2.2 Working with Prospective Foster/Adoptive Parents
The way the Children’s Service Worker responds to individuals who inquire about becoming foster parents or adoptive parents is critical to the process of developing and supporting foster parents and adoptive parents as essential resources. It can set the tone, both attitudinally and behaviorally, for future contacts.
Many prospective foster parents and adoptive parents have given considerable thought to making this first call. Typically, it is not a spontaneous decision precipitated by viewing a recruitment poster or reading a newspaper story. Research indicates that individuals interested in fostering have thought about it for months and, sometimes, years. Individuals calling about adoption may have spent years of emotional and financial investment dealing with infertility issues.
The Children’s Service Worker who accepts the inquiry from a prospective foster family or adoptive family should do the following:
- Introduce self by name and title;
- Respond to the caller’s stated interest;
- Educate the caller about the program;
- Use the inquiry worksheet to give and get information;
- Assess the caller’s knowledge of fostering and adopting to determine the information they and the Division need at this point in the licensing/certification process;
- Give information about the fostering or adoption program, addressing the questions/concerns raised by the caller including:
- Goals and challenges of the family foster care and adoption programs;
- Importance of foster parents and adoptive parents;
- Description of children needing foster families and adoptive families;
- Specific requirements for fostering or adopting;
- Competencies for fostering or adopting;
- Importance of participating in the resource family’s development process; and
- Steps in the licensing/certification process.
- Conclude inquiry call, clarifying next steps;
- Mail to caller a Foster/Adopt Home Assessment Application, CS-42; and
- Schedule an at-home consultation meeting within ten days of the inquiry.
NOTE: Indicate a follow-up contact with callers who choose not to receive an information packet or schedule an at-home family consultation meeting at this time, but who appear to have the ability to foster or adopt.
2.2.1 At-Home Consultation Meeting
The first at-home family consultation meeting is an extension of the first telephone inquiry response. During this meeting the Children’s Service Worker continues to provide the family with more specific information about what is involved in the job of being a foster parent or adoptive parent, the process by which the Division carries out the mutual assessment, and selection outcomes. The worker also begins more in-depth discussion with the family about their expectations and motivation for considering this job at this time. During this interview the worker may identify, through conversations or review of the application, issues that may raise preliminary questions about the family’s willingness or ability to become foster parents or adoptive parents. Depending on the nature of these issues, the worker may need to explore these issues with the family during this meeting. During this meeting the worker must explain the licensing requirements including the house assessment, the Foster Family Profile, CD-56, the Family Care Safety Registry, Fingerprinting, the child abuse/neglect screens, and criminal background checks with the family, and explain which are non-negotiable and which are subject to more subjective assessment criteria. During this first in-home meeting the worker will present the Safe Sleep Practice, CD-117, Discipline Agreement, CD-119, and Resource Acknowledgement of Home Assessment & Case File Information Access, CD-128 and Notification of Hazards, CD-101, if applicable. The content is reviewed, agreed to and signed indicating agreement by the resource parent(s). In addition, the worker will discuss the dangers of co-sleeping with an infant and direct the resource provider to information presented in the PowerPoint, SIDS and Safe Sleep, located on the State Technical Assistance Team Web site. http://www.dss.mo.gov/stat/statpres/prevention.htm.
At the end of this meeting, the family and Children’s Service Worker should both have additional information that will allow them to make a mutual decision about the next steps in the process.
During the at-home consultation meeting the Children’s Service Worker must do the following:
- Introduce self;
- Explain the purpose of the at-home consultation meeting;
- Ask family about impressions so far and answer any questions; and
- Explain the mutual assessment process.
- Initiate necessary paperwork for the background checks, including child abuse/neglect, Family Care Safety Registry, Fingerprinting, sexual offender registry, and CaseNet. Explain that a CA/N check will be conducted in every state which each household member 17 and older has resided during the past five (5) years, per Adam Walsh Protection and Safety Act.
