As a 19 year foster parent of some of the most difficult foster children in the system, and as a former foster child with multiple placements I was initially supportive of this bill, seduced by its appearance to support a culture of safety within foster care. After much debate, research and consideration, I DO NOT SUPPORT this bill at this time. I completely support appropriate oversight by the agency of authority responsible for the health and safety of children placed into foster homes. I do believe that regular, random, unannounced visits to foster homes by TRAINED, SKILLED, SENSITIVE social workers could be a healthy condition for foster care in general, and all the social workers and licensors I have ever worked with know our door is always open. HOWEVER, there are some very important factors I emplore you to seriously consider at this time. Although our particular journey as a foster/adopt family has been filled with workers who have, for the most part, been respectful, professional and child-centered - this condition for foster families is all too often NOT the normal. Far too often, decisions, LIFE-CHANGING decisions for foster families and the children they love and care for are too often made arbitrarily, subjectively and for reasons that would never be acceptable in any other arena, where invasive, complex authority and oversight are the law. Unfortunately, some of the conditions that exist in foster care culture right now could be compared to a DOT officer stopping large trucks - and GUESSING how much they weigh, rather than having an accurate scale; or a health and safety inspector making inspections in a restaurant and GUESSING the temperature of foods being inspected. The past and currrent climate at DCFS is littered with circumstances like these, where really good families, -and the children they have really made a difference to, - have suffered incredible losses because of the lack of specific perimeters and accountability in workers judgements about foster homes. Until ALL workers have the appopriate training, and more importantly, the Department has set forth very specific guidelines and standards for workers to be held accountable to as they make decisions about transitioning foster children, or placing a foster home under suspect of any kind - until that time - the conditions are akin, again, to DOT officers arbitrarily GUESSING which trucks meet certain requirements, with very little or no accountability for their decisions and authority. This condition would allow for far too much subjectivity to be fair to the transportation industry. In this condition there would be an outcry, and possibly even a strike. This is the condition that foster parents currently live under every day of their lives. This law, going into effect at this time, would increase this NEGATIVE condition for foster families EXPONENTIALLY.
As other commentors have suggested, I too believe we will lose many good foster parents if this law is passed. The reason is because, normal family conditions, normal parenting moments, a normal day in the life of a foster parents, is already too often mis-judged and subjectively and unfairly viewed in a negative light. Far too often, new workers, tired and burned out workers, workers who have had a bad day, workers suffering from secondary ptsd, inexperienced workers (many of whom have never experienced parenting first hand) - workers who possibly have a negative bias toward the family they are working with - these workers, who don't have specific enough perimeters to be held accountable for their judgements (scales and thermometers) - could be making life-changing decisions based on unfair, subjective impressions that are taken completely out of context. When a visit is scheduled and planned - foster parents have the opportunity to present themselves to social workers confidently and appropriately, which does balance the "imbalanced scales" at least some: the conditions any normal adult in any other situation would expect.
It is my goal to continue fostering a culture of safety and child-centeredness in the foster care community - which I am thankful to say is the current standard. It is also my goal to continue to sensitize the excellent workers and supervisors that are also committed to child welfare to pitfalls in the existing system that are unfortunate for everyone involved. If this law goes into effect, in the existing conditions of foster care, I believe it would be a chronic pit-fall for all parties involved - most especially the children we are all committed to, as it would most likely further de-stablize and traumatize them - within the current conditions.
One more note, if you will, the timing of this bill is completely inappropriate. Workers are currently stretched to max capacity of time and stress, due to budget constraints and cutbacks. Adding this to their already over-loaded schedules substantially increases worker stress - which will add to the pitfalls of this bill already described. Also, I belive the timing of this bill is inappropriate due to fiscal responsiblity. It is NOT the time to add expensive, controversial costs to foster care. INSTEAD: support foster families and children financially in real, meaningful, down to earth ways that promote stability, safety and respect in the culture of foster care. Thank you.
Connie Kerbs, Foster/Adopt Parent; Recruitment & Retentiontion Specialist; FPAWS Board of Directors, Tender Pines Ranch;