Foster - Adopt
Is it Worth It?
A 30 + Year Journey in Fostering Children

Fostering Means Child Advocate

Saturday, June 06, 2015
Kathy Blomquist
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I have at times found a caseworker to be much more challenging than the foster child.  It is part of being a foster parent.  Those of you considering Fostering need to be prepared to advocate for the children you foster.

Like in every career out there, there are some good and some bad workers.  The good ones make things go as good as possible. They listen to you and they listen to the child.  They visit with you and the child once a month to make sure things are going well.  You find yourself thinking of them like a best friend. They back you up.

Some caseworkers will admit to a mistake and fix it.  These are not the “bad ones."

The “bad ones”  are a small percentage.  As excuses for their behavior you will hear things like case overload, burn out, or too close to the case.   Their actions - or lack of action - causes  hurt and  stress on an already hurt child in their care.   It puts a lot of stress on the foster families as well. Personally, I think they need to be held much more accountable rather than excused.  

These situations are when you really need to put on your “mom hat “ and advocate for the child every way you can .  Some times that means doing the job the caseworker is not doing.  Sometimes it means going to the top of the chain until you get someone’s attention.    

I will share two examples:

Example One:

I had a sibling group of three.  The 5-year-old would call the caseworker almost daily to ask if she could see her mom.  The caseworker would say yes and leave her believing she would get to visit the next day.   The next day would come and go with the little girl in tears and tantrums because she did not get to see her mom.  After the third time of this happening I asked the caseworker what was going on.  The truth was mom could not visit the children until she found a place to live, got a job, and proved she could be stable. Well, that takes more than a couple days!  Why in the world was he telling this child she could see her mom the next day!!!  

The middle sister, age 9, had some big issues.  A really good manipulator and liar.  She needed counseling but was receiving none.   I had to really advocate to get her in therapy.  The solution was the caseworker  gave me a few names to call and I was to choose a therapist from those names and get the child in therapy.  In other words, I was to do his job for him if I wanted to get her therapy.

After three sessions this child claims I called her retarded and that my husband had thrown her up against a wall.   So the therapist calls the case worker and the caseworker calls me , asking if the child had any problems.  Duhhh!!!!  I had spent several days telling him she had problems and begging to get her into therapy!   He had processed none of it.

Because this caseworker had never set foot in our home and was not doing anything in the case, he could not back us up and the children were all removed immediately.  The excuse they used was it was better to err on the side of the child.  The real truth seemed that it was better to protect the behind of the caseworker at the expense of the child.

I told the investigator that all anyone had to do was to look the child straight in the eye and ask her to tell you the truth and she will.  If the investigator had done so, it would have brought a good outcome to the situation. 

But the children?  They were pulled out of my home with two weeks of school left.  It was their third school change in that year.  Their father lived in another state and had moved close by, found a place to live, and a good job so he could get custody of his kids.   About a week later they give him his kids and they moved and changed schools again.  Why not straight to dad from my home?

There was nothing I could do to protect these kids from their own caseworker. But I did refuse to take any kids that were assigned to him after that, and I was not the only one doing that.  He had several foster parents refusing to take kids from him because of behavior like this.

Example Two:

A 14 year old child  who had been in foster care for over two years comes to our home with expectations that we will become legal guardians for her.  She had been moved 4 times in 8th grade alone.  Her main request was stability.  At this point, the caseworker is supportive and attentive....until the situation changes.  Just as her 9th grade year starts, her father makes a mistake which ends in parental rights being relinquished.  Now the child is free for adoption.  We are happy to change from permanent guardianship to adoption.  We could give her even more of the  stability she craved.

Somewhere along the way the caseworker decides that the child should now be placed in a home of someone else, someone the caseworker had a connection with, who the child is also related to.  So, the caseworker turns on us.

The problem is the child had been in this person's home before.  When things got hard they had her removed.  This home felt it was best to basically hide the child from some of her biological family who they did not want to have anything to do with.  This child had also been in an inappropriate situation in that home and had reported it to the caseworker.

The child loves her Bio Family. They are very close. She does not want to lose contact with them.  She does not want to be moved again.  She has stabilized in our home and is doing well.  How can she trust that if things get hard she won’t be removed again from the other home.  The inappropriate situation in the home was not reported beyond the caseworker and so not resolved.  So many things so wrong with this!

When the child tries to tell the caseworker she wants to stay with us , she is not heard.  Nor when I try to tell the caseworker the child wants to stay. Nor when the therapist tells the caseworker the child wants to stay and needs to remain stable.  I am told I have manipulated the child and the therapist and the child does not know what she wants, that being stable is not important because she will re- stabilize  in the other home.  Wait!?   Won’t she have to destabilize in order to re-stabilize?  Isn’t that why she was put in our home in the first place?  Stability, no more moves!

After having a few false accusations thrown at me and some other choice comments I was told to set up a visitation schedule with the other home.  It was not a visitation schedule.  It was a transition schedule.  We realized the move had already been decided by the caseworker.  The child’s wishes and best interest  were of no value.  We were reminded more than once that the caseworker had the final say no matter what the child wanted.  At age 12, by law a child has a say in their adoption.

This is the important part of this story....  This is the part where you as a foster parent who sees the child 24-7,  who knows first hand the child’s needs, you are the one that can see best when their desires and needs are not being considered.  When you see things are going in a way that will not be good for the child. It becomes your job to advocate for the child.  Do not be afraid to do so.  See it as an opportunity for your foster children to build trust in you as they see you fight for them.

I went first to the caseworker's supervisor.  It was hard for him because he was getting different information from the caseworker and he was stuck in the middle.  We did not have time to wait for things to work themselves out that way.  Law states that anyone who knows about abuse is required to report it.  I had only one path left.  I contacted CPS and reported the inappropriate situation that had not been handled properly or reported by the caseworker.  I contacted the head of the Human Services and the head of the DCFS division.   CPS quickly opened a case and confirmed that something inappropriate had happened in the home.  The GAL (the child’s lawyer from the State)  spoke with the child and confirmed that she did want to stay with us.

They all held a meeting and looked at all the information and soon saw the problems I saw.  We received  a new caseworker and an apology from DCFS.  The child was now secure.  She would not be moved and we were able to adopt her.  The child is happy, thriving, stable, and secure. Her bio family will always be a part of her life. That is really important to this child!