What Foster Parents Wish Social/Care Workers Knew & Did

I have mentioned in previous entries that I belong to various on line message boards dealing with foster care and adoption.

Recently I was reading threads on a board I belong to and came to one that definitely drew more attention from me than many others that day. It was entitled, “What foster parents wish social workers knew and did.”

Though I am not a foster parent but rather a foster care alumnus I could very much relate to the issues discussed. During my eighteen years in foster care I was rarely spoken to about decisions being made about my future; just as rarely were my foster parents ever made a part of the decision making process.

In matter of fact as far back as I have any memory I remember my foster parents being told of the decisions after the fact. Their advice was not asked for though they were supposedly part of a team. It appeared to me that there were viewed as “babysitters” rather than the temporary parents that they were.

The social workers seemed to think they knew ALL the questions as well as the answers to them. This was despite the fact that many of them were young, right out of college and never parented children themselves. Their maybe twenty minutes, if lucky, spent with the foster parents or youth per month carried ALL the weight in the decision making process rather than the ones who cared for me twenty-four/seven.

I firmly believe the attitudes of many of the social workers in the field today need to be changed. Some of those who posted to the thread entitled above say it far better than I as they are current foster parents.

Thus I have snagged some of their comments, having changed the wording of some, as to what they wish social workers knew/do. I decided their suggestions needed a far wider audience than the message board I saw them on. Thus I am relating them here; though I have removed any identification from them so as not to put anyone in a bind with their social workers. Some of the suggestions may be repeated…it means they were stressed more than once and one should pay heed to them!

I believe that if they even adopted a few of the suggestions they would make for more informed decisions and have far better relationships with foster parents as well as the foster youth.

Here are just some of the ideas stated:

BE HONEST:

1. We know the youth may be damaged; we just need to know how and in what way.

2. Tell me if you have 75 cases so I will know I am pretty much on my own.
 
3. Tell me if the teen uses drugs or if sexual abuse is involved in the case.

4. Tell me if this is the youth’s first time in foster care or a return to care. Tell me how many previous homes they have been in and how long they have been in care.

5. There is no reason to lie to us; we’re all supposed to be on the same team.

6. Tell me if you know the youth has more appointments in a week than there are days. I have a job that I need to work around.

7. If a teen is involved; tell me if on probation/parole and why.

8. Tell me if the youth has a different religion and what I need to do to respect it.

9. Tell me reimbursements are delayed, don’t tell me it is in the mail.

TRUST US:

………. because we are with this child day in an day out……

1. We should know if the youth is peeing in the corner.

2. Yes the child needs to see a doctor; I know how to use a thermometer.

3. I am not in it for the money, though it helps.

4. I saw the youth get on the school bus / I walked the youth to their class.

5. You did a background check, psych evaluation, and contacted everyone in the world who knows me. If I was like that it would have been found out sooner.

6. I have no reason to lie.
 
RESPECT US:

1. We are suppose to be part of a team, don’t blow smoke up our behinds and tell us we’re part of the “team” and leave us in the dark, ignore us, or discount what we try to tell you. We usually know more about these children than you or anybody else involved in the case. We do not have the time or energy to make things up or exaggerate. If we tell you about a problem or concern, take us seriously. Don’t dismiss us. Don’t blow us off. Don’t interrupt with excuses or get defensive, but listen to what we have to say. If you don’t know the answer, be honest — don’t tell us more lies. Find out and get back to us. We really DO want to work together.

2. I will not yell at you, don’t yell at me.

3. I have to replace my (appliance/air conditioner/plumbing/roof/car) because the last kid broke it. I am not asking you to pay for it.

4. I only called your supervisor because I have been calling you for 2 weeks.

5. I had the decency not to yell at the bio-parent when they were yelling at me.

6. Believe it or not, I have a career aside from being a foster parent.

7. I am much smarter than you realize.

8. I don’t really mind too much if you are 5-15 minutes late now and then, but when you don’t show up at all, don’t call, and show absolutely no respect for my time or the children’s pre-visit anxiety, it really ticks us off. There is no excuse for that. We DO have a life, we DO have things to do, and we DON’T have time to wait around on them. We are NOT sitting around twiddling our thumbs waiting for them to throw us a crumb. We are busy people with things to do and families to tend to.

