Friday, December 16, 2011

Foster Parent of Chauffeur?

Moms wear many different hats- chef's hat, maid's hat, coach's hat, and nurse's hat to name a few (not that nurses wear hats anymore- but for the sake of this analogy stick with me).   The job description of a foster parent is to be a substitute parent for a child.  Therefore, foster parents have all the responsibilities and roles (minus the rights)  that a legal parent would have in caring for their children.  As with "regular" parenting, one such responsibility I've found myself spending a lot of time with each week as a foster mom is the role of "chauffeur" as I transport Rose to appointments and visits with her parents.  In other words, my chauffer hat has been getting a lot of use lately.


Over the past month Rose has had twice as many visits as usual because another recent development in her case is that as of last month, her father would like to start having regular visits with her.   As with her mother’s case, these visits will be supervised at the DCFS building and they will be two hours twice a week.  Babies generally get more visitation time with their parents than older foster children since the bonding is especially crucial at such a young age.  However, because of some legal and personal issues her father's visits will have to be separate from her mother’s visits, hence, twice as much travel time to visits.   

In addition, Rose’s mother recently enrolled her in an Early Intervention Program with an occupational therapist about an hour each week so I have been transporting her to those appointments as well.  A couple of years ago when we were caring for a foster baby with some developmental delays it was very convenient to have his occupational therapist come to our home for his appointments once or twice a week.  But in Rose's case, these appointments aren't necessarily for her as she seems to be on track developmentally, rather they are for the benefit of her mother as she learns from the therapist to respond to her baby's cues and be more attuned to her needs.  They also provide a parenting requirement which she needs to complete as part of her Service Plan. 

So, I was feeling a little overwhelmed with the prospect of travelling five different times during the week to transport Rose to two visits with her mom, two visits with her dad, and one weekly occupational therapy appointment with her mom.  I understand that driving is part of my responsibility as a foster parent, but at the same time I was thinking, "Our family has our own life filled with appointments and schedules, too!" and that's more times a week than I spend driving my own child to activities or carpooling to school.  Perhaps I didn't initially complain because I'm too much of a pushover and I'd rather keep the peace than rock the boat or upset anyone.  I've also had  a great relationship with Rose's caseworker so I was afraid of complaining and coming across as being a whiner, but I'm proud of myself because I did call her and expressed my concerns.  She was very understanding once I brought it up. (Foster care has definitely taught me to be more assertive- not just as an advocate for my foster children, but on my own behalf as well.) 

The good news is that Rose's caseworker was very accommodating as I suggested we work out a schedule where we could have visits either back to back or at least on the same day so that I wouldn't have to make numerous trips a week to the neighboring town where the visits are held.  The even better news is that a couple of weeks ago the status with Rose's parents' relationship changed so they were able to combine their visits with each other at the same time, which meant only three total days of transportation a week for me!

However, things change, and as of this week, it looks like Rose's parents may need to start having separate visits again.  For me, this means that I will be transporting Rose to visits and appointments four times a week, which is slightly better than five times a week, but I still feel very much like a chauffeur.  
Sometimes "sharing" a child with two other parents (Rose's parents) and setting up times for visits and drop-offs and pick-ups, etc. makes me feel like I'm in a relationship where I have joint custody of a child.  But as I said before, foster parents have no custodial "rights" to their foster children at all- just all the responsibilities of a guardian.  It can be frustrating at times to be the one with all the responsibility but no rights and at other times things can get a little complicated. 

I can’t imagine how much more complicated the role of chauffeur would be for foster parents who have   two unrelated foster children in their care and have to accommodate different family visitation schedules, different court hearings with different judges, different case reviews with different caseworkers, different Parent Teacher Conferences at different schools, different doctors for check-ups, etc.                

7 comments:

CherubMamma said...

We've got three foster children right now. One is a case all on her own. Two are siblings from a different county. I've had the fun of conflicting schedules. Thankfully my agency helps out when things really get crossed. I do tire of all the home visits though. It seems like people are always having to come over for one kid or another.

I've decided that when one half of the group leaves I probably won't do more than one case at a time in the future. (And I do say "I" despite the wonderful help my hubby provides. I'm the one that has to coordinate all the schedules.)

Mie said...

For most of the time we've been fostering we've managed 2 cases. Thankfully the second case resulted in an adoption, so we no longer have to manage that side of things for her but get to keep her :) When we added a second case I decided I couldn't transport the kids to everything myself. I work outside the home and was able to make it work for me to transport myself for one case, but not two in different counties.

Jessi said...

Oh goodness! That's a lot of driving and scheduling! We're just now starting the foster parenting process and I'm enjoying finding other foster blogs to learn from. I'll definitely be back to follow your journey.

CandCFamily said...

That is a lot! We have a transportation service that transported my daughters to their visits. We also only started with one a week (one hour) and then moved to one every other week. I can't imagine how hard it is for 5 hours a week plus driving.

trace1998 said...

Wow! That is a lot of traveling! We had 2 cases at one time and I can relate to how crazy scheduling can be. My husband and I worked full time. We were fortunate because our agency handled all of the transportation for the parental visits. We managed all the other transportation. However, if our work hours conflicted with an appointment for one of the children they would have provided transportation, if necessary. I guess we were lucky! I cannot imagine juggling your schedule! We were also very blessed because we were eventually able to adopt both children!!

trace1998 said...

Wow! That is a lot of traveling! We had 2 cases at one time and I can relate to how crazy scheduling can be. My husband and I worked full time. We were fortunate because our agency handled all of the transportation for the parental visits. We managed all the other transportation. However, if our work hours conflicted with an appointment for one of the children they would have provided transportation, if necessary. I guess we were lucky! I cannot imagine juggling your schedule! We were also very blessed because we were eventually able to adopt both children!!

McMullin's said...

We are handling two unrelated cases right now and let me tell you I am stretched SOOOO thin right now.

Case 1: This is the two year old who has 3 visits a week with her parent. She also has a speech therapist and a therapy playgroup and each of those are 1 time a week.

Case 2: This is a 1 year old she has 2 visits a week with dad. Than 2 visits a week with mom. Plus she has an occupational therapist once every other week. And is about to start a development program for drug exposed babies 5 times a week.

I do get some help with transportation but given the ages and the juggling schedules not to mention both are underweight so their doctor appointments are still once every three months.