Information for families interested in foster care and adoption in Northern Kentucky.
Do you possess the qualities needed?
- Motivation to help children
- Love for children
- Positive attitude
- Flexibility and patience
- Work as a team member
- Good problem-solving skills
- Realistic expectations
- Provide a nurturing and structural environment
What are the requirements?
- Kentucky resident
- Between 21-65 years old
- Married or single; Must be married for at least two years
- Be in good physical and mental health
- No serious criminal convictions
- Own or rent a home that provides a safe physical environment
What barriers might be stopping you from fostering/adoption?
- My partner and I both work fulltime. We have many foster parents who work full time. That doesn’t stop a family from having children in the home. It may require a good support system and flexible and understanding employers though. Children still need supervision, enjoy sports and other extracurricular activities. They need medical care and many of the youth in foster care benefit from therapy, so availability of a parent is essential for all these reasons.
- I cannot afford another child in my home. There is adequate financial reimbursement given to foster parents to cover the costs of caring for each child. Medical insurance is also paid for by the State. Money should not be barrier to opening your home to a child in need.
- I would get too emotionally connected. Yes, but emotional connectedness is what all children need. They need to feel unconditionally loved at all times. Many of our youth, have been neglected, abused and not made to feel loved, because of all sorts of reasons. For foster parents to do a good job, they must allow themselves to love and be connected. Yes, when foster parents say good bye after a month, year or two years, it can be hard, painful and sad. As an agency we want to support you when you grieve this loss. Most foster parents recognize the special call they have and after a time, are ready to start over again with another child, but for some, helping one child is all they feel they can do. We want and need foster parents for however long or as many times they can foster. A word of wisdom by Alfred Lloyd Tennyson, “tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.” We think that is a good motto for foster parents to live by and most do celebrate the special memories of each and every child they learned and allowed themselves to love. Sometimes that relationship does not end but it changes and foster parents can still be in the child’s life as a friend and mentor. For children entering foster care, the initial goal is to reunite them with their birth families. During the fostering time period, it is important to keep in mind that your role is to provide a safe and loving environment until another permanent living arrangement is made.
- I have heard the application process is exhausting. It is an extensive process to become a foster parent including a decent amount of paperwork. This process is not meant to be intentionally difficult for a parent but this is a process to ensure the best possible safety and well-being for every child entrusted to us. The goal of foster care is to make this a healing and helpful experience for the child while their family is in distress. The training and application process is essential in helping this be successful for the foster family, as well as the child. We often ask a potential foster parent, what would you want us to do in preparing and placing a child that you know and love into a temporary family? Most people come to really understand then, why there is training and home study procedures.
- I am worried I will not be accepted by the child. Children want to love and be loved, very few would reject a new family or have preconceived ideas of what they want in a new family. Most have had negative experiences with adults, and they just desire to be accepted for who they are, be safe and be heard. It is important to use positive reinforcement as discipline techniques, and even more important to be honest, consistent and trustworthy in your words and actions as you show unconditional love to them. They will likely respond in kind.
- I am worried about the high level of scrutiny from DCCH services. Foster and adoptive families come in all sizes and backgrounds. We have all different kinds of children who need families, so diversity is good. The level of scrutiny, is often self-imposed. Please relax, and don’t worry. Most any home situations that would not meet our requirements are easy fixes, such as making sure certain things are locked and out of reach of children, such as harsh chemicals, sharp knives and firearms. Other requirements might be things we need for you to have available, such as working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, fire-extinguisher. We are not visiting your home to perform a white glove test.
- I am worried the birth parents will try to contact me. Birth parents are not given any of your personal information by the agency staff. We have had little to no issues with birth parents learning of a foster family’s address or phone number. We encourage meetings between families with agency staff present, to develop a working relationship, especially if visits for the child are expected or preferred. Sometimes based on the factors of why a child came into foster care, more safety precautions would be taken to ensure the safety of all parties.
- I am fearful of not being approved to be a foster parent. The process created is only to keep the children safe. We are searching for people who can supply a welcoming, safe and nurturing environment for the children to feel secure during their time in foster care. We need families to provide foster and adoptive resources for children, so we want to do all we can to help create and work with anyone interested if providing these services.
- Do I have to be Catholic to be foster parent with DCCH? No, we welcome anyone of any faith or background to be considered as foster parents with DCCH.
These are ALL valid concerns. These thoughts make you human. Fostering and adopting children can be incredibly challenging, and we are not here to tell you differently. On the other hand, it can also be incredibly rewarding and life changing! We want to provide you with as much support as possible by bringing awareness to barriers and challenges other foster parents have faced.
How do I become a foster parent?
- Meet state of Kentucky requirements
- Inquire about more information online or by calling 859-331-2040 extension 8641 (Ron) or 8642 (Sarah).
- Attend orientation meeting
- Complete application
- Fulfill training requirements
- Complete family/home study
- Acceptance into program as a foster parent
What is the average length of stay for a child in foster care?
A child’s average length of stay in foster care generally depends on each individual case. Sometimes a child is in foster care for just a matter of days or weeks if another relative is found to be a suitable caregiver. An average of six months is likely when a child can be safely reunited with a birth parent. If the birth parent is unable or unsuccessful in meeting the goals of a treatment plan, and no other relative can be identified or approved, then an average length of stay might be up to two years while the termination of parental rights is sought and a child can be adopted by foster parents or moved to an adoptive family.