9. They also need to be reminded to keep your egos in check. YOU are NOT God, you do not know all things, you need to remember that you have these children’s lives in your hands and you will one day answer for the decisions you have made, so you better make good ones. Don’t be spiteful or ruin the kids’ lives because you want to show the foster parents how much power you have or you just want the file off of your desk.

UNDERSTAND US:

1. We have been bitten/slapped/punched/spit-on/pee’d on/poo’d-on/cursed at/ by someone who is not our family member and still found it in our heart to forgive the little person who did it and even love them.

2. I was attached to the child. Of course I cried. At least I waited until they were gone. I want you to realize that these kids are NOT just a number on a case load to US. They are OUR children…even if it’s temporary…We LOVE these children.

3. I absolutely hate it when you a social worker…or worse yet your supervisor thinks they know more about a child that they have spent 20 minutes a month with (or worse yet…never met) than a foster parent who has cared for that child for MONTHS or YEARS.

4. I wish caseworkers wouldn’t say I know how you feel – because unless you have loved, rocked, held, fed, etc this child you have know idea how I feel.

5. When we were going through the roller coaster of adoption – Our caseworkers would keep saying to us we want what you want, we want her to be yours forever; we don’t want to see her go back into that situation. Yep, but at 5 p.m. you go home to your family. This child is not my job she is my life and there is a huge difference. If she goes home tomorrow you still have a job – we have a huge hole in our hearts and an empty quiet house full of memories!

SHOW INTEGRITY:

1. Please get your facts straight before 1) going to court, 2) calling me accusing me of something I didn’t do, 3) writing about me or my kids in a report.

2. Please care enough about the kid to know his correct name, age, where he goes to school (after he’s been in placement for long period of time already)

3. Please listen to me when I say I need help. You know by now that I can handle most anything, when I say I need help, I’m over my head, listen to me

4. Many, many excellent foster parents quit due to caseworker stupidity. Work with us, we’ll bend over backward to work with you.

5. Don’t blame us when you’re the one who screwed up, forgot something, didn’t do your job, etc. We have enough to deal with without taking the blame for things we didn’t do or are not responsible for.

 BACK US UP!!!!!
 
1. with birth parents (tell bm why we didn’t buy designer jeans for her child)
 
2. with lame investigations (stand by those who do the hard job and dont turn your back on us when times get tough. support us dont act like we are guilty until proven “unsubstantuated”)

3. with therapists (tell them that the child has beaten the crap out of us, dont tell the therapist that he has some anxiety about the foster home…hello it is not us that cause him to beat us up)
with the schools (help us fight for IEPs and in school services)

4. with GALs and in court (LET US SPEAK. We have something to say that might just make a difference.)

5. with our disipline when the child tried to separate and divide (tell that kids that they have to follow rules of the house, dont negotiate with them for lesser punishment without speaking to us first)

6. with getting the paperwork done on time without excuses. (We know you are busy, we know you have other cases, but the kids under our roofs are the most important things in the world to us so acknowledge that and don’t give us lame excuses.

7. with telling us what is happening with the case, all of it. We understand confidentuality and all but we are in the middle of this case too and we, once again NEED TO KNOW if Dad is out of jail or if grandpa is dangerous AND if bm has shown up to the visit high….this might effect our childs behaviors.

8.with showing us pictures of the bios so we will know if they walk up to us in a store.

9. with inviting us to court.

10. when you talk to a foster parent be honest. WE WILL FIND OUT SOON ENOUGH IF YOU HAVE LIED TO US. So be upfront from the start so that we can go into this with trust and a sence of teamwork instead of us vs you.

11. by not treating us like a babysitter. We DO “need to know” and so don’t pull that “it is on a need to know basis”

12. with showing respect for us and what we do and tell us that once in a blue moon, we need to hear it too. Our job is no easier than yours.

13. with not picking the child up once a week for a short time and then try to tell us about his behaviors and what you have decided will work for him because more than likely we have already tried it.