- Provide the applicant with the Foster Family Profile cover letter, CD-55, and Foster Family Profile, CD-56, for completion. Inform the applicant that the Foster Family Profile should be returned to the local licensing worker within 10 business days.
- Present the Safe Sleep Practices form, CD-117; Review the information on the form and explain that the applicant(s) must agree to adhere to the practices and sign the form.
- Present a copy of the Foster Parents Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, RSMo Section 210.566
- Present a copy of the Resource Parent Acknowledgement and Assurances, CD-108; Provide the five documents referenced, review the information on the form and obtain signature(s).
- Present the Resource Parent Discipline Agreement, CD-119; Review the information and explain that applicant(s) must agree to adhere to the agreement and sign the form.
- Present the two Health Information Portability and Accountability Act, HIPAA, documents, MO866-4061 and Resource Provider Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Information, CD-194, and obtain signature on the CD-194.
The Children’s Service Worker should explain the potential outcomes of the mutual assessment process, which are:
- The Division and the family make a mutual decision to select the family into the program;
- The Division and the family make a mutual decision to select the family out of the program;
- The Division may feel that the family has the skills to become a foster parent or adoptive parent, but the family is not willing or does not feel it has the skills to take on the job and the family makes a decision to select-out of the program; or
- The family is willing to become a foster parent or adoptive parent and feels they have the ability to take on the job, but the Division disagrees and does not invite the family to select-in to the program.
The Children’s Service Worker should explain that the focus of the training is to help the participants understand the skills involved in being a foster or adoptive parent. Only when the family understands what skills are needed will they have the information necessary to make an informed decision about whether they are willing or able to do the job:
- Explain the role and focus of the consultation meetings in the mutual assessment process, which are as follows:
- Clarifying the family’s changing understanding of what the job of being a foster parent or adoptive parent entails as they learn more about the role in the pre-service training;
- “Checking in” with the family to determine if they are still willing to take on the job as they expand their understanding of its complexities; and
- Carrying out a dialogue with the family about their history, their current family system and networks, and how becoming a foster parent or adoptive parent will change the family system. This discussion will focus on understanding strengths and needs in regard to the family’s willingness and ability to be foster parents or adoptive parents.
- Introduce the idea of the five competencies necessary for foster and adoptive parenting which are:
- Protecting and nurturing;
- Meeting developmental needs and addressing developmental delays;
- Supporting relationships between children and their families;
- Connecting children to lifetime relationships; and
- Working as a member of a professional team.
- Inform the family about the non-negotiable licensing requirements.
- Provide the applicants with a copy of the Foster Parent Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.
- Review the paperwork (Foster/Adopt Home Assessment Application, Safe Sleep Practices, Discipline Agreement, and Foster Family Profile) the family has provided or assist the family in completing the paperwork.
- Explain to the family that the case file which is created in the licensing process and maintained for the duration of the family being licensed with the Division is an open record and available to the public upon a Sunshine Law request.
- Watch for responses to sensitive issues, i.e., motivation, expectations, etc.
- The Children’s Service Worker should inspect the house by walking from room to room to ensure compliance with “Physical Standards for a Foster Home.” Utilize the Resource Home and Safety Checklist, CS-45, to document any safety concerns with the household.
- Explain the requirements for CA/N and background checks.
- Explain the Reasonable and Prudent Parenting Standard which requires the resource family to provide the foster youth with opportunities to participate in activities that are age- and developmentally- appropriate.
- Determine the next steps.
2.2.2 Mutual Assessment Process
The Mutual Assessment Process includes the integrated functions of preparation and assessment and should lead to a final decision about the willingness and ability of the applicants for fostering and adopting. The process includes the applicant’s participation in nine pre-service training sessions, a series of meetings between the Children’s Service Worker and applicants, supplemental information obtained through meetings, the preparation program, references, and other licensing or approval checks.
