Vol. 13, No. 2 • May 2009

A Foster Parent Asks . . .
What should we do if we aren't treated respectfully?

If you have a question about foster care or adoption in North Carolina, please e-mail [email protected]. We’ll do our best to respond to your question either in a direct reply or in a future issue of this newsletter.

Question: My husband and I are foster parents supervised by a private agency. We have a good relationship with our private agency, but we have had several unfriendly interactions with the DSS that has custody of the child in our home. Most recently, the DSS social worker has said that we must be the ones to transport the child to the DSS agency for visits. The agency office is many miles away in another county and the visits conflict with our schedules. She said we had to do this “or else.” We love this child and want to keep providing care for her, but we do not like the way we are being treated. What advice do you have for us?

Unfortunately, when you are working with more than one agency, lapses in communication can occur. The good news is that there are steps that you can take to make sure that you understand exactly what is expected of you and how the custodial agency (county DSS) works before a child is placed in your home. I will get to those steps in a second.

For now, please contact your licensing social worker to discuss these issues. Let them know the difficulties you are having with the placing agency and their expectations of you. Many agencies have transportation workers that can assist, especially with intercounty transportation. If you would be willing to provide transportation if the visits are scheduled more conveniently, let the workers know that you are willing to cooperate. Remember, every agency has its own set of standards and expectations. The placing agency may have different expectations of their foster parents than your supervising agency. You may need to schedule a meeting with your licensing social worker and the child’s social worker to obtain clarification of the expectations with this particular child.

Here are a few suggestions that may help you avoid difficult situations in the future:

  • Have a list of questions ready (and by your phone) when a social worker calls you with a potential placement. The questions can be as simple as the child’s age and grade at school or as detailed as the anticipated number of birth family visits and who is responsible for transportation. You may find that after each placement your list of questions will change and may become even more detailed.
  • Know the expectations of your supervising agency. The more you know about your agency’s expectations, the easier it will be to understand what other agencies may require. For example, find out what happens when your agency places a child across county lines. Who provides transportation to visits? Where is the child expected to get medical care?
  • Communicate with your supervising social worker. When you are not in the middle of a crisis with a child or having difficulty with another agency, find out how your social worker would suggest that you handle these situations. Preparing before something happens can make new roadblocks less stressful.
  • Join your local foster/adoptive parent association or support group. Many times other foster/adoptive parents have had similar experiences and can share with you how they overcame them.

Response by Kristin Stout, Outreach Coordinator, NC Kids Adoption & Foster Care Network.

Copyright 2009 Jordan Institute for Families