MEAN WHAT YOU SAY & SAY WHAT YOU MEAN:

Examples of how many sayings seems today:

WHAT THEY SAY:
He’s a very busy little fellow
WHAT THEY MEAN:
He’s destroyed my office apart in 20 minutes flat.

WHAT THEY SAY:
She seems to have a little cold.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
Her temp is 102 and she can’t breathe for coughing.

WHAT THEY SAY:
The family situation is slightly chaotic.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
They’ve been living in the family car which has been re-possessed.

WHAT THEY SAY:
Mom needs to get a little more organized.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
Mom doesn’t remember where she left the baby.

WHAT THEY SAY:
These children need an organized, consistent atmosphere.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
They’ve never worn clothes and they eat off the floor.

WHAT THEY SAY:
You’re the only one I would trust with this child.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
Everyone else has turned me down

WHAT THEY SAY:
This child is a picky eater.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
He eats only cheetos, twinkies and Mountain Dew.

WHAT THEY SAY:
She has difficulty with peer relationships.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
She tried to kill her foster sister in her last placement.

WHAT THEY SAY:
We may want to talk about counseling in a few weeks.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
She thinks she’s a dog and barks constantly

WHAT THEY SAY:
It’s a complicated case.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
I think the grandfather is also the father but he may be the uncle.

WHAT THEY SAY:
I know I promised to take the child on the visit but I have an emergency.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
I’m dumping it on you.

WHAT THEY SAY:
Don’t you think you are overreacting?
WHAT THEY MEAN:
I don’t know what to do either.

WHAT THEY SAY:
He needs a lot of love and understanding
WHAT THEY MEAN:
He’s locked himself in a workers car and he has a knife.

WHAT THEY SAY:
The school staff seems fairly unsupportive in his last placement.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
He held the principal hostage.

WHAT THEY SAY:
We’re going to move quickly to get the child home
WHAT THEY MEAN:
We can’t find his mother

WHAT THEY SAY:
Previous foster mom has switched jobs and can’t deal w/ him right now.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
He’s 2 months old, weighs only 9 lbs, can’t keep anything down, screams constantly cuz he’s starving, and nobody can figure out what food he can keep down.

WHAT THEY SAY:
She’s very unique.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
She has so many mental and/or medical issues that even the doctors get confused.

WHAT THEY SAY:
It’s only temporary…
WHAT THEY MEAN:
…Unless no one else wants a 16 yr old with RAD, ADHD, dyslexia, autism, texture sensitivity, eating disorders, anxiety, bi-polar, fascination with fire, a history of acting out violently and sexually towards other children and adults, has been expelled from twelve schools, etc. ad nauseum.

WHAT THEY SAY:
She’s a very easygoing child.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
She’s probably RAD, so she doesn’t care if you’re there or not, or where you take her, or what you feed her, etc.

WHAT THEY SAY:
His hair needs to be washed, and he has a rash around his diaper, but he’s a sweet little baby.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
He has lice, so you better wash his hair and clothes and bedding and then repeat the process for everyone else in your home after you discover this.

WHAT THEY SAY:
You work well with boys like this one.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
Lock up is full and they have no place to put him.

WHAT THEY SAY:
It’s interim, he’s going into a residential program.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
They haven’t found one that will accept him.

WHAT THEY SAY:
He needs close supervision.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
He runs away.

WHAT THEY SAY:
Keep him away from younger children.
WHAT THEY SAY:
He has sexually assaulted little boys and girls..

WHAT THEY SAY:
I’ve been meaning to call ______________(pick one or all: the therapist/the attorney/the parole officer/the bio mom/you)…
WHAT THEY MEAN:
Now that you’ve left me 15 messages and gotten a hold of me completely by accident….I’ll pretend to get right on that thing you’ve been bugging me about for three weeks now.

WHAT THEY SAY:
You’re just wonderful to do this
WHAT THEY MEAN:
Its 5 o’clock and I’m out of here!

If social workers were held accountable for their actions or decisions they might stop and think before making them.

A social worker, if they have children of their own, should think of how they would like their children to be treated if someone were making the same decision about them as they are about someone else’s children before making them!

