Vol. 19, No. 2 • May 2015

A reader asks . . .
Will I get more support if I transfer?

My spouse and I are not getting the support we need from our licensing agency, so we are thinking of switching agencies. What advice do you have for us?

Informal and formal support for foster and adoptive parents is an absolute necessity in order to be successful meeting the needs of children and families. However, before you make the drastic decision to switch agencies, here are some things you can do to improve your relationship with your current agency and social worker.

1) Determine the exact nature of the problem and communicate your needs.
Often, issues can be addressed by first identifying what you need from your agency and then articulating those needs. Many times it is natural to attribute "intent" to your worker's action (or lack of action) before you know their side of the situation.

For example, if your calls have not been returned, you may jump to the conclusion that the worker no longer cares about your family. In reality, it is possible that circumstances beyond her control prevented her from responding to you.

As you learned in MAPP, "we all have strengths and needs." This includes your social worker. Sometimes, by simply communicating clearly about those strengths and needs we see in ourselves and in others, we can resolve the issue at hand.

2) Use the chain of command.
Customer service is important to all agencies. Agency leadership wants to know what your experience is (good and bad) and your ideas for making their services better.

When faced with an issue you cannot resolve directly with your social worker, take the issue to the worker's immediate supervisor. If necessary, take the matter up with that person's supervisor, and so on. Hopefully, in the end, the issue can be resolved.

3) Make use of your agency's, community's, and North Carolina's resources.
If you are not receiving the support you desire from your social worker, are there other options at your agency or in your community to receive the support you need? Seek out foster parent associations and support groups in your area or the surrounding community. Start a foster parent association at your agency if they do not have one. If you are not receiving enough support from your social worker, speak to your licensing or training social worker about ways they can support you.

On a state level, NC Kids helps the NC Division of Social Services identify and (if possible) resolve obstacles parents face. Should you encounter an obstacle to fostering or adopting, please contact NC Kids toll-free at 877-625-4371. In cases where you would like the State's opinion and/or intervention, call their toll-free customer service line at 800-662-7030.

4) Weigh your decision to switch agencies carefully.
Research the new agency you are considering. The agency may require you to go through many steps you have already completed for your current agency, such as attending its 30-hour pre-service training program. You may feel like you are starting over.

Know too that your current agency and new agency will also share information. If you have not attempted to resolve your issues with your current agency, your new agency may not be open to working with you until you at least try.

Most importantly, consider the needs and well-being of any children placed in your home. Consider how the transition to a new agency may affect them and have a discussion with the agency that has custody of the children about any possible effects on the children before moving forward with switching agencies.

The one thing to keep in mind if you feel you are not being supported by your social worker or agency is that to meet the needs of children, foster parents and agencies must work in partnership. Working together as partners first and foremost involves communication.

If after communicating with your social worker and agency you decide it is in everyone's best interest for you to switch to a new agency, keep those lines of communication open with both your current and new agency. This will help to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Response by the NC Division of Social Services. If you have a question about foster care or adoption in North Carolina you'd like answered in "A Reader Asks," send it to us using the contact information found here.

~ Family and Children's Resource Program, UNC-CH School of Social Work ~