Friday, October 21, 2011

Team Meeting, Two-Month Check-Up, and Multiple Chances

Rose has been with us for three and a half weeks.  The actual amount of time she stays in our care is entirely dependent upon when her relatives complete their background screenings, licensing requirements, and home inspections required of them to provide kinship care for her.  Speaking of which, it turns out that there are actually two different sets of relatives now who have come forward wanting to be considered as a kinship placement.

When I learned this I asked the caseworker as well as a kinship specialist assigned to this case What happens when more than one relative comes forward who wants the foster child in their home?  In other words, how do they decide where the child gets placed?   First and foremost, they explained, it depends on if their background checks clear and if their home passes inspection.  (Well- duh- that’s a given!)  Aside from that it’s ultimately up to the Division, taking into account which environment they feel would be best for the child.  However, it was also reassuring to know that Rose’s mother will have a say in the matter of where her child goes, based on her own personal preferences.
I attended a Child and Family Team Meeting last week after Rose’s visit with her mom [She currently has two 2-hour supervised visits per week with her mom] and I must say, as a foster parent, it was the most comprehensive CTFM I’ve ever attended.  Although I won't share what transpired in the meeting I can tell you what impressed me about it (other than the fact that the caseworker actually called one in the first place, and furthermore, let me know in advance when it would be so I could attend):

1)  It was PACKED- there were at least ten people in attendance including me, Rose (who was bundled up and peacefully sleeping in her mom’s arms during the entire 90 minutes), Rose’s mother, the caseworker, the caseworker’s tech who was copiously taking notes on her laptop for reference as the Service Plan is drafted, Rose’s nurse, a Kinship Specialist, one of the relatives applying for kinship care, a family advocate who has been working with Rose’s mother to help her get all of the resources she needs, Rose’s Guardian Ad Liteum (her attendance was the one that impressed me the most)  an intern just observing the meeting, and a representative from Drug Court giving Rose’s mother some options for her treatment plan/requirements to get her child back. 
2)  I feel like Rose's mother left the meeting feeling empowered, due in large part to the concern everyone expressed for her and her situation.   

3)   There was a good "balance" in the meeting of justice and mercy.  Staff members were “just” in the fact that they knew Rose’s mother would have to be held accountable for her choices and put forth a lot of effort and work to have her child returned to her custody, but they were also “merciful” in showing compassion and expressing encouragement to her that, as difficult as it will be, with the right support and resources she can succeed in doing all she needs to get her child back.  
Rose’s mother is very motivated to succeed and my heart goes out to her- in large part because of her humble attitude.  I think back to one of our other foster children’s parents who was in such blatant denial about his choices that he placed blame for the fact that his child was in state custody on anyone and everyone except for himself.  It didn’t help that his parents (who couldn’t pass their background checks and were bitter that their grandchild was not able to be in their home either) totally enabled him as well. This particular parent made token efforts to do what he had to do just so he could get DCFS “off his back” in his words.  It wasn’t surprising to me that his daughter (Molly) came back into custody a year after reunification. 
I contrast his attitude with Rose’s mother’s way of thinking:  She knows she’s made mistakes but she’s willing to be accountable for them.  And as for the services that the State provides for her (Yes, it’s called the Division of Child AND FAMILY SERVICES for a reason- they’re not just Nazis who take children away from their families for no reason at all)-  she is extremely grateful. 
Parents who have children removed are given not just one but multiple chances* and sources of support and resources to assist them in getting their children back again and in dealing with the issues that caused their children to be removed in the first place.  When you think of it in those terms DCFS is truly a “social service” agency versus a fear-mongering witch-hunting enforcement agency.  Although, I’ll admit on more than one occasion I’ve half-joked about neighbors calling DCFS/CPS on me whenever my daughter lets out blood-curdling screams as I brush out snarls from her hair.

Back to the Team Meeting: After I left the meeting and thought about some of the things that were required of Rose’s mother to get her baby back it was a reminder to me to be grateful for the “resources” I have to care for my children which others, myself included, often take for granted- namely- a home, private transportation (I rode the bus during much of my "poor" college years which has made me greatly appreciate having my own car to use whenever I need) and a husband who has a job to provide for us financially and who is willing to do his share of child-rearing when I need someone else to take a turn getting up in the night with a colicky baby or entertaining a preschooler when I can’t bear to read one more book or do the same puzzle for the tenth time in a row!
Parenting can be hard enough when you have a spouse to help out, so I can only imagine how much harder it would be as a single parent to have to take on both roles of providing financially for your family AND doing all of the homemaking/child-rearing duties as well.  This is the situation Rose’s mother is in. But in addition to all of that, she has a ton of meetings/appointments to attend as part of her treatment plan in order to get Rose back in her custody.  Her obligations are doable when she has a foster family to use as a resource (technically we’re called a “Resource Family”, but most people still use the term “foster family”), but as her caseworker wisely pointed out, What happens in the future when Rose is returned to her care and she starts getting burnt out?  If the only employment that fits into her schedule are swing shifts or graveyard shifts, who will be able to watch the baby overnight?  It reminds me of the predicament Christian’s father found himself in as a young, single parent without family support.  When faced with the scenario of becoming burnt out, Rose’s mother expressed hope that she could rely on the same relatives who are in the process of getting approved for kinship placement.  One slight problem is that one of those relatives lives in a different county.  It takes a village to raise a child, truly.
In other news, Rose had her 2 month well baby check-up and is all caught up on her vaccinations.  Although she’s gained a pound since I took her to the doctor two weeks ago, at 8 pounds she is still technically not even on the charts as she is in the 0 percentile for both weight and height.  Zero Percentile!  Fortunately, we have a pretty good track record of fattening babies up in our home.  If she's still with us for Halloween we'll have to get a newborn-size costume for her.
*Regarding Multiple Chances:  Anyone who is under the impression or opinion that bio parents aren't given enough chances or resources to get their kids back (a pet peeve of mine, as usually these are the same types of people who think that all foster parents are selfish and evil and just want to "steal" other people's kids). . .  is sorely mistaken.  I was reminded of this during the beginning of this placement when I was given some background about Rose's parents.  It's been explained to me that reunification efforts aren’t dependent on the parent’s history of having previous children removed (at least in our state), but rather are based on the child’s history of removal.  In other words, since this is the first time that Rose has come into custody- regardless of how many siblings she has who have been removed from their homes and/or adopted through the foster care system- her mother will be given a chance to get her back.


Shine said...

Very interesting post Mary. Great to know and more power to Rose and her Mom! :)

Tee said...

Glad to hear about Child & Family Team Meetings going the way they should! The ones I've been to haven't always. And we're often left out of them, believe it or not. Good for you for fattening up that lil babe!