Wednesday, April 2, 2014


More than one friend who has contacted me about kin-fostering. This is when you have a family member who is in foster care and you seek custody.
So here's what I understand as far as kin fostering - please understand this is based on NOT kin-fostering and only fostering in one county in the entire country. So take all this as a starting off point, but not the end all be all.

Considerations regarding kin-fostering:
* If you find out that you have a family member in care, you may have first "dibs" on that child or children. Contact your local foster care unit (called DCYf, DSS, DHS, etc), introduce yourself, and ask to talk to someone about kin care. Put your name in the "hat" fast. The speed at which you express interest doesn't necessarily give you first "dibs" but it does speak highly of your interest and dedication to this child. This will weigh in your favor with the judge.

* The sooner you are able to have the relative-child in your home, the better - because this means fewer transitions for the child - a good thing. Scratch that, not fewer transitions, that's not what I mean, I guess. The longer a child is with a family, the harder it is to move on from that family (harder=more damaging).

* If there is any way you can raise a relative-child, do it. Having that biological connection for a child is preferable to not.

* You will likely encounter unrealistic expectations from family members regarding the child. You must be committed to following all court orders (often orders include no contact with original parents, educational requirements, medical interventions, etc). Think carefully how that would play out in your family dynamic and the players closer to the child (for example: in our case a relative petitioned for custody and was given so much flack from family that she withdrew her petition. I've heard this family's reaction is not uncommon).

* As with all foster placements, reunification is the first goal of fostering. This means, the county is working very hard to get as many supports and services in place in order to make it possible for the children to return to their original parents. The effectiveness of this varies greatly from case to case and no doubt, county to county. When we first started fostering the reunification rate was about 50% in our county. Now it's 40%. Reunification may or may not be more challenging when fostering a relative.

Considerations when not fostering a relative in fostercare
* Be in contact with the caseworker working with the child(ren), but know that it could take up to a month (or more?) for the caseworker to be assigned. In our experience the transition from Child Protective Services (CPS) to the foster care unit (caseworkers change during this transition) has not been even close to a month, more like a week. Once the foster care caseworker is assigned - this is the person you want to be talking to. Call this person regularly for updates.

* Make it known that you'd like continued contact with the child. Again, this connection to original family is so beneficial for the child(ren). You may have to petition the court for visits and/or contact depending on the level of involvement you're requesting and your previous connection with the family members who were central to the child(ren)s removal in the first place.

* Personally, I'm happy to be in contact with family (actually, thrilled!) who I hear are worried about the children we're fostering, as long as I feel confident that they are not going to harm the child(ren). This is a valid concern considering the reason that children are in foster care in the first place. However, the definition of "harm" is very subjective. And we're always weighing the benefit of our children having that familial connection and whatever "harm" they may be experiencing in the process. I have a list of several family members and their addresses - it's in a court paper documenting whether these family members have said they'd be interested in caring for the girls long term. When I heard that one of the couples on this list was really worried about the girls but would be hard pressed to take on additional children given their immediate family's needs and limits, I wrote them a really long letter with updates on all three girls. I don't know, but I hope this isn't out of the ordinary. I want to foster any connection I can safely encourage with our kids' original family.
All that to say: let the caseworker know that you'd be open to contact with the foster family if the foster family is willing. If they aren't - then let this be a mild red flag - say a pink flag ;) Just something to keep in mind in case there are other things concerning you about the child(ren)s placement.

All of this is be and complicated. It's not easy because people are involved. Children, no less. A piece of you out in the world with an unknown family.
Please add your advice on kin-fostering to the comments - whether you're a foster parent, foster child, or have family in foster care.

Do you have a relative in foster care and you're not sure how to proceed? Feel free to drop me a line!

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