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Caring for Young Foster Kids

Dear Debi,
My wife and I don’t have children. We’re thinking about becoming foster parents and would like to know more about it. How can we make a child a part of our family and help him or her overcome some of the emotional difficulties he or she might encounter?
Cesar Medina
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Foster care is temporary
  • Adoption is permanent
  • Establish a positive relationship
  • Assure the child he or she is appreciated
  • Encourage self-expression
  • Prepare your own children for addition of foster child
Expert Advice
Dr. Charles Sophy
Dr. Charles Sophy
LA County Child & Family Services, father of a 4-year-old
Foster care is the temporary placement of children outside of their own homes. Fostering is basically offering your home and supervising that child, while being monitored by a foster care agency. You as a foster parent are responsible for keeping your foster child safe, providing food and shelter, and getting them to the doctor. But the court still maintains the rights of the child.

Adoption is an ending phase of foster care. You legally become the guardian of that child. You become their parent legally through the courts. Adoption is a legal process that creates a new, permanent parent-child relationship where one didn't exist before.

The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) or a local foster family agency in the area can provide information on how to join the foster care training process and the procedures to make sure one’s qualified. There are visits from DCFS to check out the home. In some cases there may be visits from biological parents. Plus there are specifics the child has to comply with. Then there’s court every couple of months. Then the child goes down the path of adoption. Is the foster parent going to be the parent? Coming from DCFS, we want permanence for our children. So our first stop is to see if there’s a relative. Then we look at friends. Then we turn to potential foster parents.

Foster parents will receive support according to the needs of the child. But they get a monthly visitation by a social worker, medical insurance and a monthly rate. The rate is based on the needs of the child. All of that’s explained in our foster care training.

We have a lot of children who need foster parents. It ranges from birth to 15 or 16 years of age. Some of them may be born drug-addicted and have parents who can’t uphold an agreement to get treatment. We have to detain those children until their parents get cleaned up. But we have all ranges of abuse and neglect that warrant our need to intervene.

The number of children you can serve as a foster parent at one time really depends on the needs of the child. The government has very specific rules for this process. If there are kids with mental health needs or if the child has specific physical needs there’s a certain number requirement. But we do try to keep sibling groups together.

Studies show that 40-50% of foster children have some sort of mental health issue. Anyone who’s taken away from their family will have some sort of issue. Experts screen our kids so that red flags can be dealt with right away.

If you have biological children already, it’s really important that you discuss with them in advance if you are planning on bringing foster children into your family. The presentation is the key to the best outcome. Parents need to examine why they want to do it, and explain that to their kids. Parents need to let their biological children know they as a group are enveloping this person.

Unfortunately we don’t have as many African American homes or Latino homes for foster children so we discuss that in the training process. We want to make sure that hopefully these homes are open-minded homes. We don’t want homes to have preconceived notions about any particular culture, and that they will change someone. So our first priority is safety and permanence for these children.

The process of a foster child returning home is one that we work on as soon as we place the child in a foster home. If we’ve removed a child from a home we need to know right away if reunification is the plan. This way, the biological parents are involved with the entire process. So when we reunite the child with their biological parents, the reunification becomes a transition, gives the child control over their destiny and lowers the incidence of problems.
Child Care Provider Comments
Jane Fung
Jane Fung
Mother of 5-year-old
To make a foster child part of your home, I would create a space in your home for the child. I would not pre-decorate the space, so you can decorate with the child based on his or her interests. Also, you want to get things that makes the child comfortable or toys that he or she can associate with you. They will also be bringing in memories from their past. For example, with my son, I was folding shirts one day, and he said, “That shirt is from my other mommy.” It is important not to throw out everything from the child’s past. You should validate the past. You can discuss the past with him or her, so they doesn’t feel like a blank slate. Together you can create new memories.
Annie Hall
Annie Hall
Foster mother of four
Once you decide that you want to be a foster parent, you have to attend an orientation. At the orientation, everything is explained about foster care and adoption, including pay. Call DCFS or Community Licensing to find out when the orientation is. There is an orientation once a month in the LA County area—depending upon how many people they have room for in their orientation class. At the end of the class, they will give you a certificate to Community Licensing to get your application.
Deya Cleary
Deya Cleary
Foster mother of two
If you are adopting, I think you should always talk about the word adoption with the child, so there is no surprise when they are older. You want to talk about adoption in a very positive way. Even though these children were not born to the adopting parents, they have been chosen.

Tips on Becoming a Foster Parent Featured Activity:
Tips on Becoming a Foster Parent
Caring for Young Foster Kids Featured Video:
Caring for Young Foster Kids
Topic: Child Care Management
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