Montessori Elementary Homeschool Blog - with documentation of our infant Montessori, toddler Montessori, and primary Montessori experiences; as well as preparation for the upcoming adolescent Montessori homeschool years.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Foster Friday - Pre-Licensing

Once a family has discerned a desire and readiness (is anyone ever really ready?) to become a foster family and serve children in need of care, the easy part is over!

The forms are pretty standard - background checks on everyone in the house (including minors), information on yourself, previous addresses, and the like.

Then a decently long (could have been longer) questionnaire on your own upbringining, relationships with family members, etc. It brought up a lot of thinking about a variety of situations in a short amount of time, that I have only have considered in isolation or very limited connection with others. But frankly? having children here with tons of emotional baggage is going to do that on a much more intense scale.

Fingerprinting was fast and easy - sign up for a time and location online, show up at the right time with your proof of identity, and they scan your finger prints on essentially, a scanner. It goes into the computer right away and I had an e-mail with my search results in less than 24 hours. No ink, Just a little dance ;) They need to roll your fingers to get the width of them... and sometimes this means playing the game of Twister! It was good exercise and a good laugh for the 11 year old (no, he did not get his fingerprints done - he just watched).

The references part was fun. Two of my chosen references wanted to talk with me, long and serious about the realities of foster parenting before they would agree to fill out the form. In the end, neither of them has talked to me, but they did fill out the form. These are two good friends who are also priest - one of whom I met before I knew I was pregnant with my son and the other I had met one year previous to that. We have been through some tough times together.

Another reference was more than happy to do so, but never sent in the form, so I needed to find a replacement.

Our state pays for all the necessary training and background checks. There is no cost at the outset for anything. Even the forms I filled out were in a postage-paid envelope. I do have cover my own transportation TO training of course.

Adult/Child CPR/1st Aid/AED is a required certification to be maintained. These days? Most of it can be done online, with only 2 hours done in person. In the old days (back when I had no gray hair - oh wait, I still don't! we'll see how long THAT lasts with more children at home!), a course that covered all of this was easily an 8 hour day.

But I tell you what! Doing it online is HARD! I couldn't figure out why this one scenario just wasn't working out no matter what I did. The person had cut their arm with a sharp knife while chopping lettuce. I gave all care and did everything "right" in that the person was fine when paramedics arrived - would totally survive with no lasting negative effects of my care. Hahahahahaha./ 9 times doing that scenario! She had dropped the sharp knife on the floor and I failed to pick it up or kick it out of the way, each and every time. I truly think I learned more doing it that way than in-person. In-person they would have reminded me about it and moved on. On the computer I actually had to DO it to pass. I will never forget the bloody knife!

Legoboy: He did part of the class over my shoulder; then I signed up for a cheap non-certified version he has been going through himself. There is no time limit for him, or a need to finish up before a certain time so we can get to the in-person portion of the class since he doesn't have an in-person portion; so he is going through every single scenario, trying out different things and seeing the results. Sometimes it has hilarious results, like when the lady with the cut arm says, "I told you this already, just HELP me!!!"

I wrote more about our CPR experience in this post.

Legoboy and I did this one together as well - it is entirely online and I feel it is VERY good information for an older elementary and an adolescent to be aware of. Just proper procedures for addressing blood around the home and workplace. He and I were able to discuss how we will address specific situations and we discussed the feasibility of my caring for a child who may need injections, what type of situations would require injections (diabetes for some children still requires injections, for example), how we will take care of syringes, keeping other children away from them, and the like. It prompted a good deal of research into how injections are done these days, how some treatments have become SO much easier than when I was a child...

which led to a rabbit trail into a variety of diseases and disorders. We just covered this lightly, and for now that is fine - a light overview of what a child may need when coming to our home, so he is not entirely shocked by something. No fool-proof method, but exposure helps!

RAPT training
This is one area I am a bit disappointed about in our state. We are only required to have 10 hours of pre-service training to be a foster parent (14 if doing foster-to-adopt).

