What is foster care?
Foster care is the temporary placement of children outside of their own homes. It occurs because of behavioral challenges, abuse, neglect, or other family problems. When a juvenile court judge determines that a child cannot return to his or her home, one of the referral agencies in the State of Maryland charged with the responsibility of assuring a child’s welfare then requests a suitable foster home placement for that child. The law requires that the court use the “least restrictive placement” possible. First relatives are investigated, then traditional foster care and then treatment foster care. The goal of most foster placements is to resolve problems and to return the child to his or her home.
What is treatment foster care?
Treatment foster care is foster care for children who have complex problems (i.e, effects of trauma, developmental delays, and psychiatric diagnosis) and are difficult for a regular foster home to manage. Many children in treatment foster care have failed in traditional foster care because the foster parents do not possess the training and understanding needed to parent the child.
What type of child or teenager might I be asked to care for?
In general, the youth who are referred to treatment foster care and the ones for which we need placements are in elementary school through high school. However, the majority of the need is for youth in middle or high school. Many of the children are challenging because they have experienced abuse and neglect, and, as a result, they exhibit:
- Mood and depressive disorders
- Impulsive behavior
- Learning disabilities
- Loss and attachment disorders
- Oppositional behavior
- Post-traumatic stress
- Verbally aggressive behavior
On the other hand, these young people can be very personable. You will find them to be interesting individuals, who have unique talents and interests that will expand your worldview. When they become adults and have families of their own, they may demonstrate how grateful they are for the opportunity with which you provided them. You may witness how you were involved in breaking the cycle of poverty and abuse through the way they relate to their children. Perhaps the greatest gift of all is that these foster children may become treasured members of your extended family for a lifetime.
What kinds of children need foster homes the most?
Many kinds of children will need treatment foster homes. The children who currently need homes the most are emotionally troubled adolescents who exhibit one or more of the following types of behaviors:
- Impoverished social skills
- Ineffective problem-solving skills or sexual acting out
- Inconsistent school attendance and poor peer and interpersonal relationships
- Verbal aggression
On occasion, the children can be physically aggressive and destroy property. However, we do not place children in a treatment foster care home that would be a danger to the parent, other children in your home or the community.
Other children who need foster care the most are siblings who need to stay together or babies born either with STDs or addicted/exposed to illegal substances or fetal alcohol.
What does it mean to be a foster parent for The Children's Guild?
Children placed in a treatment foster care home need a living environment that engages them with groups of people who are committed to one another over time and who model and pass on what it means to be a good person and to live a good life. Given that the children placed lack parents or members of their family who are able to provide this for them, The Children’s Guild recruits surrogate parents who have the capacity to create an environment that provides children with exposure to activities and experiences that encourage the development of the child’s talents rather than his or her problems. The Children’s Guild views being a foster parent as an important and challenging job that deserves generous stipend and training and expects both the child and the foster parent to grow, develop and enrich one another.
How do we become foster parents?
Call The Children’s Guild at 410-444-3804 x1421 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org , express your interest in the foster care program to the receptionist, and ask to talk to the foster home recruiter. The Children’s Guild will be pleased to answer any questions you may have and make an appointment to decide with you if foster care is a good plan for you.
What kind of support will we receive?
The Children’s Guild understands that you are being trained to provide a young person with an understanding of what it means to be a member of a family. Given that the children are challenging, you can expect the following support from us:
- 24-hour emergency on-call services
- 30 hours of initial training, plus additional monthly training throughout the year
- A young person who is a good match for your home
- Compensation that will pay for the needs of the child and reimburse you for your efforts
- Individualized planning
- Respite services
- Support from licensed social workers with small caseloads
Given you will need to learn how to transform a child’s mindset, you will receive specialized training in Transformation Education, or TranZed. TranZed is a philosophy of educating children with the values and life skills they need to be successful in life. It works because it relies on the very same processes that created the child’s dysfunctional behavior and thinking to acculturate him or her with a set of values, skills and beliefs to be successful. TranZed will help you to provide an environment that stresses life skills, character development, wellness education, career exploration, citizenship development, study skills and cultural experiences.
Treatment foster care parents receive a monthly check to cover the needs of the child and reimbursement for being a treatment foster parent. The pay is substantial, given you will become a trained expert in managing troubled children.
Most foster children get a medical card from the referring agency, which guarantees payment for all necessary medical care and preventive medicine. The medical card also is accepted by many hospitals and can be used for approved prescriptions. You should not pay any medical bill directly.
Foster children go to regular public schools, unless they need special education, for which the state can pay. Private or parochial school tuition cannot be paid by the referring agency. Foster children may attend private or parochial schools, but only if the tuition is paid by some other source.
The Children’s Guild is responsible for supporting your family in its efforts to provide foster care to an emotionally troubled child. The Children’s Guild makes sure you receive technical, emotional, emergency and professional services to help the child placed with you to grow and develop. A member of The Children’s Guild professional staff will meet with you weekly and be accessible to you by phone on a 24-hour basis. The Children’s Guild also will make referrals to local community support agencies that would benefit the child placed in your home.
Do I have to attend training to be a treatment foster parent?
Yes. You will need to take a 30-hour pre-service training program, so you have a good understanding of what is involved in caring for a child in treatment foster care. In addition, you need a minimum of 40 hours of additional training a year. Newly certified foster parents are expected to attend six foster parent trainings in the first six months. Foster parents are given two opportunities a month to attend trainings.
Does my spouse or significant other need to attend training?
Yes. Since he or she will be an integral part of the child’s growth and development in the home, your spouse or significant other should attend training.
How will a child or teenager be placed in my home?
