“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
Children in foster care may never receive training worth holding onto as they age out of the system. These children are bounced from house to house and continually experience their lives ripped away from them. Most of the children have lost the meaning of living in a permanent home, they do not know what safe is, and to them love has little meaning. These children suffer night terrors and have experienced things in life that most aged adults have not experienced. While over 75% of the children in foster care have been sexually abused the leading reason for kids being removed from their parents is due to drug related causes. Many of these children suffer the consequences of these drugs from when there parents used both physically and emotionally.
The Foster Care system is in need of good, patient foster parents. Good foster parents are one of the biggest impacts that foster children will have while they are in the foster care system. Foster Care is not for everyone though, it is a demanding sacrifice and you must be prepared spiritually, intellectually and mentally before making a choice to become a foster parent. Below are some resources that you can look through that will help you make the choice to becoming a foster parent along with ways that you can help children already in the foster care system.
Children who need foster or relative care through DSHS are temporarily separated from their families due to abuse or neglect.
All foster children are affected by the separation from their family. Sometimes this stress and worry shows up in their behavior. Most foster children have not experienced the usual routines of family life and need extra understanding and patience.
Orientation comes the first Tuesday of every month and there are two sessions each day it is offered. One is at 10 AM and the other is at 5:30 PM located at the DSHS building in Richland. You can get registered to attend orientation by calling (509) 737-2827 or (509) 737-2400. Alternatively in WA you can watch online videos and take an orientation quiz on the DSHS web site. Click here for more information and access to the online videos.
PRIDE Pre-Service is a 27 hour training provided by the state. Classes are offered during the week and or during the weekends. Anyone interested can get a copy of their schedule at the orientation class provided or visit the DSHS web site where the schedule is posted online.
Paperwork should be started and completed as soon as possible. You will get your paperwork at orientation and any more information will be provided during the orientation. It is best to have your paperwork completed before your home study begins.
A home study is performed after you have completed the Orientation and Pride classes. You should have your home study performed by the agency that you are planning on being licensed by. Such as Catholic Family Services, Lutheran Family Services, etc. During your family home study you will typically have four sessions where a social worker will visit your home and ask your family questions related to the paperwork you fill out. The social worker will also check your house to make sure it meets all the requirements for foster care. You will be given a list of things to check prior to the social worker visiting.
Once your home study has started your agency will have a total of 90 days to complete your license application. If the agency is unable to get your license application completed and sent in by the 90 day window you will have to start the entire foster care process from the beginning. Once your agency sends your completed home study into licensing, you should receive your foster care license within a few weeks.
During your home study you get to choose how many kids you are willing to have in your home as well as the age range. You are limited in this choice by how many rooms and beds you have available in your home. When you are licensed you will only be licensed for how every many kids you choose to be licensed for. For example, if you choose to be licensed for one child from age 3 to 8 you will only be able to foster one child in that age range in your home. If you decide that you would like to have more kids and expand or change the age range you can let your social worker know and they will have you re-licensed for more children with no additional paperwork required by you.
You are required to take 30 hours of Pre-service Training and a First Aid/CPR and Blood Borne Pathogens course before becoming licensed. Training courses are offered regularly in all regions of Washington State. Pre foster care training can be accomplished by the PRIDE class which is a free class offered through DSHS. During this class you will go through the Washington Administrative Codes (WACs). You will also be presented with information on how the foster care system works and you will be shown what to expect from the kids and the types of issues that usually accompany kids that are in the foster care system.
Blood born Pathogens and First Aid CPR training classes are also required before becoming licensed. CPR Training link.
If you intend on fostering children that are physically or sexually aggressive you must participate in a training class. Training videos are offered online in place of these classes. Online Sexually or Physically Aggressive Training Videos.
All licensed family foster homes, including those licensed by private agencies and the Office of Foster licensing, are required to complete 36 hours of ongoing training during each three year licensing period. Online training may apply for a portion of this 36 hours‘s. Online training videos can be accessed through the DSHS web site here.
When parents rights are terminated by the state, a child in the foster care system is able to be adopted. These kids are listed as being legally free. Right now in the foster care system there are many kids that are deemed legally free and ready to be adopted.
The process for foster adopting is very similar to becoming a foster parent. It actually is preferred that you simply become licensed as a foster parent. When you go through a foster agency you are able to set a preference of having only children come into your home that are either legally free or bound to become legally free. It should be noted though that In most cases, once a child enters the foster care system it typically ends with their parents rights being terminated, so it is may be a better option to open your home to a child that fits your home best instead of narrowing down to only legally free children.
Once a child enters your home you are required to have the child in your home for six months under the foster care program. This six month period is in place as a safe guard for the child‘s best interest to make sure your home best fits the needs of the child.
After the six month period with the child in your home you will be able to legally adopt the child through the court system as long as the child‘s status is legally free. This isn‘t too difficult of a process and your foster agency should be able to help you out along the way with this.
A Guardian Ad Litem is one of the most valuable things you can do in the life of an abused or neglected child. Often children in foster care fall through the cracks in an overburdened, understaffed system. Guardian Ad Litem‘s offer hope and a voice to children currently in the court system.
The Guardian Ad Litem‘s main purpose is to represent children‘s best interests in court in front of a judge.
Step 1. Contact your county court house and ask about the volunteer advocacy program in your area.
Step 2. Prepare to commit to at least 1 year in the program. Abuse and neglect cases can drag on for a long time, and consistency is important.
Step 3. Ask the program coordinator in your area to send you all information necessary to become a Guardian Ad Litem or direct you to the proper forms on their web site.
Step 4. Fill out the application contained in the information received and provide all necessary documentation. You will need to provide personal information such as a valid driver‘s license, social security number and date of birth.
Step 5. Set up an interview with the program coordinator. After the interview, necessary background checks will be completed.
Step 6. Complete the Guardian Ad Litem training program. This program varies from state to state, but most are around 30 hours.
Step 7. Understand that you will need to be available to complete tasks on schedule and attend all court hearings. Much of the work can be done in the evenings and on weekends, but court attendance is only during the week.