The selection of prospective foster parents and adoptive parents has been based on the concepts of:
- Assessing strengths and needs;
- Selecting families in; and
- Mutual assessment.
Each prospective foster family or adoptive family should have been encouraged to participate in an open and honest assessment of their strengths in fostering or adopting, as well as their needs for support. Their strengths should be identified so they can be matched with the needs of a specific child to be placed. The needs should be identified so it can be determined if the Division can provide the supports required to meet those needs.
As a result of this process, the final decision should be made to reflect the family’s ability and willingness to foster or adopt. The decision should be based on whether the prospective foster parent or adoptive parent:
- Has the potential for meeting the needs of the children and their families served by the Division;
- Has the personal commitment necessary to provide the required continuity of care throughout the child’s need for family foster care or adoption;
- Has sufficient flexibility to meet the needs of particular children as these change in the course of the child’s development;
- Is able to identify with the Division’s foster care and adoption program goals, work within its policies, share responsibility with the agency, and benefit from assistance and training opportunities;
- Is able to accept and support the child’s relationship with parents and kin; and
- Is able to work within the limitations of the Division and its supports available for foster families and adoptive families.
- Demonstrates the ability to apply the Reasonable and Prudent Parenting Standards including providing normalcy for the foster youth, co-parenting with the foster youth’s parent(s) or guardian(s), mentoring and encouraging the foster youth’s participation in his/her case planning, and understanding the responsibility of decision making for the foster youth’s participation in age- and developmentally-appropriate activities
2.2.3 Family Assessment
The first meeting for the purpose of beginning the Family Assessment is scheduled between the third and fourth training sessions. Additional meetings needed to assess the family should be held between the fifth and sixth sessions and again after the ninth Family Resource Development training session.
The Family Assessment is completed utilizing the following tools:
- Loss History Worksheet;
- Pathways Through the Grieving Process; and
- History and Current Functioning of Prospective Family.
These tools will not be retained in the family’s case file. They are tools to utilize in completing the Assessment.
It is at the final at-home consultation that the family and the Children’s Service Worker conclude their mutual assessment leading to a decision. The family must decide if they wish to foster or adopt. The worker must decide if this family has the skills, willingness, and resources to foster or adopt available children. The preceding tasks have allowed the worker and families to accumulate assessment information that must now be organized and assimilated into a clear and defensible decision. The worker must complete all of the following steps either before or during the final at-home consultation visit.
The Children’s Service Worker must be sure that all required data has been collected before scheduling the final at-home consultation, including the following:
- Health/Psychological Reports;
- Fingerprinting report;
- CA/N check of every state each household member age 17 and older has resided during the past five (5) years;
- Documentation of CaseNet review;
- Sexual Offender Registry by address;
- Family Care Safety Registry report;
- Documentation that family has attended all training sessions;
- Trainer’s observations of the family; and
- Foster Family Profile, CD-56.
The Family Assessment is a composite of information collected through the collection of required data and interviewing the family members. Basically, the strengths and needs of the family are organized according to the five competency categories.
- Protecting and nurturing;
- Meeting developmental needs and addressing developmental delays;
- Supporting relationships between children and their birth families;
- Connecting children to safe, nurturing relationships intended to last a lifetime; and
- Working as a member of a professional team.
Each statement made in the Family Assessment must be stated in behavioral terms and referenced. In other words, the Children’s Service Worker must list where, when, or in what document he/she read, observed, or been told about the strength or need.
To prepare for writing the Family Assessment the Children’s Service Worker should review the following:
- Required forms listed above;
- Ecomap and genogram;
- Family Resource Development Connections (assignments completed between training sessions);
- Family Assessment Worksheet; and
Having reviewed the pertinent documents listed above the Children’s Service Worker can now make a final decision to:
- Invite the family to select-in to the foster care or adoption program;
- Invite the family to select-in with a plan, i.e., correction of physical/tangible deficiency, i.e., smoke detector, furniture, etc.;
- Counsel the family out of providing family foster care or adoptive care.
