Have you ever considered fostering a child in your home? I imagine it’s crossed plenty of people’s minds in Central Park before. So when Brady and Natalei, two local foster parents, reached out to see if they could share information about fostering kids on the Scoop I instantly loved the idea.
I bet we have plenty of wonderful families in Central Park that have enough love and enough abundance to provide a great home for a foster child in need.
So in this post our goal was to think of 10 common questions that someone considering taking in a foster child may ask…and then track down those answers for you!
To get this goal accomplished we met with foster parents Brady and Natalei as well as Cheryl Garcia, who is a Foster Care Licensing Specialist with Mount Saint Vincent (“MSV”).
Hopefully this post answers some of your initial questions and gets you one step closer to possibly taking a foster child into your home. If you do decide to move forward I’d love to hear about it and keep in touch on your progress.
At the end of the post we’ll provide you with some next steps and additional contact info if you’re ready to learn more!
Foster Care: 10 Common Questions Answered
1. What is Foster Care?
Let’s start basic and first just define “foster care”. Foster care is temporarily taking in a child that needs a safe, loving and nurturing environment. The child could range from an infant all the way up to the age of 18 years old. Foster parents provide 24 hour care for the child and this can last from an overnight stay, a few months or even a few years.
Kids are typically placed in foster care because they can’t stay in their own homes due to abuse, neglect or other safety concerns. The goal of foster care is to provide the child with a safe environment while their parents work on the issues that caused the problem in the first place. The hope is the parents will have time and space to address their issues then they’ll be able to reunite with their child whom you cared for in the meantime.
Foster care is managed at the County level, and most counties don’t have the resources to manage this all themselves so private institutions, such as Mount Saint Vincent, fill that gap and provide the services that are needed. When a potential foster parent gets approved to be a foster parent through MSV they are then eligible to receive foster kids through multiple counties, increasing their chance of finding the right fit for their family.
2. How are foster parents matched with a child?
This was one of my biggest questions personally and I think it would be for other people. If you’re considering fostering you clearly want to help others, but you also want to make sure that you take in a child that will be a good fit with your family’s situation.
The good news is the people at MSV understand this and they have a process in place to make sure they match you with potential foster children that will has the best chance possible to be a good fit. You can define your preferences for gender, age, health issues, medical needs, behavioral issues, and much more so that they only contact you with potential kids that fit what you described as a good fit. They’re a smaller organization (there are currently only 30 families in their program) so they really get to know you, your needs and do their best to find opportunities that work for you.
When they do have a potential match they contact you, go through the situation with you and then you decide if it’s a good fit or not. You can say yes or no and if you say no you will still be considered for future foster children. For example, in speaking to Brady and Natalei, the foster parents that met with me, they shared that in their 18 months as eligible foster parents they’ve received about 8 calls regarding potential matches and they were able to say yes to 2 of those opportunities.
3. How long do you typically have the foster child for?
As I mentioned before, foster kids sometimes only need to stay for a night, but other times the stay can last for months or even years.
It’s really hard to say how long you should expect to have a child because each situation is unique, but it sounds like having a child for a year to a year and half would not be uncommon.
4. Do you have any interaction with the child’s parents?
This was personally one of my main concerns when brainstorming for this post about what concerns foster parents may have. These children are by definition coming from a situation that is unsafe or unstable, so I imagine some foster parents are a little hesitant on being involved with the parents of the child.
The first thing to know is your identity as the foster parent is confidential and how much info or connection you have with the parents is up to you.
You get information on the parents’ situation at the time you are contacted regarding fostering a child. So you get information on the child but also the parents and the overall situation that has caused the need for the foster care situation.
Children are placed in foster care by courts and the courts will dictate a certain amount of supervised parental visits in designated locations. It sounds like the frequency of the visits varies by the age of the child and the specifics of the situation. It seems like about 2 per week would probably be a realistic estimate of these supervised visits, but like everything else related to this it will vary based on the situation.
As I discussed this parent interaction topic with the Brady, Natalei and the staff of Mount Saint Vincent it became clear that I’d need to shift my thinking on the situation. Coming into this I was thinking of this as helping the child in need. Now I’m seeing you’re definitely doing that but you’re also helping the whole family. They’re going through something difficult as a family and you can be a small part of helping them by caring for their child as they work through it. As Cheryl puts it, this really is a gift you’re giving to both the child and the parents. Will it always be a Disney ending where you’re friends with the parents and child at the end? No, I’m sure that’s not always the case and you don’t control that outcome. But if you can do your part and provide a great home for their child to give them the chance to take their life in a better direction then you’ve done your part!
