Find Your Place in the Foster Care System, Part 3: Foster/Adoptive Parents, Kinship Parents, and Respite Providers
This article is Part 3 of the series "Find Your Place in the Foster Care System". See Part 1: Foster Parents and Part 2: Adoptive Parents.
In the first two articles of this series, we discussed the foster parents and adoptive parents. For those who want to pursue other options, we continue with other possible roles.
Many people who go through the homestudy process are licensed both to foster and adopt. Having a dual license provides more flexibility in the role you play. Even if, as a foster parent, you are committed to the reunification of families, being licensed as an adoptive parent may make it possible for you to adopt your foster children should reunification efforts fail. This is usually in the best interest of the child since they have already built a relationship with you, and multiple placements can cause loss and attachment issues in children. If you are certain that you will eventually want to adopt, being a foster parent will get you into contact with more children. However, you must accept that their permanency plan may not include you. They may return to their birth families or be placed with an adoptive family that is deemed a more suitable match. At the time of your homestudy, you may indicate that you are interested in legal-risk placements. In a legal-risk placement, parental rights have not been terminated, but the child’s worker is fairly confident that termination will take place and that the child will become available for adoption. If termination does not occur, you risk losing the child. As a dual licensed foster parent, you must meet all of the same requirements as a foster parent, with the possibility of becoming an adoptive parent at some time in the future. As a foster/adoptive parent, you will be more familiar with the children in your care before making the decision to adopt.
Kinship parents are the default setting of child protective services. When a child is taken into care, workers will try to determine if there is someone the child already has a relationship with who can give the child a safe home, at least temporarily. This may be a relative or a close friend of the child’s family. Depending on how the child entered your care, you may not have to meet all of the same requirements as a foster or adoptive parent, although the Department of Human Services will probably work closely with you to determine that your home is indeed safe for the child. If a child you are related to or have a relationship with has already entered the foster care system, you may be required to go through the homestudy process before you can take custody of the child. If there is a specific child that you would like to gain custody of, you owe it to yourself and the child to do whatever is necessary to make it happen. Contact the child’s worker and the Department of Human Services to see what can be done.
Respite Care Providers
When a child is in foster care, foster parents are allotted a number of respite days each year. This gives the foster parent a break as well as giving them the flexibility to travel when necessary if the foster child cannot travel with them. Respite providers are required to complete the homestudy process, but rather than taking long-term custody of a child, they are available to care for the child for a short period of time, as short as one day or as long as a few weeks. Many respite providers are licensed foster parents who currently do not have a long-term placement or who have not reached their household limit for children. In a respite care situation, you will generally know when and for how long you will have a child, unlike traditional foster parenting. If you want to ease into foster parenting, or help out a friend or relative who is a full-time foster parent, getting licensed to do respite care is a good starting point.
We have discussed a number of ways in which you can open your home to children in need. If you feel that you are just not able to make that much of a commitment, there are other ways that you can make a difference. We will explore these in Part 4: Mentors and Court Appointed Special Advocates.