Sunday, June 25, 2006
The truth about overleading Foster Homes
Continued from here
I just about choked when I read the interviews with Buckley Belanger and Andy Field in the Star Phoenix about over loading foster homes. Mr.Belanger states that, “regional directors with the department ensure extra support is provided for overcrowded foster homes.” According to policy, foster homes are not to have more then four children in their home to start with. Only in the case of a sibling group are they to be overloaded to a maximum of five. So if you have three foster children and two brothers come into care and are placed in your home, you end up having five children. This puts you into over load. The truth of the matter is that most foster homes; have no less then six foster children and up to as high as 15 foster children in their homes. Some of these foster homes are run by single parents. I have nothing against single parents as I am one myself, but think about it. If you have 6, 7, 8, children and some of them are babies, how in heaven’s name are you going to get them out of the house if there is a fire. How can you see to all of their emotional needs? Not to mention the washing, the diapers, the baths, and the meals. Oh sure the Dept. gives you some supports. Those supports hinge on whether you have a good Resource Worker and how much you scream and yell. Many foster parents that become overloaded choose to forget, ignore, or just plain don’t know the danger and the risks that they are taking.
If a child is harmed in a foster home or sexually abused, neglected, etc, the foster parent has no protection. For example a child could make a false accusation about a foster parent sexually assaulting them
1) that foster home can go under investigation
2) be falsely charged and arrested
3) deserted by the dept. and left to shoulder all of the legal expense of defending themselves.
According to (Chapt. 4.4.10, p.70, Children Services Policy and Procedure Manual 2001). “Due to the nature of foster care, foster families may be at greater risk of an allegation than other families.” There it is folks in black and white straight from the dept. You just have to read their policy manual to know the truth of what could happen to you.
On p. 69 of the Manual, Chapt. 4.4.10 Investigations of Complaints of Abuse and Neglect
There are actions that the dept. can take that would serve to reduce the likelihood of incidents of abuse or neglect.
Thorough screening and assessment prior to approval;
Ensure prospective foster families are made fully aware of potential risks in fostering that could lead to allegations such as the effects of abuse on children, possible hostile reactions of the child’s parents, difficult child behaviors. This allows applicants to make an informed decision about proceeding;
Make placements appropriate to the needs of the child, the facilities in the home and the abilities of the parents. These should be assessed seriously and parents shouldn’t be enticed by money to take more children than they can handle.
Provide all relevant background information prior to any placement, so that the foster family can make an informed decision and be fully prepared for potential challenges;
With children whose past experiences, needs and behaviors may place them and their caregivers at risk, the dept. must ensure that the child and the foster family receive guidance and support appropriate to the child’s needs and in a manner that will minimize such risk;
Regular contact with homes and proactive casework;
Regular assessment of the foster home for coping capacity or changes in family circumstances and the potential impact on the safety and care of the children placed with them. Where coping capacity seems to be stressed, this needs to be addressed with the family supports provided. Some factors that may negatively impact on coping capacity may be: placement of a high needs’ child, loss of a child to whom they have become very attached, personal changes or crisis situations of the foster family;
Take immediate steps to address and resolve concerns as they arise;
Thorough and open communication between foster families and the dept. so that actions of a child or an incident relating to the care of the child, which may have the potential to be seen as constituting abuse or neglect, are known and examined.
The dept. does not follow the above procedures. They will tell you that they do but most of these practices are disregarded. Quite often you have a problem with a child and the worker does not know what to do or what to advise you. You are pretty much on your own with these children. Andy Field spoke on Shaw cable about there being a partnership between foster parents and the dept. I have yet to see it. You may have a wonderful Social worker that is trying to help you, but the dept. steps in and says no, you can’t have this support, and we can’t get this or that approved. Some foster parents get almost everything they ask for. The next foster parent can beg for simple services and they won’t get it.
I told my autistic foster son’s Social Worker, Warren Postlewaite that I really needed some support hours for my boy. Meaning I needed a support worker who would take him out for 8 hours a week. (These Support Workers get paid $10.00 an hour) I said, “I also want four hours to do my grocery shopping.” He said, “I’ll see what I can do for you.” Three weeks passed still no response, so I called him. He said, “Donna I’m a new worker and my superiors are going to say you are taking advantage of me.” Excuse me who is taking advantage of whom! I had 8 high needs kids in my home. Eventually I got the 8 hours of support for the boy, but I did not get the four hours of support for grocery shopping. The terrible part of it is, when you need the help you need it now, not six weeks from now.
Being Under investigation Sucks!
From August 2005 until November 2005 I was in over load. Remember, I am a single parent. I had anywhere from 6 to 9 children at any given time. You see I was one of those people that had to learn the hard way. I went under investigation in Nov. 2005. At that time I had a 21 month old boy, a 2 year old boy, a 33 month old girl, a 3 year old girl, a 4 year old girl, a five year old boy, an 8 year old boy and a 9 year old boy. All of these children were high needs children. I was given 30 hours of support a week to help with cleaning, laundry, cooking, and childcare. Support of this nature comes in the form of someone you hire, for minimum wage to come into your home and help you. Believe me it’s pretty hard to find someone to come in and help you for those wages.
My household came down with the flu. Between the diarrhea and throwing up it did not take long until I fell victim to the flu as well. A child had been placed in my home that was as sick as I was. I did not check him over thoroughly for bruises, marks etc. Actually I did not check him over at all. I did not notice for several days that the child had severe bruising on him. I screwed up and did not inform the dept. Unfortunately Super foster mom fell from grace. Da,Da,Da,…Da. In came the dept. they removed the four children that put me in over load and left me with my original four placements. They did this to cover their butts.
They had to remove the over load, (4 children) or they could have been found at fault for having put to many children in my home. So two Social workers came rushing in, took the four children out of my home. My Resource worker Trudy Kapiniak was also on the scene and handed me a letter telling me that I was under investigation. The point is once the Dept. removes, or is in the process of removing the children; they believe they can no longer be held accountable. Actually the dept. did acknowledge to me that they could have been held accountable and sued. But we all know who they would have tried to blame first, don’t we! They also put a support worker (that was hand picked by the dept.) to stay in my home with me 8 hours a day. She was directly paid by the dept. (minimum wage of course.) Imagine I wasn’t even in over load. I was told she was not a spy for the dept. Funny how she had to keep a journal on me and turn it in to my Resource worker Trudy Kapiniak, but she wasn’t a spy.
I was treated rather well by the dept. while I was under investigation. I co-operated 100 percent with the dept. investigator, the police and my Resource Worker. Why wouldn’t I? Other then being stressed right out and trying to recover from the flu, everything turned out fine. Another home was being investigated at the same time as I was and the dept. treated her horribly. The point is when I sat down and thought about it, I realized what an idiot I was, to allow myself to be over loaded to that degree. There is no way; if I’m honest that I was able to meet all of the emotional and mental, needs of those children. I was a fool to believe that I could. I had been sick all fall. Was it any wonder? I was so run down from looking after so many children that I did not have the time or energy for self care. The crazy part of it is that you think you’re helping the kids, but you’re really not. The dept. knows this as well.
I take full responsibility for allowing myself to be over loaded to that degree. But I also hold the dept. responsible for not recognizing that one person regardless of the supports put in place; can look after 8 to 9 children on their own. They were so totally in violation of their own policies. I have not even addressed the policies regarding children with high needs. Suffice it to say that children that have high needs are supposed to be in homes where the number of children in the home is low. There is also the policy surrounding the square footage that must be available for each child in the home. The violations go on and on. But the dept. hides behind the rationale that there are special circumstances.
Today is June 23, 2006 and almost all of my friends that are foster parents are in over load. They are housing anywhere from 6 to 9 children per home. The dept. continues to apprehend children when they have no place to put them. The greater percentages of these children are high needs. Throughout the Policy Manual it talks about the abuse of children. What do you think the dept. is doing to foster parents? There is no excuse for this. Foster parents have no protection and I blame the dept. because they should have safe guards put in place. They should not be over loading foster homes. Yes they need to recruit new families to foster. But they have not learned how to treat the old foster homes with dignity and respect. The dept. should be charged with the abuse of foster parents. It is despicable how people are treated. If they want to retain foster families they are going to have to change their ways. Simply changing the name of the dept. does not constitute a change in their conduct, practices and policies. I read through the above section on Prevention and I just shook my head. When you are a foster parent if you speak out about the dept.’s practices or policies they will shut you down. They will close your home or penalize you by not putting any children in your home. The dept. has not evolved or learned from their past mistakes.
New Foster Parents: Beware!
Mr. Belanger I appeal to you on behalf of the foster parents, to listen to them NOT THE DEPARTMENT. Foster parents are afraid to speak out in fear of being penalized. Has it ever occurred to you to come out and talk to foster parents? To ask them what they really want and need? To ask them how the dept. is treating them? I hope that you launch your own investigation as to what is going on in this city, province. You can not continue to ignore these problems. THEY WILL NOT GO AWAY!!!
by Donna Jones