RAPT I is introduction to Department of Child Services - 3 hours. In our area, there are very limited training sessions scheduled - given our location, few people would come anyway. I could have gone to one 45 minute drive (through windy, country roads), but it was over 6 weeks out. There was one upcoming the following Saturday morning, so I asked my specialist to register me for that one if it was still available. She got me in! I woke up EARLY on a Saturday morning, having already made arrangements for an instruction from Legoboy's taekwondo to pick him up to help with a belt test that morning (Legoboy himself wasn't testing), followed by a STORM team class (also taekwondo) and the taekwondo Christmas party, where I would meet up them in the afternoon.

Well, the day didn't exactly dawn. On a normal, clear day, the drive time is 2 1/4 hours. One way. The fog was DENSE. I was an hour and a half in, making good progress actually, as it was all on the expressway... when I got the call they were cancelling. Their area was getting "freezing fog" - which is only made more hilarious by the fact we haven't seen snow yet in our area this winter - just lots of rain. So, around I turned. And I went shopping instead. Might as well - nobody else was out! Which worked out well anyway, because I was getting necessary things to finish up some projects at home, some work orders, and got some good deals on winter clothing for Legoboy. I normally don't shop in stores during Advent, even minimizing grocery shopping; so it was great to access the sales in-person yet not have a crowded store.

The sun finally came out mid-afternoon - barely. It was dense fog until well past noon.

RAPT II is Child Abuse and Neglect, done entirely online at Foster Parent College. DCS provides a coupon code to pay for it, just as they did with the CPR and the BloodBorne Pathogens. I had Legoboy sit with me for as much as he could handle of it. The only images he couldn't look at were the ones of the baby's feet dipped into hot water - like wearing red stockings. It was very good for him to see all of that. Given the protocol training I have done for 4 different Catholic dioceses, it all made me sad, but it was nothing new.

RAPT III - 3 hours - Attachment, Discipline and Effects of Care Giving on the Family Overview --- was even trickier to find a location that would work. With the times and the scheduling needs, not wanting to leave Legoboy at home at night or for more than a short period of time, in the end, we are driving to the other end of our state. Which sounds crazy (almost a 3 hour drive!) but it works out well. His godmother lives there with her husband, toddler and baby-on-the-way. So we will go visit for the day, let her meet her husband after work for a short date; then she will be home in time for me to leave for training nearby to their home. Legoboy can get some time with his godmother and her husband - and more experience playing with a 1 year old ;)

This happens next Tuesday.

There is a RAPT IV required for those who want to do foster-to-adopt. I am open to the possibility, but since I am going into this as a foster parent only, I was told to wait I have my license in hand and use RAPT IV as part of my yearly ongoing training hours. If I take it now, the hours don't count anywhere; and taking it again won't count.

Home Study
The final pre-licensing step is the Home Study. This will come after RAPT III - typically 2-3 visits - then we wait for the caseworkers to have time to type things up. When they get that all typed up, it sent to the state's main office and I was told within 48 hours, they will call with the foster home licensing number. The physical license mailed after that; some families get their first children before they have the paper copy of their license - as long as the number is in the system!

My thoughts?
I would like to see more required hours in the pre-service phase. Let the people who really mean it, know what they are in for. For example, I would like to see something specifically on Reactive Attachment Disorder, because this can be helpful in aiding children with other Attachment Disorders as well, not just "reactive". But it also lets foster parents know what they are potentially in for - as well as what they might be setting the children up for if they send them away over minor incidents. Whatever we are going to cover in the 3 hour RAPT III on attachment won't get very deep! But I will update if it does ;)

I would also LOVE to see a portion of the training set aside specifically for one's local area. What are the typical patterns, the typical needs, who are the caseworkers (I know these change; but I did receive this list from the county where I did RAPT I - not so helpful here ;) ). What is the typical process going to be like when I get that call.

Our state does list a "Nuts and Bolts" course in the course catalog, but I never see it on the schedule - this one seems like it would cover a lot more of the nitty gritty. Stuff I would like to see beforehand:

This training takes a look at some of the immediate practical issues that every resource parent needs to know. By the end of the training participants will: understand the importance of Life books; be familiar with Medical Passports; know the policies regarding smoking; know the fundamentals of child seat safety and how to access further information; have a general understanding of the Child and Adolescent Strength and Needs Assessment; and know what the complaint resolution process for a resource parent is. 

