Monday, April 8, 2013

Foster Care with Relatives

The purpose of foster care is family preservation so it shouldn’t be too surprising that half of the children we’ve fostered have been transferred from our care to the temporary or permanent care of their relatives.  This was the case with our last placement.

Supposedly there is a 90 day timeframe from the time a child comes into protective custody for relatives to come forward and express an interest in having the child placed in their home.  I’ve learned to look at the 90 day timeframe not so much as a statute, but as a suggestion; In other words, say a child has spent almost a year in their foster home and appears to safe, loved, and happily adjusted, but Uncle Bob- who lives ten states away and who’s never even met the child- comes out of the woodwork and decides he’d like the child placed with his family.  Who gets preference for placement of the child – the foster family or Uncle Bob?  In foster care, sometimes blood is thicker than what is in the child’s best interest so by law Uncle Bob as a relative gets preference over a non-related caregiver for placement of the child.   However, as I mentioned in my last update, just because a relative is willing to take a child doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be approved by the state to do so.
Sometimes we feel good about where our foster children have ended up and other times- not so much.  Fortunately, after meeting the relatives who would become Ty and Ian’s new kinship placement last week, I felt a sense of relief rather than worry.   I feel like these relatives aren’t just taking the boys out of obligation, but because they have a deep concern for their welfare.  In fact, these relatives had to make significant sacrifices on their part to take the boys which is why the approval process took so long.
I’m glad that the boys will have a mother figure and a father figure (or in this case a grandmother and grandfather figure) in their lives and although technically these grandparents are only grandparents to one of the boys [since they’re half-brothers] they are not strangers to either boys and they treat both boys as if they were their grandsons. 
When Ian’s grandfather saw me for the first time last week he walked up to me with tears in his eyes, embraced me, and said, “Thank You.” over and over. I wasn’t expecting that.  The grandma explained that they had not seen the boys in over six months and were obviously quite worried about their well-being.  I was surprised when they asked me how long the boys had been in my care, but then again, their son has been the one parent in this case who hasn’t even bothered to set up visits with his son, so maybe keeping his parents updated on their grandchild’s well-being isn’t at the top of his priority list.  
I imagine that the trickiest part about kinship placements is that as with all foster placements, the main concern is the children’s safety, but how can keeping the children out of contact with their parents when they’re living with relatives realistically be enforced?  I see this as the biggest problem with this particular kinship placement.  Although the boy’s caseworker could technically stop by their new  foster home anytime she wanted to, there is no way that she has the time to constantly “check up” like that.  The caseworker is aware of this as are the relatives.   

When I try to see things from the kinship placement’s point of view it must be difficult to have to say to one’s son (or brother or sister or cousin-whatever the case may be), “You can’t come near your kids except for your weekly court-ordered supervised visit- otherwise we both could get into trouble.” And by “trouble” I mean being charged with failure to protect the children in care and risk having the children moved to another home.  Certainly issues of divided loyalties and contentions would arise.
Aside from the fact that I feel confident the boys will be safe and cared for, the other good news is that the relatives, who live in a neighboring town, have invited us to keep in contact with the boys. I expressed my sincerest appreciation for allowing us to keep in contact, but I also explained, as I’ve had to before, that it would probably be best for the boy’s sake to wait a couple of months till they settle into their new environment before doing so. 

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