If you’re still apprehensive about the interaction with the parents take a minute to read a little about Brady and Natalei’s story in this monthly newsletter they were just featured in. It shows how bonds can develop with the parents too and it has a great quote about the risk of heartache that this process involves (and why Natalei says it’s worth it!)
5. If the child is of school age, what school do they go to when you’re fostering them?
This is just one of those practical questions that pops into my mind as parent. The good news is the expectation is that the child would go to the local school that is most convenient for you and your current situation. It sounds like schools are used to this situation and are accommodating.
If a child was nearing the end of a school year, or if the child is not expected to stay in your home long, they may ask that you keep the child in their current school to maintain that stability. If that’s the case and you need assistance with commuting the county is often able to provide assistance.
6. What are the costs of fostering a child?
When you go through the application process to become a foster parent there are some initial costs such as background checks, CPR class and a First Aid class.
Once you are approved and a child is placed in your home you receive a monthly stipend that is approximately $40 per day. This money is to be used to cover the costs of having the child in your home. (food, diapers, clothes, you know…all the stuff) If you need assistance with food costs there is additional support and these children all receive Medicaid so their health care costs are not your responsibility.
7. What support do foster parents have when they have issues?
As I mentioned above, child care is run at the County level. So you will have a case worker assigned to help you by the county. When you go through a private agency, such as MSV, you will receive several additional people assigned to supporting you along the way.
Still a little nervous about things that could come up when fostering a child? The good news is a lot of people have gone before you and experienced similar things. MSV has monthly foster parent support groups, foster parent Facebook groups and 24/7 phone support. So you’re not on an island if things come up.
8. When does adoption become an option?
This question probably pops into every potential foster parent’s mind. Is this going to be an adoption situation? Depending on your situation you may be hoping for an adoption or you may be very much only wanting to foster children and not adopt. That’s totally up to you.
There is no expectation that you’ll adopt a child. That said, if you’re doing this in the hopes of finding a child to adopt someday there is a good chance this could work out for you. The statistics about how many children from foster care end up getting adopted very widely depending on the source, but the bottom line is plenty of children do end up being adopted through this system. As much as we hope that every parent is able to work through their issues and take back over the child raising duties, that’s just not always the case. Sometimes the best situation is the child finding a loving home and staying there rather than returning to their biological parents.
9. What are other ways to help if I want to be supportive but I’m not ready to foster a child?
You’re not ready to jump in now and foster a child but you want to support the cause. Mount Saint Vincent’s understands and could still use your help in the following ways:
Spread the word about their services. (How? Forward this post to friends, family, neighbors, groups you’re involved with, etc.)
Volunteer your time. Cheryl Garcia, their Foster Care Licensing Specialist, is happy to chat with you and find ways you can get involved. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (303) 458-7220.
Donate to Mount Saint Vincent. You can make a donation here. You can choose recurring or one time and you can specify that it’s specifically for the Foster Care service they provide.
Purchase gift cards for parents providing foster care. Families are always in need of Target gift cards for diapers, supplies etc. Or food delivery gift cards for an easy meal. Contact Cheryl Garcia (see contact info above) to coordinate providing this gift cards.
Purchase something off the Amazon Wish List. They always keep a running list of supplies that will be helpful to the families they serve. You can have any items shipped directly to:
Mount Saint Vincent
ATTN: Wish List
4159 Lowell Blvd
Denver, CO 80211
10. What are the next steps to learn more if I want to foster a child?
If you’ve read this far you qualify as being potentially interested in fostering a child!
If you’d like to learn more here are the next steps:
Attend an informational meeting at Mount Saint Vincent’s. They seem to have one every few weeks and right now they’re being conducted virtually. Here is the schedule of informational meetings.
Chat with parents that have fostered children before. Brady and Natalei, who I met with to discuss their fostering experience, are open to answering any questions. You can contact MSV to get in touch with them.
Speak with Cheryl Garcia, Foster Care Licensing Specialist with Mount Saint Vincent. She is happy to talk about your situation, answer your questions and help you figure out if you’re a good fit for their foster care services. She can be reached at email@example.com or (303) 458-7220.
Well that’s the scoop on foster care! Hopefully you found this information useful and we REALLY hope this sparks someone to take action and foster a child in their home. If you do please let me know, we’d love to hear about your experience.
Additional Resources related to Mount Saint Vincent: