If you live in Kokomo, Indiana, chances are you foster either through the Howard County Department of Child Services (DCS), or through the Villages of Indiana. Regardless of who you foster through, there are several things you need to know as a first time foster parent that may not be covered in your foster parent training classes.
Most children will come with very little clothing. Sometimes you will receive a clothing voucher, but it’s not guaranteed. If given a voucher you will need to take it to the store’s customer service counter to redeem. There is no sales tax on clothing vouchers.
Car seats and booster seats are typically not provided by the agency. You are responsible for making sure you have one for each foster child in your care. Since you purchase them they do not go with the foster children when they leave your home.
Many of the foster children come with lice. Make sure you check them over carefully as soon as they are in your home. Don’t assume that the foster care agency has checked them. It’s good to keep lice supplies on hand for emergency placements.
You are usually required to provide extra clothing, diapers, bottles, and snacks for the first few family visits. Your caseworker will inform you when the birth parents are to begin to provide these items. The agency may not have extra diapers and wipes on hand in case of an emergency.
When dropping your foster children off for their visit, you should wait in your car until the visit is scheduled to start. The birth parents have a 15 minute grace period to show up before the visit will be cancelled. If you have several children with you, you can call into the office and ask that the visit supervisor come outside to help you get them safely inside.
Although the visits are scheduled to end at specific times, be prepared to wait an additional 10 minutes after that time. Many birth parents and their children have trouble ending their visits and will stall as much as possible.
Document everything. Keep a small notebook with you and write down whenever your foster child gets hurt, makes a statement about his past, or when the birth parents make comments to you in passing. Write down information on how the foster child acts before and after visits with the birth parents. This is for your own protection down the road.
You will be required to take each new foster placement to the doctor and dentist as soon as possible. Make sure the doctor you choose accepts Medicaid. If you fill out forms at the doctor’s office, make sure you always sign the forms with your name followed by “for Howard County DCS,” otherwise you will be held liable for all unpaid medical expenses.
You are not required to attend court hearing for your foster child, but you are allowed to go if you want. The benefit of attending is so you will know first hand what is going on with the case. You will know what the birth parents have to work on to get the children back, and also how they have done to that point on their goals. Court for Howard County children is always held on the third floor of the courthouse.
Just because you are a Howard County foster parent, does not mean that you will only receive foster children from Howard County. If you have children from other counties, you will be responsible for transporting them to their county for family visits.