What is foster-to-adopt?
Foster-to-adopt is foster families begining the process of adopting children placed in their care after parental rights have been terminated. One of the greatest rewards for DCCH is finding “Forever Families” for foster children. First priority is given to foster families interested in adopting a child placed in their care.
Foster parents receive financial reimbursement and medical coverage from the State of Kentucky to assist with the cost of children in care. Even after children are adopted, many children will qualify for on-going assistance.
What is the typical mood of children entering foster care?
Children in foster care often want the problems in their families to be resolved so they can return to the people they love. Abused and neglected children are not always happy or grateful to be placed in a safe home with strangers. The new house may be bigger, cleaner, nicer and offer more luxuries than the child could ever imagine. However, the grief and pain of the separation from the child’s family overshadows these positives.
Why do children enter foster care?
Children enter foster care because of substantiated abuse or neglect or the risk of such that cannot be ignored. Physical, sexual, emotional abuse and neglect that rises to the level of very serious harm or imminent death, in the eyes of a judge, will gain an emergency custody order or a finding of abuse, neglect or dependency from the court. Once this commitment to the state of Kentucky is given, children begin their journey in the foster care system.
Issues of family poverty and lack of resources, education, steady job opportunities sometimes lead to a family crisis that can contribute to the abuse and neglect of children. Special needs due to the physical health or mental health on the part of the parent or child could be other factors leading to neglect, abuse or child dependency. The intellectual limitations of a parent, and/or unrealistic expectations the parent has for the child, can also lead to neglect scenarios or opportunities for the children to be victimized by other perpetrators. Sexual abuse or incest by the part of a parent, relative or family friend is another reason children may be placed in foster care. Other relatives may be explored as caregivers while children are in foster care.
Issues of criminal intent and/or drug and alcohol addictions can and do lead to more serious forms of child abuse and neglect. Even in cases involving criminal and drug abuse when children might be relieved to escape scary episodes in their homes, they still love their family. They just want a clean and sober parent. Stories of family healing and reunification from this type of despair and chaos are absolutely heartwarming. We believe everyone deserves a chance to rehabilitate. Social workers, therapists and foster parents must do all they can to try to make that happen.
What are some expectations of foster parents when working with birth families?
Foster parents are expected to work in partnership with birth parents and DCCH when the goal is reunification. The level of interaction with birth parents depends largely on the foster parents’ comfort levels with the situation. Limits may be enforced if birth parents are not cooperative or if there is any risk of danger to the child or foster parents.
Visits between foster children and their birth parents are generally preferred to be held at the birth parent’s home, a public place or social services offices. Foster parents will be expected to help with the transportation of the child during visits. DCCH will not ask foster families to host a visit at their home, but sometimes foster parents have been inclined to offer this after they become comfortable with the birth parent.
Identity of and privacy for foster parents are safeguarded by DCCH, however, foster families should recognize that the children may share certain details while on a visit or phone call. Foster parents will not be asked to interact or communicate with a birth family in a setting in which they are uncomfortable. However, many foster parents are open and willing to share with their contact information with birth families to help the child stay connected with family members.
Are there other foster parent expectations?
Foster parents are expected to provide safe, nurturing and welcoming homes to children in their care. Foster parents are also instrumental in helping assess the foster child’s strengths and needs. DCCH asks foster homes to help keep records of the child’s progress and important information such as their treatment status, school, medical, dental, and therapeutic needs. A handbook of rules and regulations is provided to all foster parents to help guide their work with the child and DCCH. Some of these guidelines may require a more structured set-up in the home and safeguards for foster children, such as locking and securing alcohol, medicines and hazardous cleaning supplies.
Foster parents are also expected to have open and direct communication with the case manager and other team members, allowing the social worker into their home for visits to talk and see the child. Foster parents also must have an overall understanding that serving as a foster parent requires opening their lives, including sharing personal details of their life and schedules.
We desire for foster parents to encourage children to become involved in school activities, and pursue extracurricular activities when appropriate. They should be sensitive to children’s cultural needs, including spiritual development and allow them the opportunity to continue with their faith practices or expose them to those of the foster family, if the child doesn’t have a preference.
How are foster parents supported in their role?
DCCH offers numerous supports to help the foster family be successful with the child placed in their care:
- A bachelor’s level case manager is assigned to each family and child. The case manager will communicate weekly with the family to guide and support them and also serves as a liaison with the state social worker, therapist, birth family and any other agency team member involved.
- The director of the program is available as back-up support for the foster family anytime the case manager might be out of the office.
- The program offers 24/7 emergency cell phone coverage to also assist after hours or weekends.
- The agency hosts a monthly support group, where families are encouraged to attend, meet and socialize with other agency foster families. A meal is served and child care provided when the adults are invited to attend a one hour educational discussion, counted toward ongoing training requirement.
- The program offers respite care for every foster child. Respite offers foster parents short term relief or childcare for their foster child.
- An annual spring appreciation dinner, summer cookout, fall gathering and a Christmas dinner with gifts are scheduled each year as special quarterly events.
- The TFC mentoring program matches experienced DCCH foster/adoptive parents with new DCCH foster/adopt parents to provide support and encouragement in addition to their DCCH case manager.
- DCCH provides on-site mental health therapy for the foster child, siblings and family when recommended.
- DCCH also has a child psychologist and a child psychiatrist to see the children, and to consult with the team and foster family about any issues involving the child and family.