The family can decide to select-out and not participate as foster parents or adoptive parents.
Prepare Family Assessment.
More information regarding the Family Assessment is located in Section 6 Chapter 3, Resource Family Assessment and Licensing Process.
Discuss recommendations with supervisor. A supervisor must approve the final decision and recommendation. The Children’s Service Worker should meet with the supervisor to share any borderline decisions and all decisions to counsel a family out of the program.
Make phone call and send confirming letter to set up consultation.
Begin at-home consultation by establishing an agenda. The agenda will vary with each family, but should generally include:
- Discussion of the family’s final decision regarding participation in the foster care or adoption program;
- Discussion of the Division’s final decision;
- Negotiation of a mutual decision;
- Review of the Family Assessment Summary;
- Introduction of the Professional Family Development Plan, CD-100, for families invited to select-in the family foster care program (see 2.5.1 for more information on the Professional Family Development Plan);
- Explanation of the next steps if the family disagrees with the Division’s decision to counsel the family out of the program.
- Plan for the meeting to complete the Professional Family Development Plan, CD-100.Initiate a collaborative process for discussing the Family Assessment.
The Family Assessment is used as a tool to facilitate a process in which a mutual decision, not a compromise, is reached. The Children’s Service Worker presents the Assessment in order to work for agreement on areas in which the family is competent and areas that need support.
The Children’s Service Worker relates all comments, positive and negative, to the strengths and needs identified with each of the five competencies.
To create a collaborative environment the Children’s Service Worker should use interviewing and relationship techniques like:
- Making clear statements about strengths and needs documented in materials generated by the mutual assessment process or observed through previous meetings;
- Avoiding biased or inflammatory words, for example, “your answer was wrong” or “your discipline style is bad”;
- Reminding applicants of previous conversations where strengths and concerns were shared so that this final at-home consultation brings no surprises;
- Encouraging families to share their feelings and the results of their family discussion by using open ended questions and non-verbal displays of interest in what is being said;
- Communicating respect for the family, regardless of the decision made, by hearing their feelings and recognizing their interest and commitment; and
- Allowing an appropriate amount of anger from families disappointed with the final decision by not taking it personally or reacting unprofessionally.
Present the Final Agency Decision; and present placement recommendation to the families who have been invited to select-in.
The Children’s Service Worker and family should discuss the number, the age range, and the kinds of children they could most safely and successfully parent and the supports the Division would need to provide. This discussion should be based on the family’s strengths in the five competencies and supports they need from the Division.
Begin the process for assessing learning needs and building a professional family development plan with the family invited to select-in;
Schedule the consultation meeting to complete the family development plan and conclude consultation with next steps for foster families and adoptive families who have been selected-in.
At the end of the Mutual Assessment process (training and family assessment) the family and Children’s Service Worker will decide whether to select-in or select-out the foster parent or adoptive parent applicant.
When the Children’s Service Worker and family decide to select-in to the program, the worker should complete the following tasks:
- Notify family in person and in writing that they have been selected in; and
- Complete Vendor Licensure/Approval and Renewal screen in FACES.
When the Children’s Service Worker and/or family decide to select-out, the worker should complete the following tasks:
- Recommend license denial using Resource Home Adverse Action Report, CS-20, through supervisory lines to the Regional Director;
- Include a summary of the licensing rules on which the decision is based;
- When an adverse action is CA/N related, submit a copy of the form CA/N 4;
- Submit a copy of the Family Assessment to Regional Director; and
- If the decision to deny a license is supported by the Regional Director, notify the applicant in person and with the Notification of Resource Home Adverse Action, CS-20a, sent via registered mail.
Chapter Memoranda History: (prior to 01-31-07)
CD07-15, CD07-48, CD07-54, CD08-55, CD09-88, CD-105, CD09-110, CD12-84, CD12-85, CD14-09, CD15-75, CD16-65