Last week we teamed up with BioKleen (yep, that’s an affiliate link) for a new Sunday Series aimed to elevate the conversation during National Foster Care Awareness Month. We asked, “If you could make one improvement to the foster care system, what would it be?”
You did not disappoint.
Responses ranged from improving outcomes for reunification, high quality training for providers, a need to elevate the voices of kids and youth in care, remodeling the aging out transition, relationship building, access to effective services (for parents and foster parents), community collaboration to support families of origin and so much more. We were so pleased with the response and wholly encouraged by folks doing the work. This week’s question is at the end of this list and will be posted next Sunday.
Here’s what you had to say:
- Partnership is the word that comes to mind. Partnership between the state and birth family, between birth family and foster family when possible, and partnership between the state and foster families.
- Properly training foster parents to be truly trauma informed and therapeutic.
- Effective service plans for parents. If the true goal is reunification, the plans should be better and the workers more on top of it.
- More foster parents willing to enter in with open hands and supportive of reunification!
- Current & former youth voices
- Support for bio families who are truly working hard to keep their kids. The transition from home to foster care to home again can be so abrupt and I feel like it's rare that the bio family is set up for success. So many kids end up back in care. I'd love to see more effort placed on that transition, as well as an encouraged continued relationship between bio and foster family when appropriate so that there is consistency/support for the child.
- Have foster youth paid at the same amount they pay consultants because telling your story is re-traumatizing. Also more collaboration with foster youth who "made it" send the elevator back down to the kids who are in the system now!
- More education and awareness of the need for foster care and the process of becoming a foster parent.
- Better mental health services for children who have experienced trauma and SOONER. Alongside that, better training for foster parents so that they are prepared for hard behaviors so that kids don't bounce from home to home.
- Foster parents have more rights in the process.
- The one (of many) things I would change is making foster parents have kinship rights after a child is in their care for over a year. NY state just passed this earlier this year and I wish Washington state and all others would follow suit.
- I would love to see some services for foster siblings and their adoptive families’ siblings - does that make sense? Like a way for the children who are gaining new family members through foster care to learn about it and how to care best for their new sibling, while processing everything - and for the child entering the family, and ways to work through any tough issues that may be confusing for the parents.
- I would love to see the system rid of the bureaucracy that weighs down the process for everyone. And I would love for the things that are promised to actually happen (dual permanency for example).
- I think it would be great to have more supportive programs in place for bio fams and foster fams to potentially bond/collaborate/etc. to get rid of some of the us vs them dynamic that takes place!
- I'd like to see court dates be more frequent! I foster medically fragile babies, and in baby time, 6 months is a lifetime!
- I find it uncomfortable that children cannot get contact with bio family in the time between TPR and adoption.
- One improvement I would like to see is education for foster parents on strategies for developing relationships with birth parents/families and on-going support from a mentor for new foster parents.
- More low cost/free childcare and daycare options for foster families (even those who have a stay-at-home parent!). We need regular weekly breaks to keep doing this hard work!
- There is a need for training and ongoing coaching for foster parents to feel capable and supported when taking in children with special needs and high needs. Some children are not special needs but are exhibiting concerning behaviors due to the trauma. This journey needs to be supported from beginning to end. I am a huge believer in family team meetings! Including the foster parents and social workers. Let us model behavior changes from day one and remember we are not perfect.
- As a former social worker I would say there needs to be wayyy more support for kiddos aging out of the foster care system. Support like more positive adult-child mentoring programs, government programs like the Chafee Grant in every state, on the job mentorship programs, free college tuition (many receive grants however they still have to pay a lot in student loans), housing subsidies and long term support (beyond the age of 21).
- More encouragement for foster/bio parent relationships and empathy on BOTH sides. I think knowing and loving each other makes it super tricky, but when done well, it works and helps all parties recognize the needs of the child. Also early education (start of getting licensed) on trauma, drug exposure and how to tap into the amazing services provided. Sometimes it's overwhelming, but if someone could walk you through it-so huge.
- The foster care system requires more community involvement and support. If I could change one thing about the system, I would create a volunteer recruitment program so that bio families, foster children, and foster families all feel more supported and cared about!! It's so important to have the whole community involved- so many people we encounter day to day don't even know what foster care is.
- As foster and adoptive parents in a county where only 50% of kiddos are able to reunify with their birth families, if we could make any change to the system it would be improving successful reunification rates, with careful attention paid to evidence-based drug treatment programs. Thank you for all you are doing to advocate for kids in foster care and for starting this conversation!
- As a teacher and foster parent, I'd say long-range goals and services that support kiddos for a healthy and happy adulthood, not just getting them to their 18th bday!
- I feel like older kids whose parents rights have been terminated, and foster parents sometimes get pressured to move towards adoption when APPLA may be the better choice.
- Childcare should be reimbursed, period.
- Visits need to be supervised by a qualified person and need to be thoroughly documented.
- Mandatory high quality trauma informed training for caregivers, social workers, and teachers
- For me, it's simply communication; keep us in the loop, we are important!
- I'd love to see a system where effective foster parents could co-parent with bio families, of course when appropriate. Both parties could learn and teach each other and the children could see both sides working in the child's best interest, together.
- Increased efforts to recruit quality foster homes
- realistic payment to foster parents (especially when considering what we pay residential/group homes) 3-better efforts to reduce sibling separation.
- I would love to see a foster/adopt parent who has done it a while ago mentor a parent just starting out. Like when you join a club team or sorority you get a big sister. More volunteers to walk new parents through it!
- I would also love to hear more from teen or adult adoptees or foster youth on their experience!
- I would love to see more programs put in place locally to help parents into the system. Like trainings or classes you attend if you're wanting to become a foster parent.
- Daycare is a big struggle here, and I would actually like to see more program' like Cincinnati's Therapeutic Interagency Preschool that partners with the county to provide therapeutic preschool for traumatized kids in Foster Care. Also...and I don't know how to put this well...somehow find a way to help identify quality families that are TRULY in the game to foster and will adopt if and only if reunification can't happen. I feel like so many foster parents I know are longing to adopt, see the kids as "theirs" the second they are placed, identify themselves as "Foster-Adopt" parents, and that really clouds how they interact (or simply don't interact) with First Families. I'm all for attachment and hopefulness...and for sure it's hard...I'm just not sure this helps with best outcomes for kids.
This Week’s Sunday Series Question:
Imagine you could go back and sit down with yourself on the very first day you started this foster care journey. What would you want to say? What have you learned and what wisdom would you want to share? What advice would you give to that bright-eyed, open-hearted version of yourself? (head over and jump in on Instagram or Facebook)
If you like what you read here, please consider leaving us a review. We’re headed to the Mom 2.0 summit next week (OMG we were nominated for an Iris Award for Mom Blog of the Year) and would appreciate hearing your voice. Thanks so much!