What are the different foster care environments your child could be placed into?

If you are a Texas resident you are likely aware that our state’s foster care system has not been receiving the best of headlines recently. It seems that foster families and foster homes that our state has been placing children into have struggled to provide the care that they are supposed to. Children are actually running the risk of being harmed within these settings and it is becoming a major issue around Texas.

As a parent who is involved in a Child Protective Services (CPS) case, you are probably concerned about the environment that your child will be placed into if a removal Is deemed necessary. In yesterday’s blog post we discussed what foster care is and today we will open up with a refresher on that subject. Next, details will be shared about what sort of environment your child may be exposed to if foster care is determined to be in their best interests.

What exactly is foster care?

Foster care is a term that we hear somewhat frequently in television, movies and the news but you may not know exactly what it is. Foster care is a term that is used to refer to a situation when the state of Texas takes temporary custody of your child and places him or her in the care of another person or family. A foster parent must be approved by the State of Texas to care for children after having through home inspection and criminal background checks of their own.

Children are placed into foster care when it is determined that there is no suitable alternative available. If you, for instance, are asked by CPS to provide the names and contact information for people in your life who may be able to step into a role as a caretaker but fail to do so then CPS will likely place the child into a home or facility of their choosing. An adult to whom you have no relationship with, and may never have knowledge of, will be caring for your child in that case.

What are the different sorts of foster care available?

A foster home is a home with one or two parents. These folks are paid by the State of Texas to provide care for children whose parents are the subjects of CPS cases. Any foster home or agency that runs foster homes are approved by the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). This is the state agency that oversees CPS. DFPS provides specialized training for all parents involved in fostering children.

Foster families are put into a position where they are able to choose which children they wish to foster. Some foster families prefer to take on one child at a time while others will take on multiple children- sometimes from different families. You will also find that certain foster families take on raising only infants or toddlers, while others are willing to raise children of a variety of ages.

If your child is living within a foster family, then he or she will likely attend the school in the neighborhood where the foster family resides. You could ask CPS to see if the foster family could provide transportation for your child to attend another school but the chances of this are quite low.

Next, a shelter may be utilized in order to care for children on a short-term basis for up to thirty days. Under emergency circumstances shelters are often utilized when space is not available at other facilities for housing. Once a more permanent home can be located for your child then those arrangements can and will be made.

Sometimes a foster home is not the right environment for your child. If she or he has particular behavioral or emotional issues that need more constant monitoring or guidance, then a group home setting may be deemed more appropriate. A group home can have up to five, six or even more children living together. These group homes are typically single-family ones where your child would attend the local school.

Residential Treatment Centers (RTC) are bigger than a group home and will take care of your child if their behavioral, medical or emotional needs cannot be met even in a group home setting. Counseling and psychiatric care is available in these settings where your child can work out whatever problems he or she has with a person who is trained in the areas of counseling and therapy.

Finally, kinship placement would be the most preferable option for you to be able to utilize when it comes to locating housing for your child while you are working to better yourself and your home for the possible reunification with your child. Kinship placement includes family members and close friends who would agree to have your child reside with them for a certain period of time.

It is possible that you could volunteer to have your child reside with a family member or friend as part of an agreed to safety plan that you have created with your CPS caseworker. Your child can also be placed into a setting like this even if CPS involuntarily removes your child from your home. Again, although this is the preferred placement for you and CPS alike, if there is nobody suitable in your support system who can take on this role then another foster option will be taken by CPS.

Foster care is not a long term solution

It is the intent of CPS to place your child into foster care for the shortest time possible. If you can convince CPS and the court that your home is suitable to raise your child after making whatever changes CPS has asked for then your child will be returned to you at that time. If not, a more permanent living arrangement will be found for your child until he or she turns 18. It is possible that your child could remain in foster care until age 18 but this is not common, fortunately.

Nobody involved with this process believes foster care is the best outcome for a child. One of the problems associated with foster care is that unfortunately if your child gets involved in living with foster families he or she may be moved around quite a bit as the needs of the foster family change. Switching schools, having to adjust to new living arrangements and making friends are some of the challenges associated with this reality.

CPS will work with you and your child to ensure that they are provided the best living arrangements possible considering the circumstances. The reality of the situation is that there are not enough foster homes for all of the children in our state that need a safe place to live. This should be the largest motivating factor in your life as far as finding relatives or friends who can fulfill this role for your children during the CPS case.

One of the things that you may struggle with during your own CPS case is the fact that you may never feel completely sure that your child is safe while in foster care. There is no way to be 100% certain that their living environment is conducive to their being able to thrive as a young person. CPS does some basic due diligence in arriving at decisions regarding which families are and which are not suitable foster families. However, they are not perfect and undoubtedly there are some foster families who struggle to fulfill their obligation to provide a safe living environment for children.

Abuse and neglect has been known to occur in these foster residences. All you need to do to verify this statement is to perform a simple Google search on the subject. With that said, if your child raises the issues of abuse or neglect in their foster home, you must report this to CPS, your attorney, your child’s attorney and/or to the judge.

Will you be able to contact your child while he or she is in CPS custody?

CPS will arrange for you to be able to see your child within five days of their winning temporary custody over your child. However, if CPS determines that there is some factor present in your case that would result in your child being placed in harm’s way should you be granted a period of visitation then you will not be able to take advantage of this time. If, for example, it has been determined that you have abused or neglected your child in some severe way, you would likely not be allowed to spend time with your child.

On the other hand, you can work with CPS to be awarded additional periods of visitation throughout the life of your case. They can negotiate with you a visitation schedule that can change over time depending upon the progress that you make in living up to the terms of your safety plan. If CPS believes that your child would stand to benefit from more contact with you, your visitation plan may grow in terms of time together. The opposite can be true if you fail to live up to the terms of your safety plan.

What sort of impact will the removal of your child from your home have on him or her?

When your child is removed from your home by CPS it will have some degree of impact on him or her. Depending on your child’s personality he or she may lash out in anger at their new foster parents or at you, for what has happened to him or her. Some children withdraw into themselves and show no outward signs of anger, hostility or disappointment. Many children worry more about their parents than themselves, especially if you find yourself in a bad circumstance that were known to your child prior to their removal.

Your child almost certainly will have questions regarding their removal from your home. If given the opportunity to do so, you should answer those questions truthfully. Be very careful about promises that you make to your child about when or if your child will be able to return home with you. Given how unsteady your child’s emotions may be at the moment it could really damage him or her to disappointed in the outcome of your case. It is better to verify the answer to a question rather than to give an answer off the cuff that may be incorrect.

What sort of decision-making abilities do you still have in regard to your child?

Many parents will wonder what their ability is to make decisions regarding religious upbringing and education while their child is in temporary custody with CPS. While you and CPS may agree that it is best to have your child remain in their same school, it may not be possible if their foster family lives far away.

Additionally, foster families are supposed to be able to encourage the religious practices of your children. If you want your child to go to church or perform some sort of religious duty while in foster care you need to speak to your attorney or the CPS caseworker about whatever religious based request that you have.