When you’re just starting to learn how to become a foster parent, the many different people who are going to be on your foster care team may seem confusing. In California, the foster parent team consists of a different set of people doing different job descriptions from foster care workers in other states. Many of the jobs that people do are similar from state to state but may have different titles or names given to them. Each state utilizes a different “model” for how to do foster care; how to work should be distributed, how the keep a system of checks and balances in place so that no one person is totally responsible for the outcome of children, and how to recruit, train, and maintain foster parents. If you’re trying to figure out how to become a foster parent or how foster parenting works, it’s helpful to understand who belongs to the team of people in your state and how your state model works for the children in foster care.
Agency social workers in California do foster home visits to check up on the foster parents and get a first hand experience of what it’s like to be in the foster home. These visits take place as often as possible when foster children are at home because then the agency worker also gets to actually see and interact with foster children. Most states try to have as many people on the foster care team interact with the foster child to maintain the checks and balances that keep the situation in balance. Foster home visits by agency social workers help to maintain the foster parents’ regulations and make sure that the home is a good environment for the kids in care. Information from the agency social worker’s visit is documented and can later be used in court if needed. Monthly visits by agency social workers give foster parents an opportunity to discuss issues and ask relevant questions that pertain to foster children.
Agency social workers are typically easier to reach than county social workers in the state of California. In other states, you may find that it’s easiest to reach caseworkers or social workers who work primarily with the foster family. Social workers and caseworkers who are concerned primarily with the foster child and the birth parents will often be overwrought with heavy workloads, appointments, and an impossible schedule. Understand, however that when you contact an agency social worker that you may be able to get the information that you need, but that agency social workers and county social workers may or may not be entirely collaborative. What you communicate to one team member may or may not make it to another one.
Agency social workers in California also facilitate visits with birth parents. In some states this job may be performed by a “family preservation worker” who does what’s necessary to set up regular meetings between foster children and birth parents, coming up with things to do at the meeting or outing, and where to go. Again, the agency social workers must document all of the activities that take place at meeting between foster children and birth parents.
As you’re figuring out the process of how to become a foster parent or how the foster care system works, it can be easy to get confused. Knowing just a bit about the role of each of the members or your team will help eliminate some of the confusion and help you find the information that you need when you need it.