My Journey to Become a Foster Parent: Training Session Eight (Planning for Change)

Becoming a Foster Parent - Training Session 8 - Planning for Change (foster adopt blog)

This week we talked about “Planning for Change.” We focused on ways to provide a healing, nurturing home environment as well as questions to ask before accepting a placement and the process a placement comes into your home. Below are some of my notes from this session.

Characteristics of a Healing, Nurturing Home

In groups we brainstormed ideas and then discussed as a class. In our training binders there was also a list for reference. Some items included:

KITCHEN

  • Assigned chairs (kids pick which chair is theirs)
  • Baking and Cooking together
  • Discussions at a family dinner (at dining table)
  • Prepare snacks together

BATHROOM

  • Door closed for privacy (unless child was abused in bathroom and does not feel comfortable with this, also depends on the age of the child if they require assistance)
  • Only one person in the bathroom at once (again, unless the child requires help in the bathroom)
  • Children assured no one enters the bathroom while they are in there unless they request help from a parent

CHILD’S BEDROOM

  • Child has own bed and told it is only for them; house rule that no one is allowed in your bed
  • Family rule requires knocking before entering bedrooms
  • Child has own space for clothing and personal items
  • Child has a night light, if desired

PARENT(S) BEDROOM

  • Family rule requires knocking before entering
  • Parent’s room is not for playing in
  • Parents to wear robes when outside the bedroom

Working as a Team to Prevent Abuse Allegations

An item that stemmed from the above conversation was also setting those boundaries and rules as a way to help prevent allegations against you as the Foster Parent. By being sure you are providing a safe, healing, nurturing home, the allegations are less likely to happen against you by the child.

One main point that was made was making sure communication is flowing constantly between you, your worker and the birth parents in the way that is agreed upon. Make sure you document things like the child falling down and hurting themselves so you can look back and see what happened if a claim came that you caused a bruise, cut, etc.

A Communication Book/Log is a great tool for this with birth family. Keep a communication book with things the child did and then it can be passed along to the birth family to read through and they can even write things back that they want you or the child(ren) to read.

WHY ARE FALSE ALLEGATIONS MADE?

  • Misinterpreted actions
  • Child’s repressed memories may surface
  • Child or birth parent has a grudge
  • Attention seeking behaviour
  • Mental health

Preparing to Welcome a Child in Your Home

MAKING AN INFORMED DECISION

Ask questions! When a call comes in from your worker to talk about a potential placement, be sure to ask lots of questions. This was something the trainers wanted to be sure we thought about more. The emotions and excitement may be high when the call comes in, especially for the first call we receive.

Things to ask (although, some information about the child may not be available. There may actually be very little information available, but ask to be sure)

  • Nature of known abuse
  • When and where the abuse occurred
  • Issues of neglect
  • Prior placements (first placement?)
  • Siblings?
  • Legal status
  • School information including grades, attendance, plan
  • Cultural information
  • Visitation plans
  • Favourite foods
  • Activities / Sports involved in (or interested in)
  • Need for clothing, specific items
  • Daily routine
  • Their general physical condition
  • Specific health issues
  • Medications (on or allergic to any)
  • Recommendations at this time (as a result of initial assessments)
  • Potential health problems (genetics, prenatal environment)
  • Emotional health / overall functioning
  • Mental health diagnoses, recommendations and medications
  • Coping style
  • Behavioural challenges/effective discipline strategies
  • Therapy, counseling and/or other services in which they participate or may require
  • Developmental advances or delays
  • Sexual development (level and knowledge)

I am sure there are more questions that come to mind as you are thinking about it, those are just the items we brainstormed in class.

RESOURCE PLACEMENT PROCESS

  • Planned placements
    • advanced notice
    • preplacement plan/meetings
    • opportunity to gather information
    • chance to carefully consider your decision
  • Unplanned/Emergency Placements
    • Often little notice, sometimes middle of the night
    • Be prepared to ask critical questions, gather other information once placed
    • Short term (typically 2 weeks until Plan made)

ADOPTION PLACEMENT PROCESS

  • Carefully planned process
  • Matching for permanency with your family (more specific matching)
  • Upon completion of SAFE assessment (home studies) and must be recommended for approval by private adoption practitioner or approved by a child welfare agency to become “Ready for Placement”

For both Placement Processes there is no set timing for how long it takes. It depends on the type of child and history you have accepted for potential placements. The wider range of ethnic and health backgrounds typically results in more calls with potential placements. If you have a narrow list of children you are able to accept, it may take longer.


