Tag Archives: Tallahassee foster parents

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)

Rules in the Foster Care System (and when to break them)

4 year old boy blowing bubbles in the backyard

Last Monday H went to Panama City Beach for a visit with his mom and siblings. 

Around noon I got a text from his mother saying she was working across town and there was an accident. She arrived 15 minutes late as a result. Apparently, the visitation center policy is: if you show up 15 minutes late, they cancel your visit. 

There are many reasons why visits could (or should) be canceled. If the parent isn’t progressing in their case plan, cancel visits. If a parent is habitually late, cancel visits. Obviously, if a parent shows up inebriated, cancel visits. 

I (a lover of rules) get that this is the rule. They are trying to teach negligent parents about responsibility and showing up on time. They also don’t want to waste their staff members’ time (visits require supervision by staff).

But imagine if the tables were turned. Imagine if I was supervising visits and we were meeting at the park. I wait 15 minutes and pack it in just as the parent pulls up. Can you IMAGINE the wrath I would get from the parent, the case manager, possibly even a judge if I just took the kid and left a FOUR HOUR VISIT because the parent was 15 minutes late?

There are Exceptions to Every Rule

As with everything in life, there are exceptions to the rule. And this should have been one of those times

Photo of our foster son playing in bubbles outside on Easter Sunday. We made an exception to our no candy rule, and let him eat some for lunch.
Throwback to Easter Sunday, when we made an exception and let H eat candy for lunch.

First, most foster kids get to see their parents twice a week (or more) but because H is 3 hours away, he only gets to see her once a week. 

Second, the mother was literally leaving a court mandated activity (a job) to go to another court mandated activity (a visitation). And while her previous actions (or inactions) may not have been satisfactory to the case manager, in this particular instance, she was doing her best. She was 15 minutes late, not an hour. She hadn’t been drinking. She wasn’t strung out. She simply got caught in traffic and was 15 minutes late, which has happened to us all, I’m sure. 

In fact, if one’s parenting ability was tied to timeliness, my husband would have been placed in care from the day he was born. I love my father-in-law, but I don’t think he’s ever arrived on time in his life. And my mom may have had some issues too…

Finally, who, once again, suffers from this policy? A 4 year old boy. That’s who. And a mother, who already distrusts the system, has even more incentive to hate it. 

In the eloquent words of my husband, after hearing my diatribe, “slow clap for the system. Way to suck at your job.”

A New Foster Care System Policy Proposal

And since I have a small obsession with solving problems, here’s how to handle tardiness for visits next time:

  1. Since the kid is already there, let the visit take place. 
  2. After the child has left, pull the parent aside and give them a verbal warning. 
  3. If it happens a second time, give them a written warning that they must sign in acknowledgement.
  4. If it happens a third time, reduce or cancel visitation SINCE (I would argue) A CANCELED VISIT IS MORE EMOTIONALLY DAMAGING TO A CHILD than no visits at all. 

When H got home that night, he walked over to the window where his dinosaur dream catcher hung. He painted it with his mom during their last visit. He reached up and touched it. Then he turned to me and said “I didn’t get to see my mommy today” and slid open the glass door and walked outside.

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.