Tag Archives: foster care system

One Year in the Foster Care System

This month marks H’s one year anniversary in the Florida Foster Care system. Child Protective Services removed H on August 8, 2018. Since then, he lived with a family in Panama City for a month. After that, he moved to Tallahassee, where he lived with a new family for 3 months. Then he came to us, where he has been for 8 months.

One year. 3 families. 2 new schools. 100 different rules.

The most frustrating — no, INFURIATING, part about this is, H has grandparents in Georgia who want him. From the day they found out he was in foster care, they started the process to become primary caregivers for their grandson. H knows them both. He’s been up for visits from the time he was a baby.

But the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children (ICPC) has a million hoops they must jump through first…

They started this “process” in October 2018. They submitted their paperwork in December 2018. It got “lost”. For 3 months. To this day, no one will own up to the mistake. I talked to his grandmother on Friday. They’re still waiting on approval.

If only H’s grandparents lived in south Florida instead of north Georgia. The ICPC paperwork wouldn’t be required. So much of the trauma he’s experienced could have been avoided. No strange families. No new schools. The same consistent set of rules from day one.

Trauma in the Foster Care System

There’s a lot of talk about reducing trauma in the foster care system. In our foster parenting classes, teachers devoted hours to discussing the sexual assault and abuse that 90% of kids in foster care deal with. What is NOT discussed is the additional trauma that these kids endure because of the structure of the system.

Even the words they use downplay it. Behavioral issues. Self-harm tendencies. Aggression.

You take a dog to behavioral classes. There’s a whole movement out there that classifies tattoos as a form of self harm. And aggression? That’s a word my dad uses to PROUDLY describe my actions on the soccer field.

It wasn’t until I started specifically detailing the exact behaviors taking place that people finally got serious about getting H help. He’s hitting himself. He’s biting. He’s pulling out his hair. For 5 months, the “behavioral issues” went ignored, despite my requests for a behavioral therapist.

In other words, that’s 5 months of trauma that could have been avoided, had we got the help we needed when we first asked.

Then there’s visits. Every week, he, along with hundreds of other kids across the state, get carted 3, 4 & 5 hours away for a visit with their parent. At the end of the visit, they are literally ripped out of their parents arms and put, crying, into a mini-van with ONE adult driver, to go back to their foster families.

I guess they just process that trauma every week, on their own, in their carseats?

The Blame Game

But it’s not my fault” everyone is quick to point out. The reason the ICPC paperwork is held up is because of Georgia. The reason H can’t get medical services is because of funding. The reason case management can’t respond to an email is because they’re in court all day.

Every single person has an excuse on why they can’t do their job. And they aren’t wrong. Yet everyone continues to operate in a system that is clearly broken.

My husband and I became foster parents to do good. To help these kids. But to be honest, every day we continue to work within the confines of this broken organization, we hurt thousands of children. Every time we follow a ludicrous rule we are in effect saying “it’s ok to operate in this manner”.

And it’s not ok.

None of this is ok. I keep thinking, we need a movement. People need to rise up. March on Washington. Storm the capitol. Change must happen. But how do you unite 443,000 oppressed minors*? How do case managers, who barely make enough to survive, strike for better wages? How can this broken system get lobbyists as good as the NRA?

I don’t have these answers. So instead my alarm goes off. We wake up. And we teach H how to brush his teeth. And how to pronounce the letter “P” and we tell him he only has one brain, and he must protect it. And we live to fight another day.

*

*On any given day, there are nearly 443,000 children in foster care in the United States. In 2017, more than 690,000 children spent time in U.S. foster care.

There are about 19,000 children in foster care in Florida. About 600 children waiting for permanent placement are without identified families. There are about 340 foster children in the Tallahassee area.

What to Expect as a Foster Parent

4 year old playing at Cascades Park in Tallahassee

About 3 weeks ago, visits stopped with H and his mom. I wasn’t notified by case management. Rather, we dropped him off at daycare with some snacks, assuming he’d be picked up like he had been every other week. 

