When my husband and I tell people that we are foster parents, we are always delighted by how many people respond that they’ve considered fostering too! Usually, the families that tell us this are waiting for the right time to start– they’re waiting for all their youngest to ditch diapers, hoping to move into a bigger home, or holding off until their last teenager leaves the nest. While all kinds of families in all stages of life can make phenomenal foster families, fostering is a tremendous commitment and my friends are wise to assess their stability, resources, and availability before taking the plunge. Fortunately, when you feel called to help abused children in Collin County, fostering is not your only option. Here are four things you can do before you foster:
1. Provide Respite Care or Babysitting for a Foster Parent.
If you know someone who is a foster parent, offer to become approved to provide babysitting or respite care for them. The foster parent will appreciate and cherish you forever.
First let’s talk about babysitting. When foster parents need a date-night, some me-time, or are faced with some sort of unexpected emergency, they don’t have the option of hiring the high school kid who lives next door to babysit. They can’t leave the kids with grandma either. Foster parents are restricted to leaving children in state licensed facilities, or with approved individuals who have completed fingerprinting, background checks, and CPR training. (Additional training may be required depending on the needs of the children and the requirements of the agency that licensed the foster home). Be one of those approved individuals. It takes a little effort on your part, but having that support net makes a huge difference for your foster parent friends.
Respite care is a little more involved. Respite care providers watch foster children overnight when the foster parents take a vacation or attend to an out-of-state family emergency. A respite care provider must meet all of the requirements of an approved babysitter, and will additionally complete the same training as a foster parent. Again, check with the foster family’s licensing agency for exact requirements.
My family learned the value of having a trusted respite care provider the hard way! We’d planned to take our biological and foster children on vacation, requested approval for our trip, and waited for the “okay” from the judge. Having obtained approval, we bought our tickets. A week before our trip, the foster child’s caseworker told us approval had been withdrawn because she hadn’t followed the proper procedure for handling the paperwork. We had two choices: forfeit our trip or leave one child in respite care with a complete stranger. If we had a friend who could’ve provided respite care, we would’ve had another option.
2. Volunteer with CASA.
Due to turnover at CPS, our latest foster child was assigned a new caseworker approximately every eight weeks. That’s why I love CASA. A child in foster care may transition through three different homes and six different caseworkers in a year, but the CASA volunteer stays the same. When you’re a CASA volunteer, you are a pillar of consistency, which gives you a unique vantage point from which to advocate for the child’s best interests. Right now, we can foster. If ever we can’t, I hope to volunteer with CASA.
3. Prepare your Home.
So you can’t foster now, but you know you want to foster and you hope it will be in the next couple years. There may be things you can do now to streamline the licensing process later.
Despite my diligence, it took six months for my family to complete the licensing process. In our city, we needed doors on our fireplace in order to pass our fire inspection. Obtaining (surprisingly expensive, custom) fireplace doors delayed the process by about one month for our family. It turns out we were lucky– one of my friends waited six months for her custom fireplace doors to arrive.
We already had a gun safe and we had a childproof fence around our swimming pool, but had we not, these would’ve been additional burdens of the licensing process.
Work on finding a licensing agency, and ask them about some of the requirements. While all of the agencies should have the same baseline requirements, some of them go above and beyond and have even stricter rules when it comes to safety. Check the requirements for your city’s fire and health inspector. Prepare what you’re able, but keep in mind that it’s also possible for the rules to change.
4. Provide Immediate Support to Help Abused Children in Collin County
Fostering is a direct way to help abused children in Collin County, but the choice to take on such an intense and all-consuming responsibility is deeply personal and not necessarily right for everyone at every moment of their lives. Even when you can’t foster, you can still help! Foster Friends turns your donations into little comforts (like a school yearbook, a ballet recital costume, or a soccer team fee), that help abused children in Collin County. To learn more about the joy you can bring to foster children by donating to Foster Friends, check out some examples of what we do.