It is the goal of The Children’s Guild to prevent children from repeated moves from home to home, so we work hard to provide a good match for your family. When The Children’s Guild feel we have a child who is a good match for you, we will share information about the child with you. If you are interested, visits will be arranged for you and the child to meet, if possible. If after a few visits you and the child feel that your home is a good match, the child will be placed with you. Most often due to the urgency and child’s safety, placements are made immediately without prior visitations and introductions.
How long will the child stay in my home?
The length of stay depends on the permanency plan devised by the referring agency, the progress of the child in your home and the progress of the biological family. An average length of stay is 18 months if the child is going to return to his family. However, a foster child can stay with you until he or she is 18 years old and sometimes until age 21.
How many foster children can we take?
The number of foster children you can care for at one time depends on your ability, your enthusiasm, how many children you have of your own and how much room you have in your home. The Children’s Guild limits foster parents to having no more than two foster children at any one time.
How long does it take to get a foster child?
The licensing and training process takes from two to four months. After that process and your training are completed, children can then be placed with you.
Can we pick out the child we want?
You can express a preference on the age, race and sex of the child that you think would best fit in with your family. The Children’s Guild, both during your application and training procedures, will inquire about you and your family’s strengths so we can help you decide if the child being considered possesses the interests, talents, and temperament for a good match. You do not have to accept a child you do not feel would not fit into your family. You will be provided with a lot of information about the child before you make your decision about accepting the child. The Children’s Guild works hard to assure both you and the child are successful.
Can single foster persons care for foster children?
Yes. We have married and single foster parents in the program.
Can I have a job outside the home and still be a foster parent?
Yes. You can work outside the home and be a foster parent. In fact, you must earn sufficient income to support your family to be a foster parent. However, you must consider who will care for the child while you are at work and how you will meet the child’s needs.
How do I get my home licensed as a foster home?
Before you decide to license your home to serve a child who has experienced a traumatic or dysfunctional childhood, you will need to discuss it with those close to you (e.g., significant others, children, parents, friends, clergy, etc.) Here are a few things to consider when thinking about becoming a foster parent:
- Can I work with biological parents who may have mistreated the child or teenager placed in my home?
- How much time can I devote to a child or teen in need?
- How will a new child or teenager affect my family?
- How will a special needs child or teen affect my employment, vacation, etc.?
- What level of acceptance and support will I find in my community and among my relatives?
Can I be licensed by more than one agency?
No. You cannot be licensed by more than one foster care agency at a time or have licensed daycare in the home while serving as a treatment foster parent.
Can we ever adopt a foster child?
The first goal is to return foster children to their families when that is possible. Most of the children placed through treatment foster care are older and have a voice in being adopted. However, if a foster child who has been in your home becomes available for adoption, you can discuss your interest in adopting him or her with the social worker that oversees the placement of the child in your home.
What do I do if there is a crisis?
You will be trained and expected to handle crises in a calm, caring and therapeutic manner.
However, the social worker assigned to the child placed in your home or a member of The Children’s Guild staff is available to you 24 hours a day, seven days a week for guidance and advice.
Won't it be hard on us when the foster child returns home or is adopted?
It might be hard on you when the foster child returns home or is adopted. It depends on how you look at being a foster parent. We suggest foster parents view treatment foster parenting like taking in a foreign exchange student. You know they are going to return home after a period of time, but, during the time they are in your home, you will support them and provide them with an understanding of what it is like to grow up in a family.
Keep in mind that the goal of foster parenting is helping a child find a permanent home. If you help make that happen, you will receive great personal satisfaction, and the foster child will become an extension of your immediate family for a lifetime. Also keep in mind that there will always be new foster children who will need your care and affection.
Does a child's birth parents visit him or her?
In most cases, yes. In fact, visits between parents and children are an essential part of the efforts to reunite families. The social worker assigned to you has the primary responsibility for planning visits and arranging supervision, if required. The social worker will talk with you and the child’s parents to work out the time and location of the visits that is workable.
How will our children react to foster children?
If you prepare your children for the arrival of a foster child, and they understand the temporary nature of foster care, there should be few problems. It’s not unusual for your children to be a bit jealous at first, just as they might be jealous of a new baby in the family. But with the support of The Children’s Guild staff and answering their questions honestly and forthrightly, the potential for jealousy diminishes quickly, and your child may find a new friend.
Who will take the foster child to appointments?
Foster parents are expected to transport children to all appointments, including medical appointments, meetings at school and meetings with other professionals. We want you to provide an experience of what it means to be a parent for the child placed with you. By doing this, not only will you nurture the child, but also you will model what will be expected of the child when he or she grows up and has a family.
What types of regular appointments do foster children have?
Most children in treatment foster care are involved with counseling. Therefore, there are regular appointments with therapists and doctors. In addition, children often have weekly visits with family and are engaged in community activities and sports like most children.
Do foster children need individual bedrooms?
No. A foster child can share a room with your children or other foster children of the same sex and approximate age. The child must have a bed of his or her own. A foster child may not share a bedroom with an adult nor can the foster parent’s own child be displaced for the convenience of a foster child.
Can the foster child attend religious activities with me?
Yes. Children should be encouraged to join your family in religious activities. However, your family must respect and support the child’s religious beliefs if they are different than your own. We make every attempt to place a child in a treatment foster care home that is compatible with the child’s religious beliefs and traditions.
Can I take a foster child on out-of-state vacations?
Yes. We encourage you to include the child placed in your home in all family activities. However, you must check with the social worker of your child’s placement to ensure that the proper consents have been signed, and those who have custody and ultimate responsibility for the child know where the child will be.