14 Responses

  1. For the most part I do support what is posted here.But being an ex foster kid myself and now a mother who has lost one child to the same system, i do have a few biases towards these comments.

    i want to believe that not all foster parents are bad.but that wasnt my experience as a youth in care.i have a problem with people fostering children in order to adopt,i have a problem with foster parents making allegations and judgements against parents.out of all the homes i was forced thru – i would say only 2 homes were with decent people who truly cared about being a foster parent.

    the only thing i completely agree with is the statements made about social workers.
    i call them “social wreckers’

    • I’m sorry you had such a bad experience. I have a grandson who will probably end up in Fost/Adopt/ I’d love to find out how to avoid this as his parents are struggling and won’t give the baby to me. I’d like to know how to keep him out of the system and how to keep a white baby in a system that is ruthless to parents.

  2. I didn’t see this blog…sorry I’m responding “late”.

    The most important thing I would want social workers to consider is…FIRST do no harm. Now, “no” harm isn’t always possible, but we can surely try to do the least damage to these kids while still trying to help them. If we are removing a child from a home that we feel is inadequate, we need to ask ourselves…is this a matter of what I consider poor parenting or is this child REALLY in danger? Will removing this child do more to help or to harm him/her?

    If removing a child from his/her home is going to cause more damage than leaving them in their less than optimal situation…why are we “saving” them? In all seriousness…what good is it to “save” a child from being physically abused only to have them bounce around foster care for 10 years and then be kicked to the curb because they age out…then enter the prison system as adults because they don’t have the support of a family (no matter how dysfunctional that family was) to make it?

  3. I too feel that there needs to be a motto of ” do no harm” or ” the least harm that you can”. These children are in foster care too long! 3 years is a really long time and most children are not lucky enough to have permanency by then. Some all throughout their life like our friend here! So pitiful! Things have to change! But how? I’m not sure I know how.

  4. There has to be more of responsibility given to the fostered child He/she has to be made aware of decisions being made and have a say in them.

  5. I get the frustrations being expressed, my sister is a foster kid, but as a social worker i have to defend us.
    There are so many policies that prevent us from telling foster parents a lot of information. Also, just because the child has been placed in foster care does not mean their parent does not still have rights.
    A lot of stuff is decided by the court, we give them the facts, they make the decision. we get mad because we know the kids better than the judge who REALLY has never met the child, but that is the way it goes.
    we have to see each child on our case load AT LEAST once a month, then if the parent is getting reunification services, we have to see that parent AT LEAST once a month. If one of your kids is place out of county you still have to see them once a month… i had to drive 3 hours away once a month for on kid, and 2 hours for another… that is only for two cases!!! on top of that we have to write court reports, fill out paperwork to make sure foster parents get their money, bio parents drug test, the child gets their psych meds, get our contact notes into the computer system, return the 50 phone calls we had messages for, attend out unit meeting, the agency training, and so many more things it would take days to list them all. and heaven forbid one of our kids has a crisis, like runs away, or trys to kill him or her self, or is arrested.
    most social workers do not make good money and work way more hours than they are paid for, spend money on their kids they are not reimbursed, and dont take care of themselves because there just is not time; but we love what we do and hope to make a difference even if its not perfect. people have to remember, social workers are humans too.
    when all is said and done though, the problem is with funding and policy making. if there was more money for child welfare, social workers would have lower case loads, foster parents would be trained better and receive more money and support, the court would not have the final decisions on what the childs best interest is, and social workers and foster parents could really work together as a team. but there is not money to do these things, so BOTH sides have to be easier on the other.

    • I am a social worker and you summed that up very nicely!!! Often times foster homes and biological parents think they are the only case we have and can spend HOURS working with them each week. I also think that people don’t realize that we do this job because we care and love what we do. We also wish we had smaller case loads and more time in the day. Please don’t blame us for this.

      • Yes, well like you, I too as a foster parent have a full time job! When I’m told the “help” will be there and a respite is needed, I expect to receive just that, not be lied to and ignored because, “you case load is large”. If you loved what you did, you would make sure the foster parent had the proper information. Work smarter, not harder.