Post-licensing, there are 15 hours required every year; some can be done online, some using books and videos provided on a long list (Legoboy and I have already been perusing it and building up our library with helpful resources), and 8 hours must be done in person. So I can get further training in whatever areas I want. I would just have liked to see some of it sooner is all.

Legoboy's Pre-Service Training: 
As noted in the post you are reading as well as this previous post about our pre-service adventures, Legoboy is making his own preparations.
  • Bloodborne Pathogens
  • Babysitting course (just the non-certified one for now)
  • Family First Aid and CPR - Adult and Pediatric (Online only)
In addition we have been exploring the following topics together or Legoboy on his own: 
  • RAPT II - Child Abuse & Neglect (noted above)
  • Exploration of typical needs issues - learning needs, health needs, behavior needs. 
  • Far too many minutes discussing lice, chemical versus natural treatments, what will happen if someone comes into our home with it. Via foster parent group on Facebook, we were prompted to look at essential oils - he and I are now adding (alternately) peppermint essential oil and tea tree essential oil to our shampoo which is a natural detterent. And he is looking to different types of combs and head/hair treatments. I told him my story of having lice in high school - I worked with children a LOT and I have long hair. I had lice *so bad* for 3 years, I have a couple of permanent scars. Everyone that tried to help me, gave me one and MAYBE two treatments with the shampoo, combed and combed and combed - and called it good. But it didn't clear it. One time after a shampoo treatment, my grandparents were combing my hair and onto the towel fell several live ones. We did *everything* we were supposed to do, except the "natural" stuff because that was totally poo-pooed in our area at the time. The only thing that stopped it? Combing my hair, myself, every single night, for months. I would either comb for an hour or until I had 5 clear comb strokes with no eggs, shells, or hatched ones. Physical removal. Kept it tightly braided during the day, with hair spray, to not give it to anyone else. Two months in? Totally clear and never had it again since. That sort of story gets the fire burning under Legoboy! 
  • Together we watched the movie ReMoved - found on YouTube. This led to some really good, intense discussions. The one that stands out for him is when one foster family placed the girl in the shower with all of her clothes on, as punishment for dropping their record player off the balcony. For the record, she had been scolded for picking fruit from a tree in their yard - I have to admit, I was cheering on the dropping of the record player. What stood out most for me was the dress she was given by the next foster mom - she flipped out, said she hated it, etc. (it reminded her of her birthfamily and the abuse that happened there). Later, she put the dress on and ran out to show the foster mom, only to find the foster mom on the phone presumably asking if the girl could be taken somewhere else. Turns out that is NOT what the mom was doing, but you'll have to watch to found out! Grab a box of tissues - and don't let your young children watch. I would question upper elementary watching as well, if they have been well-sheltered - in my son's case, he needs the exposure for what is coming into our home. There are no sexual references, I don't recall any language issues. It was just emotionally intense, there is implied violence between the parents, the shower scene, the outbursts of "I hate you" a lot. Tissues on hand! 
  • He read through the book Garbage Bag Kids - about one family's experiences as a foster family. 
  • Legoboy inadvertently had an overview of the book A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer. I read it many years ago, along with The Lost Boy (its sequel). I need to re-read them before handing them over to Legoboy. And it may be that I screen some portions. On Amazon I got a copy that has these two stories and A Man Called Dave which I have not yet read myself. Since he had that overview, I also shared with him key points from the story from Dave's brother, the one who took his place in the family home as the abused and tormented (Richard Pelzer A Brother's Journey). Two faces on a prism that represents the entire story. Some of those faces we will never know. Just like with our foster children, there are some puzzle pieces we will never have, and how are we going to address this, not knowing what all the child has gone through, when they react vehemently from my serving pizza for dinner (just one example that can set a child off - innocently). 

In addition, we have been preparing our home. Next month's topic is on our physical preparations within our home, our finances, our schedule, and consideration of transportiation.

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