 

Although this session talked a lot about Adoption, I found it very useful and thought provoking. I plan to make a list of questions to have handy for when I get a call. I am sure once I get a call my mind will go blank, so if I keep a form handy then I won’t forget to ask important questions before accepting placements.

One of the questions I had for our trainers that they weren’t able to answer was about my bio children and their role in the placement process. They told me at the Panel Night (Session Nine) there are Foster Parents, children who have been in care and there may be children who were bio children of the Foster Parents as well so I can find out more about their views. What would they like to know before accepting a placement? What helps their transition to having a new child in the house? Those are some more questions I hope to learn about soon.

My last session is not until December 1, but I have now completed the book training for the course! The last night is a pot luck dinner with a Panel of parents and children to go over their experiences and answer our questions.

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Becoming a Foster Parent – My Journey Timeline so far…

Steps to becoming a Foster Parent in Ontario Canada - mommameesh wordpress com

I wanted to provide a little summary of the steps I have completed to date in my journey to becoming a foster parent.

I have one last session left of my PRIDE training that is a pot luck dinner and Panel Night to meet Foster/Adoptive Parents and Children who have gone through the Foster system. I have completed all of the book training sessions now. You can see more about my training by clicking HERE. You can also review more about the Application Package that is mentioned in the picture above, HERE.

In addition to the above list, there will be more Home Assessments scheduled at a later time (I am told there are 3 or 4 visits). Once I have more information about the process after the first visit, I will post about it.

Once the Home Assessments are completed I will be ready to receive calls about prospective placements.

My first Home Assessment visit is not until January, as the time over Christmas will be busy for us and the next PA Day for my children is January 15.

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My Journey to Become a Foster Parent: Session Six (Continuing Family Relationships)

Becoming a Foster Parent - Training Session 6 - Continuing Family Relationships

I have now completed seven sessions. Sessions six and seven where done backwards just due to the flow of the course, so this is labelled as Session Six.

In this session we talked about Continuing Family Relationships. It focused on permanence and talked more about the adoption side of things. I am not in going into “Foster with a view to adopt” so some of the items discussed I didn’t take notes as they didn’t apply to me.

Since my wonderful, super cute puppy decided to use my training binder as a chew toy while I wasn’t home, I will include information I can still read in my notes that was not chewed up… should be fun asking for new sheets because my dog ate them. Apparently dogs do eat homework!

Items we discussed:

  • Importance of Permanent Connections
  • Understanding Culture
  • Key Child and Family Services Act Permanency Provisions
  • Legal Custody of Crown Wards
  • Key Components of Concurrent Planning
  • The two streams: Transitional Foster Home or Foster with a View to Adopt
  • Adoption is…
  • Openness in Adoption

We discussed a lot in this session and our trainers told us some of their stories (which I always enjoy!). One of the trainers is an adoptive father to two children, who both came through the foster-to-adopt route as babies and are half-siblings.

This session made me think about how I will help support permanence even though I am not a permanent parent for children coming into my home. I think it will be important for me to go over plans with my worker about this and will probably differ from child to child based on their Plan A and Plan B routes. For me, supporting the child and their family, including incorporating their culture into our home can help them feel connected to their family. I actually hope to care for children of other cultural backgrounds to teach my children about other cultures.

This week’s write up is a bit short… next session I will be sure to put my notes on a higher shelf to avoid another half eaten summary!

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Home Study Prep List

Home Study Prep List - Foster Parent - Adopting - mommameesh.wordpress.com

Now that the end of my training is in sight (only 3 more sessions are left!) I am starting to think more about my In Home Assessments. The ball is rolling with the Home Study process and as I mentioned in a previous post, I have completed more paperwork and online training in preparation. Now, I need to focus on the things around my home. I was planning to start this back in September, but decided to focus on the training, homework and paperwork side of things before starting to organize my home for a child.

My plan is to work on this list over the next 2 months to be completely ready. PRIDE training will be complete December 1st, however I have Car Seat training session to attend as well. That is not until Saturday, January 9. My first choice was Tuesday, December 8, but the Saturday course is much easier for me to attend as that weekend my children are with their father. The Tuesday night course requires child care arrangements, which are more difficult to arrange on weeknights.

Over the next couple of months I will be preparing my house for the Home Assessments as well as preparing it for a child with items on hand so once the process is complete we are ready whenever a call comes in.

Here is my most current To Do List:

Home Study and Foster Child Preparations - to do list - mommameesh.wordpress.com

I’d love to hear about what other people did to prep for their home study and their possible children. Or just your experience in general of this process. Am I forgetting something?


This is the Checklist from Children’s Aid Society (Ontario) that was received as part of my Foster Application Package:

Application_Home safety checklist_pg1Application_Home safety checklist_pg2Application_Home safety checklist_pg3Application_Home safety checklist_pg4Application_Home safety checklist_pg5Application_Home safety checklist_pg6


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My Journey to Become a Foster Parent: Training Session Seven (Discipline)

Becoming a Foster Parent -Training Session 7 - Discipline - mommameesh.wordpress.com

During this session we spoke about Discipline. It was full of great discussions and people shared some stories of their own, which is always beneficial. It was focused on creating a a process of discipline where you teach and promote positive behaviour. We covered a lot of items and received a lot of information, I will only post some of it here (or it would turn out to be an hour long read).

Discipline vs. Punishment

We discussed the difference between discipline (teaching the disciplined right from wrong and proper behaviour) and punishment (negative reaction). We also talked about the Goals of Effective Discipline.

Reasons Why Discipline and Punishment Are Not the Same

  • Discipline is something that parents instill in children or youth. Punishment is imposed on them.
  • Discipline can be used to prevent problems from happening. Punishment focuses on dealing with  problems after they occur.
  • Discipline offers structure and guidance. Punishment imposes sanctions and enforcement.

Those are just a few of the points covered in our information binder. There is much more discussed during the training.

Goals of Effective Discipline

  • Protecting and nurturing children and youth’s physical and psychological well-being
  • Advancing children and youth’s development
  • Meeting children and youth’s needs
  • Teaching ways to prevent and solve problems
  • Maintaining and building the parent/child relationship
  • Helping children and youth develop self-control and responsibility
  • Producing the desired behaviour

The above list was taken from my information binder. We discussed in more detail during the session.

Group Exercise – Spanking

We were put in groups and had to dispute the following items. Spanking is not a form of discipline and we spoke about why these statements are not true (and I will admit, I cringe at the thought of people actually saying these things).

  • “I was spanked and I turned out okay”
  • “Some children just ask for it”
  • “You said to treat all children equally, and I spank my children”
  • “I don’t want my children to become spoiled. An occasional spanking is good for them.”
  • “Spanking is all right if the parent remains calm and in control.”

During our presentations some people shared their stories of being spanked as children and how that made them feel and what the result was (distrust, anger, etc.).

Videos

PURPLE Crying

P – peak of crying

U – Unexpected (starts/stops for no reason)

R – Resists soothing

P – Pain-like face

L – long lasting

E – Evening crying (cluster crying, often in the evening)

Before this session I had never heard of “Purple Crying.”  After seeing the video, I realize I knew what it was, but I had never heard the term for it. It is the period of crying a baby goes though that can’t be soothed. Not all babies experience it, but some do more than others. It talks about real people and their experience with it and includes some unfortunate stories of babies being shaken and injured from the frustrated care giver. It goes on to talk about ways to cope with the crying and gaining control of your actions to prevent harm.

Clips for Discussion

We watched three other short video clips on Listening, Praise and Structure/Expectations and discussed what we saw.

Time – In 

We also discussed Time In vs Time Out. “Time In” is another term I hadn’t heard, but once explained realized I knew the concept, just didn’t realize it had a name. (I feel old – there are a lot of parenting terms that weren’t around when my children were born and they are only 7 and 9!)

Time In is basically a time out, but in the same proximity as you rather than being in a different room or separated from everything. We watched a video clip of a Time In and I honestly thought it was a Time Out until the trainers discussed it more. The mother had the child sit on a chair in the kitchen for 5 minutes while she did dishes. I didn’t realize a Time Out had to be in a different room, I thought the concept of sitting and not being involved in anything was a Time Out. I do not give Time Outs (or Time Ins) with my children in the way it was portrayed in this session, but understand everyone has different things that work for them. We have our own “calm down” routine that is used instead.

Discipline Considerations for Children and Youth Who Have Experienced Maltreatment, Adversity and/or Trauma

The last portion of our session was based on considerations and strategies for disciplining children that have come through CAS. There are different things to take into account due to their history. Some points I took down for this discussion:

  • Remember, children who have been abused or neglected will have different behaviours depending on their history
  • You can not expect them to attach or trust you right away
  • Have realistic expectations
  • It is not about you or your relationship with the child
  • Pay attention to communication
  • Listen and don’t minimalize
  • Be objective, warm, non-judgmental, concise and clear
  • Relieve the child’s anxiety
  • Be consistent.

Next week’s session is Session 6: Continuing Family Relationships (which, yes, is out of order, but on purpose).

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My Journey to Becoming a Foster Parent: Session Five (Strengthening Family Relationships)

Becoming a Foster Parent -Training Session 5 - Strengthening Family Relationships mommameesh.wordpress.com

This week we had two new trainers. They switch every two weeks. For this session and the next session I have my Home Study worker as one of the trainers and a Foster Parent who is also a social worker, as the other trainer. They had great advice and everyone was very involved in the discussions. I will try to sum up this session the best I can as I didn’t take detailed notes due to the interaction level this time around.

The foster parent mentioned about a mentoring program for Foster Parents that they have there that no one had mentioned yet. I think it is a brilliant idea, to have someone always available to talk about things that are going on and can relate to. I am definitely going to be looking more into that.

This session was about Strengthening Family Relationships. We touched on a few key points:

Supporting Development of Positive Cultural Identity

We talked about different ways of supporting a positive cultural identity through a group exercise. We were separated into groups of different age ranges and discussed how we could help support the cultural development of that child.  For example through attending cultural events, introducing different types of foods, sharing family photographs, acknowledging differences such as skin colour, clothing, etc., introducing different languages, etc.

The Ecomap

This is a map of relationships and the strength of those relationships. We went over the map and for homework will create our ecomap showing people in our lives and the strength of that relationship.

Goals of Visiting Team Members

We went over each team member and a goal for them. This was a big discussion part of the session so I don’t have detailed notes. This is what I have down:

  • Child’s Perspective: needs to know they are loved/loveable, want to know the parents are safe and involved, seeing birth family can help with separation process
  • Birth Family’s Perspective: need to know the child is being cared for, need to know they are a meaningful part of the child’s life, gives them  a chance to practice their parenting skills.
  • Foster Parent’s Perspective: keep in touch with changes in the birth family, are supportive before/after child has visits, supportive role to the birth family
  • Adoptive Parent’s Perspective: learn about birth family history, see inherited traits, learn about culture, demonstrate respect to the birth family.

Preparing Children for Visits

Next we discussed about preparing children for family visits through talking about their emotions, creating a clear understanding of what is happening (but keeping it simple) and about reassuring them that they are safe. One of the trainers of this session talked about her experience with birth parents who did not always show up for visits. The children did not want to talk about it when that happened, so instead of trying to get them to talk she would have a fun activity planned for if the parents didn’t show (cupcake baking/decorating, etc.). Also, she cared for a teen that did not feel safe//comfortable during visits, so they had a signal for when the teen wanted to leave.

Videos

At the end of this session we watched a few short clips about visits and then discussed what we saw.

Clip #1 – A visit was set up in the Foster Parents’ home. The birth mother is not there and it is past the visit time. The Foster Mother calls the Birth Mother and talks to her. The Birth Mother then arrives late (past the child’s bedtime) and does not really interact with the child and is very negative.

Clip #2 – This clip shows the behaviour of the foster child after the birth mother leaves. She is jumping on the bed, not listening and does not want to go to bed. After the clip we discussed why she may be acting this way and what was done by the Foster parents in this situation.


I hope I summed it up to understand a bit of what we touched on.

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Quick Update (Social Media Detox)

Social Media Detox - Mommameesh.wordpress.com blog

I have yet to post about my training I had last week and this week, but it is going to take a bit longer. I am going through a bit of a Social Media Detox right now. I have been involved too much online and not enough off line! This week is beautiful weather in my area (feels like 26˚C out there right now!), so I am trying to limit my social media activity and focus on the real world.

Quick update

Every week I attend my classes my excitement for Fostering is renewed. For these last two sessions one of my trainers was actually my Home Study Worker! It was great meeting her and learning some of her experiences. Early next week I will post about what I learned as well as information about my homework assignments. In these two sessions we talked about Strengthening Family Relationships and Discipline.

More to come next week.

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