his biological parents were mandated by the judge to attend all of his doctor appointments. And after the appointment, they would take the remainder of their visit. 

This initially made me upset but I eventually came to understand the judge’s reasoning. If he was to be reunified with his parents, they should hear everything from the doctor regarding his care.  

But if I’m totally honest, here’s what really upset me: this mandate required a good deal of flexibility on my part, because this kiddo had A LOT of doctor appointments. I could no longer schedule appointments around my needs, but instead had to do them when the parents were available. Understandably, I had not yet come to grips with the fact that part of my role as a foster parent was being flexible…and it was the flexibility on my part that was helping the parents work their plan as best as they could. 

Point being…even if you don’t always want to be flexible and sometimes cannot understand the reason for a change or why you have to bend…I would encourage you to hang in there and do what you can to make the situation workable for everyone involved. It is never something personal against you, even if you feel like you’re doing a lot of the “flexing” and ultimately might be the one who has to change plans. 

And while it doesn’t make the need to be flexible more enjoyable, hopefully this helps you see the need for it and that, at least at times, it might be almost an unwritten role of being a foster parent. 

 Sincerely, 

 Kris