Later that day, I texted his mom to let her know I sent a game with him for them to play. She said she wasn’t going to be there because she got a new job. It required all day training for 8 weeks. She had told case management on Friday. So, no one was coming to pick H up from daycare. 

Case Management Won’t Notify You of Changes

Apparently no one felt it necessary to alert the foster parents. Who cares if all the kid has to eat for the day is goldfish and gogurt. (Normally he eats lunch in PCB with his mom, so we only pack snacks. We got tired of throwing out $10 worth of spoiled food each week). 

After I’m done panicking over the food situation (daycare assured me they had extra food that he could eat), the text convo with the mom continues. She tells me she got a notice that morning that she had to get a drug test but would miss it (and therefore fail) because the testing center wasn’t open after 5 pm. 

The System Sets Impossible Goals and Blames Others When They Aren’t Met

Now, I’m a skeptic by nature. So I spent my lunch hour looking up every drug testing center in PCB. And she was right – all but one of the testing centers were open from 7am-4pm. 

The one outlier, the one where she was required to go, is open from 8am-12pm, closed for lunch, then re-opens from 1pm-5pm. 

I called 2 case managers, the foster support specialist and an attorney. Then some woman, who (not sure what she does) but has always sounded pretty smart on the phone, happened to call to check in and I unloaded on her. 

Luckily, I was told, “there’s a process”. Well, whew, I feel a LOT better now! 

There’s Only “A Process” When It’s Convenient For Them

Let me tell you what the process is. But first, keep in mind the following: 

Parents who have children removed, for the most part, must do the following as part of their case plan: 

  1. Have a job that pays enough to show they can support themselves and their kids
  2. Get to visitations every week, sometimes multiple times a week (and better not be even a few minutes late)
  3. Stay clean and sober

Which all sounds reasonable, ESPECIALLY if there’s a process in place…right? 

So first, and I pretty much covered this in the last post, but as a recap, I still don’t understand where people are finding these good jobs if they have to leave for 2-4 hours in the middle of the day every week, but that aside…

The process, as was explained to me, is as follows:

The offending parent receives a call recording* telling them they have 24 hours to get a drug test. Apparently on this recording it tells them where they have to go to get the test.

If that center isn’t open at a time that works with their work and visitation schedule, they must call their case manager, then the case manager can help arrange for an alternate time that works with their schedule. 

The Advice You Are Given is Unrealistic & Unusable

I was also told from case management that I should relay to the mother that “honesty is the best policy and she should just tell her boss when she is hired that she has pending criminal charges and may be subject to random drug tests so she may, randomly, be late to work or have to leave early.”

Not to be a basic b* here but I LITERALLY CANT EVEN! THAT IS YOUR ACTUAL ADVICE?! Does that work on the planet you are from?! 

And then, If I just set that to the side for a minute….

HAH effing HAH! 

You are telling me that people working in the foster care system are respectful of deadlines and time sensitive issues?! 

The offending parent basically has 12 hours to get in touch with case management to set up an alternative time. 

There have been multiple times I had to wait more than 48 hours to get a call back from a case manager, and she’s a good one… and that was just for a call back, not even a resolution. 

Even When You Follow Their Process, You Could Die Waiting On Implementation

To put this in perspective, I have been working through the process of getting my foster kid an appointment with an eye specialist… since JANUARY.

4 year old foster child playing at Cascades Park in Tallahassee while a foster parent looks on.

Did you know there is also a process for a child’s therapist to provide progress reports to case management? But that also hasn’t been happening. 

And apparently there is no process for informing foster parents of the whereabouts of the child in their care. 

Instead you’ll just get a call from some transportation driver, who decided the best way to keep her car clean is to not allow the children to drink in it (on a 6 hour round trip road trip) who will ask you where you are because she has your kid and can you please come meet her right now. 

“So sorry to waste your time ma’am.”

Maybe we should establish a process…

*apparently the call-in process is so difficult some company created an app to make the state’s system actually usable for the offender. Of course, it costs money (that they likely don’t have and/or should be saving for basic necessities…but I digress)