Friday, May 11, 2012

more on foster parenting, and not just in my own words!

My writing on the topic of being a foster parent was not inspired by anything that I have seen in the media lately, but my search turned up this:

I am not the only disgruntled former foster parent!

Many foster parents and candidates came forward to share their experiences in the article. This is what some of them had to say:

"My wife and I have been fostering for 18 years now . . . We have recommended fostering to 17 couples. Eight couples became foster parents (made it that far) but only one lasted beyond one year and quit before they made it two years. The children are very seldom the problem . . . 90 percent of the time foster parents encounter problems with "the system" . . . The whole infrastructure is wrought with problems. Unfortunately, human nature gets in the way and ruins it for the well-meaning ones, especially us, who are in it for the long haul."
My wife and I were totally ready to be foster parents but the whole system is discouraging . . . After we get the kids then we have a social worker come visit our home but parents with records of abuse aren't checked up on. The whole system is messed and a bureaucratic nightmare. They created it with their bureaucracy and they think they can get out of their current problem with bureaucracy, I think not."
"The various ministries are partly to blame for the lack of placements and for the diminishing number of people willing to foster children. We used to foster children and found that the ministry withheld information from us that we really should have known having to do with the safety of our family. They often failed to reveal the full extent of the child's difficulties and provided little support and no apologies when confronted with the issue."
"I used to be a foster parent and honestly, it was the treatment by the social workers towards us that was the biggest reason for us leaving after many years of fostering. I have had many former kids contact me over the years and tell us what a great job we did, so I don't believe it was us . . . but some social workers treat foster parents like they are stupid. I have done work towards a Masters but still, I was constantly talked down to."

The reason my partner and I decided to foster was because, at the time, we were a childless couple who felt we had something to offer to children in need. When we called to become foster parents there were advertisements on the radio asking for families to sign up to foster. After we called to put our names on the list it took MONTHS before anyone got back to us, and it was only after repeated calls to the office that finally someone came. The woman who came to our home was a delightful, amazing, caring person who was completely overworked because of the high turnover of staff in her office and the resultant increase in her workload. We didn't really think anything of it at the time, but since being a part of the system we have gone through more staff than you would believe. Now I KNOW that this is a stressful job, but the turnover has to do with more than the stress of the job. I doubt you will find anyone who was previously employed by the division to make an official statement on why they left the position, but my experience has let me to believe that the bureaucracy of the child welfare system GREATLY affects the line workers - as much as it affects the foster families.

Once we were visited it took many more months to complete our home study, get all of our references checked (and our references were asked some VERY interesting questions about us, for instance, if they knew if we were addicted to pornography.) We had to undergo police checks, home and safety inspections, credit checks, and so forth. We had to produce driving records, copies of insurance policies and some additional documentation - which was requested because we were a gay couple, and according to the worker, the first gay couple in the province to apply to foster. Once all of this was complete we had to be approved by the Alberta Minister of Human Services - again because we were a gay couple. To tell you the truth, knowing what I know now, I have absolutely NO idea if this actually happened - or if we were simply TOLD this had to happen. My cynical, conspiracy theorist self tends to believe that it was a delay tactic to get us to give up on the process, but I cannot prove that and either way, we stuck with it and were finally granted a license to foster children.

Because the nature of the foster care involves children, there are HUGE issues of confidentiality which affect the employees and families working with foster children. I have said before and I will say again, that I completely understand why there is a need for confidentiality. I have NO problem it. HOWEVER and unfortunately, these confidentiality issues have turned into this "code of silence" when it comes to dealing with anything related to the system. Information is not freely exchanged. Foster families are given conflicting information or no information. Training is terrible, foster supports are virtually impossible to access, the list goes on and on.

All of this brings me to the point where I am now, where I feel as though I need to speak out about the problems in the system. Good foster families, who do good things for children are giving up their licences because of the SYSTEM problems. Not because of the kids, not because of the emotional hardship they endure, but because the system is broken.

1 comment:

Teena in Toronto said...

You and Shirl are such good people.