Why the System Can’t Keep Foster Parents

dazed face on a woman who's been dealing with poor communication all day

When my husband and I were going through foster parenting training, we heard time and time again what a great need there was for foster parents. We knew it was going to be difficult, which is probably why it was hard to find willing victims, errr, participants. This was not shocking to us.

What we did find shocking to learn was that, in Tallahassee, every foster parent who had been certified the year before didn’t continue with foster parenting for the current year.

What was the reason? We wondered. Was it improper training? Lack of support? Were the kids just THAT difficult?

Having been a foster parent for a little over a month now, it boils down the same thing that causes companies to fail and marriages to fall apart.

I’m talking about communication.

Everything I Needed to Know in Life I learned in the 1st Grade

I distinctly remember my mother teaching my brother, sister and me the 5 W’s when we were homeschool kids growing up in Alaska. As a refresher, they are Who, What, When, Where and Why.

And it makes sense. If you could succinctly answer these 5 questions, you have all the information you need. I know this because when I got to college, guess what they were teaching in my Journalism 101 class? You guessed it – who, what, when, where, why (and how… I guess they save that one for the 20 year olds).

But don’t take MY word for it. Take Hallmark’s. In every birthday and wedding invitation, what information is included? The 5 W’s. Because can you image getting a save-the-date with the date left off?

I can.

Verbatim Email from a Case Manager (Illustrating Poor Communication Skills)

I would bet that it’s not the improper training or the lack of support or the difficulty of dealing with children with severe behavioral issues that causes foster parents to quit the system. It’s emails like the one I received, which I will share below. But first, a quick backstory…

Right after H arrived, we took him to the dentist. We found out he has 8 cavities. As it turns out, his insurance doesn’t include any pediatric dentists in Tallahassee. So, he has to go to either Niceville or Panama City (both 3 hours away) to get his teeth fixed. After a couple of weeks of back-and-forth, I received this email, at 5:22 PM on Monday:

poor communication email from case manager

So, let’s break this down:

H, our foster son, has a dentist appointment in Bay County at 3 PM. Great…ON WHAT DAY?! Tomorrow? In 2022? Who knows! Furthermore, “a transportation worker” will pick him up and someone with a first name will drop him off after the appointment.

Parents, y’all are cool with sending your kids with adults you don’t know, right? Like it’s TOTALLY normal for you to NOT KNOW the first name, last name and phone number of the adult responsible for your kid, right?

Didn’t think so. And neither am I.

The Reason Foster Parents Quit Is Due to Poor Communication

I sent an email response back. I called and left voicemails on the Case Manager and Case Supervisor’s phones, texted them and called the after hours emergency line. Then, I called the nurse practitioner (who answered, God bless her) and she said the appointment was on Thursday.

But wait! There’s more!

At 9:11 PM on Monday I got a text back from the Case Manager saying “Yes it is tomorrow” (meaning Tuesday — not Thursday).

So the fun continues. I get to respond “Are you sure? Because when I didn’t hear from you I called the nurse practitioner and she said it was Thursday (not Tuesday).”

I’m still waiting on a response.

In the foster system, it’s either the lack of communication or the poor communication that will kill you. It sucks up your time, your most precious commodity. It drains you of your energy, it’s a unique form of torture – to know that the solution is so simple yet completely unobtainable and completely out of reach.

This is why foster parents drop of out the system. It’s why they struggle to retain “normal” people. Because something as simple as a dentist appointment or getting the last name and phone number of the adult who’s driving the child in your care requires 2 emails, 3 phone calls and a half dozen text messages.

Want to know how to improve the system? The same way you build strong companies and strong relationships. Improve the communication.

UPDATE: The appointment wasn’t Tuesday OR Thursday, as it turned out. It was Wednesday. The Case Manager and Case Supervisor did call to apologize.

The Top Kitchen Must-Haves (These Will Save You Time)

I thought moving from our townhouse to our new house would impact what items we regularly use in the kitchen. Our new place is bigger than our last. So, I figured more counter-space would mean more new, easily accessible kitchen gadgets at our disposal. 

But actually, having a kid in the house is what impacted what items we use most in our kitchen. 

First up, the Cuisinart toaster oven.

The toaster oven by Cuisinart is a kitchen must-have
This toaster oven by Cuisinart is a Kitchen Must-Have

How did we LIVE before we had this thing?! Seriously I will never go back to a regular toaster again. You don’t even know how fast it can cook dinosaur chicken nuggets on a Tuesday night when you’re running late and you’ve GOT to get your toddler fed and in bed before  the waterworks start. 

My second “kitchen must-haves” item are these storage containers from Bed, Bath & Beyond.

The functional storage containers also offer a pop of color to your kitchen counter tops.
Functional (and pretty) kitchen storage containers are a must-have

Adding another human to the evening routine means everything has to happen fast. Having the staples (whole grain pasta, brown rice and salt) for 20-minute meals on the counter and easily accessible makes everything that much quicker. Plus, H likes to help by taking the tops off.

My final kitchen favorite is this cookbook, Fun Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow, by olympic athlete, Shalane Flanagan.

If you need to whip up some healthy meals in a flash, look no further than Run Fast, Cook Fast, Eat Slow by olympic athlete, Shalane Flanagan
The best kitchens have the best cookbooks

My cousin bought it for me as a Christmas present and it has the best healthy (and quick recipes). Because you can’t eat chicken nuggets every night for dinner…even if they are organic.

So, I want to know, what are you favorite kitchen must-haves? What do you use every day? Or what did you think you would use all the time but haven’t even taken out of the box? Sorry Instapot, maybe one day it’ll be your time to shine!

Parenting Poop Stories, Chapter 2: Poop There It Is

size 10 red and blue boys shoes

Well gang, it was bound to happen. My sister got the brunt of poop-pocalypse when H first arrived but it was only a matter of time before I had a poop-scapade of my own. 

We thought we had everything under control after the first incident. After much googling and deliberation we had found the culprit! Clearly it was the excessive amounts of juice H drinks. 

Seriously though, if he hadn’t JUST got a physical (is it called a check-up with kids?) I would be concerned because I swear he drinks a gallon a day. One night, he had an accident and you couldn’t even tell because it was clear. It didn’t even smell (overshare), because it was that watered down.

Anyways, much to H’s dismay, we reduced the amount of juice. First, we bought the 50% less sugar option (which is probably just a marketing scheme to sell pre-watered down apple juice for an extra dollar to the health-conscious moms out there). And then we took it a step further and began watering down the already reduced apple juice. 

It worked! Or so we thought…

The Poop-cident

On Thursday, I got a call from the daycare. H had “had an accident” and “they cleaned him up as best they could but it would probably be best if I came and got him.”

Yikes.

When I arrived, H was wearing the spare set of clothes I had packed for him. The teacher told me “she just went ahead and put the dirty ones in this bag” and literally handed me a bag full of shit. 

(Ok I KNOW I said my New Years resolution was to stop cussing and I have done a pretty good job but I get a free pass with this one. I was handed a bag of shit!)

I looked at her and said “you kept this?” 

She replied “oh ya, some parents get really mad when we throw things out.”

I look down at H, who seems totally fine and unbothered and realize he isn’t wearing shoes. 

The teacher points to the bag. “It kind of went everywhere so I just put the shoes in there with the rest of it”.

The Post-poop Shower

We get home and naturally, H doesn’t want to take a bath. So I tell him we can go in the pool IF we take a shower in the outdoor shower first. That wasn’t enough so I told him he could also play with the hose. 

So, I am standing outside my house in a mis-matched bikini. It was the only thing I could grab and change into in the .5 seconds I had before a child and a dog came barging into the bathroom. I am holding red and blue avenger shoes with the soles covered in poop in one hand and a soapy loofah in the other. 

H runs around butt naked in the back yard spraying bugs with the garden hose while I chase him with the soapy loofah, which is a hilarious game in his head. 

little boy eats popsicle in the backyard after the poop-scapade from earlier in the day
H enjoys a popsicle after we’ve showered and mentally recovered from the poop-scapade

I am trying to keep my “game face on” because if he realizes I am literally trying to control my gag reflex, he might realize it’s not a game and the gleeful hose spraying and loofah scrubbing will turn into a loud, poopy, grass rolling nightmare. 

Once I get him to a satisfactory level of clean, I turn to the shoes.

My first reaction was to pitch them straight into the garbage with the clothes. Kids’ shoes aren’t THAT expensive. But H loves these shoes. And more than that, I closed my eyes and imagined the tears and screaming that were sure to ensue when we put on the gray shoes. Every. Single. Morning. 

“Fireworks”

So, I grabbed the hose and started spraying them down. But then I hear a little voice behind me: “I wanna do it! I wanna do it.” 

I sigh and hand him the hose.

His little uncoordinated hands grab the hose. He puts 3 fingers over the water to give it a spraying effect. And, he as he sprays the soles of his red and blue shoes, flecks of poop loosen from the bottom and fly into the air and all over our clean bodies…almost like fireworks on New Years.

What a way to ring in a Thursday. 

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