      • Its such a thankless, risky job. Your Foster Parent license is tied to 6 other licenses in California, including Day Care, working with the elderly, AIDS patients, etc. You work 24?7 yet get no medical or retirement. WHY? Because you are uninformed or dumb.

    • Yes the caseworkers are busy. But when we have 4 children going to diff apts and having inhouse apts and live with these children everyday then we should be listened to. When you have a councelor wanting to put an 8 yr old boy on a drug that we think he don`t need in the first place just to find out that it`s making him depressed. Then instead of stopping it they want to give him something for the deppression that the other pill caused! Is there any child that don`t take pills in Fostercare? I think that it`s just something for the system to get more money! The kids have 3 or 4 diff counselors in a week for the same thing! Is that normal or just a money thing?! Yes you should give us parents a chance especially since I raised 5 of my own children and 5 friends and families children! I think I should have a chance to have my advise listened to! And when you have a child for 2 yrs and it`s only a yr to cys and then they give the parent another 5 mths again and then he decides to do something to get his kid back only cause the mother is pregnant again and wants to be able to keep it so he`s doing it for what? Not out of love for the child, but cys is blind to it!! And if something happens to him when he goes home is cys going to get reprimanded for it? Will they even care or just say it`s another statistic and one less case? I see why they are short on Foster Parents! And the heck we have to go thr to be a foster parent is nuts! I got a better idea, have the woman that want to be mothers go thr it before they become parents!, not put us thr heck when we`re doing it to help them and you!

  6. Wow. This is an interesting dialogue. As a Social Worker who recently resigned from my child welfare position with a contractor, I do appreciate the list and feelings expressed. I had to leave, due to the demand for unpaid overtime hours, causing me to be absent from my family. I do want foster parents to know that there are some competent and professional Social Workers out there. Many times, I was treated with disdain by some foster parents, who had a “bias”, due to previous negative experiences, and have been yelled and screamed at. Even though I was “professional” on the outside, it was difficult, b/c I truly cared for “my children”. Many times, I was not allowed to fully divulge WHY certain decisions were made. I made it known that I read all of the files on my children, and spent extra time to know them. I have advocated for the children and foster parents, and put my reputation on the line at times. There was often so much blame for any mistake made. I grieved when I had to tell a certain sibling group that they could not stay at a placement. I must have visited EAP 3 times, even though I had 14 years of experience in other settings. I have also had some incredible moments with the children AND foster parents as well, and I will never forget them.

  7. I would like some suggestions from foster parents. I have been asked to speak at a foster parent retreat, and would like to know what topics would be helpful–even something light. I have some ideas, but would like suggestions from the expert foster parents out there.

  8. […] There are so many more great points throughout his blog post. You can read the full version here. […]

    • I just thought I’d throw another pov in here. I was a social worker for over 10 yrs. It’s obvious that the social workers referred to here are all or at least mainly county/gov’t paid workers. I worked for non-profit agencies, that contract with counties. We more than filled in the many gaps spoken of here. We had to visit ea home every week, seeing ea minor 30 min to an hr., but with no more than 15-18 minors altogether on our case load. We were assigned to specific homes, so our follow ups were with the FP’s, not the minors, if they were moved to a home on someone else’s case load. Obviously, there should be a lot more such private agencies involved, but aren’t, due to State budget restraints. That looks like it’s only going to get worse -gotta keep the war machine going though! The main other problem I saw was that minor’s were moved far too easily, more usually for convenience or “butt covering” (to be “on the safe side” ) of supervisors than anything else. I have a PhD, yet supervisors with far less education would demand that I simply follow their commands, without hearing me & the FP’s out, never mind the minors or BP’s. The reason the kids (50% of whom end up homeless) fail later on, is due to inconsistency & not feeling a sense of belonging anywhere. Re FP’s wishing Soc workers would/could do more, Nina on May 14 ’09 expressed the side of County workers quite well. As far as the Non-profit agencies go, I think we fill in those gaps well, for the most part -other than those problems I expressed above. I’d like to hear from the FP’s that are/were with such private agencies, as to their experiences…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: