When you get your foster parent training, typically they tell you to keep record of everything important that happens in the home. But what does this mean? What’s “important” enough to record? A lot happens in the foster home, particularly when children first arrive. It would be easy to spend every evening doing nothing but documenting what happened throughout the day, especially if you have more than one foster child. But, if you don’t have that kind of time, you might want to learn a little bit more about what needs to be documented and what could probably just reside in your memory bank.
First of all, it’s important that you know that your memory isn’t that great. Though most of us believe that we can remember the course of events, especially important events precisely, the reality is, most of us insert all kinds of details that never happened into our memories in order to fulfill emotional needs. This is a disturbing fact of reality for many people, but don’t think that you’ll remember things the way they were because you have a good memory. Write stuff down, if it seems important to you. Document information in at least three different notebooks for the following:
• Daily events
• Significant events or observations
• Notes about court, the caseworker, or other team members
You’ll want to keep three different notebooks because if you ever need to submit your diaries into court, you may or may not want to submit a diary containing information about daily events or foster parent team members if everyone is really only interested in the day that your foster child reported that she had been physically abused by birth parents. Daily events can help jog your member about what you did with your whole foster family and al of your foster children. Significant events can include entries that seems as though they might be relevant to your foster child’s reunification goals. Notes about the court, caseworkers, and other team members may help you work more effectively with the people who head up different departments at health and human services in your area.
You’ll want to keep a record of any sort of bruises or physical wounds on your foster child’s body and make note of how these things happened. Taking photos may or may not be necessary. Use your best judgment. If your child arrives at your home, removes his or her clothes and you discover some major bruises or wounds of some kind, notify the caseworker (who may or may not know about them) right away and then write down that you notified the caseworker and what you saw.
By taking notes and keeping solid records, you are building a credible case for yourself if your foster home is ever assessed. Many foster homes that have been in operation for a long time do get “assessed” and end up under the magnifying glass because of something the foster child says or does. Documentation can help provide a safety net for your family if your home ever is assessed. Writing things down will help you keep your facts straight and your memory clear if you ever need to prove yourself in court, or provide relevant information about something pertinent that happened in your foster child’s case.