Friday, January 2, 2009

Family Planning

The other day was our every-60-day mandatory reminder that K. is still in foster, uh, I mean our every-other-monthly homevisit from the social worker monitoring our home (in our old state, by the way, the visits were monthly).

In between these visits, we live in a sort of bubble. K. no longer has visits with her birthfamily, we have moved all the way across the country with her, and we keep in touch with M.'s birthfamily, but the state won't permit contact with K's birthfamily because of the risks they present to her safety. We rarely need to consult with or ask permission from the social worker for anything anymore because at this point, for all intents and purposes, she is our daughter.

This social worker who comes to visit our house now, I have a kind of mixed relationship with her. G. calls it "a weird tension." She is nice and all, but very hard to read. We needed her approval to manage our case in order to complete the interstate agreement that allowed us to move, and through the homestudy process she gave us no feedback at all. This left us wondering until I finally heard from our old state that the approval had come through. Because she is so "flat" in her interactions, she makes me nervous.

She also gives no indication that she remembers that we are long-time foster parents (not only that, but former therapeutic foster parents). She treats us like novices, which is subtle, but undermining. You have to understand, of course, that G. and I come from a county in which we felt like "star foster parents." Almost the whole staff at the county offices knew us and always treated us like we were the best of the best. We frequently got calls for placements, they asked our opinion about things that mattered, I participated on the foster parent advisory board, and we never worked with a social worker who didn't come to trust our expertise (about the kids we work with) implicitly. I think we are very good foster parents. It was treatment not undeserved.
It is so different now to have this woman come into our home every couple of months who never seems to drop her skeptisism or her lectures about "how it is done" (which result after we learn some different procedure between the two states, not from a fundamental ignorance).

Now that K.'s case is wrapping up, we have the question of whether we will get foster licensed out here or whether we'll seek another adoptive homestudy. Apparently, the homestudy we had done was for K's case and the interstate agreement alone. G. and I have been foster and adoptive homestudied numerous times over the last six or seven years. We've had at least five homestudies...switching agencies, updating expired homestudies, expanding previous homestudies to include adoption, etc. There are truly few homes as well monitored as ours. Our homestudy here in our new state was completed just under a year ago, so I asked the worker who has been visiting our home whether it would take a lot to get a new homestudy if we chose to keep our home open.

She told me we'd basically have to do everything over again! "The only thing that won't change is your childhood information from your homestudy interview." She said we'd have to do all of the other massive paperwork again, including but not limited to new letters of reference (five required), a financial background check, new letters from all the doctors our family has seen since our last homestudy, a letter of good-standing from my employer, and so forth. She'd also have to come over and complete another hour-long interview, do an inspection of this house even though she's been here visiting every 60 days, and...the list goes on. Oh, also, we have to take the foster/adopt training program because she won't consider transferring credit from our old state for their foster/adopt training program. Which is no big deal (other than finding a babysitter for 30 total hours of training time), but irritating because before we moved here I inquired with the foster licensor at the county office (this worker is, alternatively, from the agency that was contracted in our case) and she said they'd definitely be willing to at least take a look at the training we've done. Again, we used to be therapeutic foster parents, so it is worth noting that we've done some pretty intensive training along the way.

I almost took the worker's reaction as trying to discourage us from moving forward, but at the same time, she also actually told us about a three-sibling set for which she was seeking an adoptive family (almost as if she was "feeling us out" about it) and she was eager to give us the dates of the upcoming foster/adopt training. Also, she discouraged us from doing foster care (which couldn't be done through her agency) and encouraged us to stick with her own adoption program. She said, "we have access to all the same kids as the state does." I think that is misleading because most kids are going to have a state-- rather than agency-- social worker, and though a social worker who is looking to place a child might seek the contracted agency's help, if they know of a waiting foster or adoptive parent through their own program, wouldn't they go ahead and place there first?

These are questions to which we are currently seeking answers. I have a call into the state adoption office, I've chatted with the foster care office (there is no foster-adopt program here in the formal sense, so the departments are separate), and I am going to call the state licensor for our section of town as well.

We're not quite ready for another. We are hoping K. will be out of diapers, that the kids will be just a wee bit more independent, and that we can hammer out our financial life a bit more before another placement. But K. is almost three, and homestudies in our experience take a very long time, if nothing else because of the time it takes to get the paperwork done. It does seem time to at least start working slowly toward being ready. The conversation with the social worker who visits our home was in a word: discouraging. I am hoping the conversations I will be having with others over the next couple of weeks will be the opposite.

1 comment:

Ralph said...

Holly Schlaack utilizes her professional knowledge as a guardian ad litem to powerfully deliver data on the situation facing young foster kids and what all of us can do about it. I enjoyed her book, Invisible Kids, (