This is one of the hardest titles that I have ever had, it is a balancing act, very fulfilling and yet empties you of everything.
After a lot of prayer and soul searching, my husband and I decided that we needed to step in and take our grandchildren out of a situation that we saw getting worse and unhealthier for them. When we called DCS the first time it took about 2 months and several phone calls later to get a response, at that time they told me to go for temporary guardianship. When I went to Juvenile Court to fill out the form, I asked the helper there if this would guard the children from being taken by their parents from our home. She told me no and that the only way to do that is through dependency. By doing that it seemed to force DCS to get involved. After DCS became involved it seemed like we had many people coming to the house under the title of case manager. We had to ask each one for their card so that we could sort out which agencies had visited and what their role would be.
During this time the kids seemed to have the same tests given to them numerous times. After the first two tests, the knock on the door would come and the oldest grandchild would ask if they have to take the test and answer questions again.
The first month that DCS was involved seemed like a whirlwind, thank goodness that the first thing that I asked for was for childcare for the youngest two as the oldest was in school. Prior to that, during the first two months that I had them (before DCS was involved), I was asking friends to help watch them if I had appointments to go to. Finding childcare at night if I needed it was the next issue. Several of our friends had volunteered to watch them for evening events so after asking our DCS case manager about this, I found out that our friends would have to have background checks (this applies to anyone that the children are with when they are not with you).
Next came the team meeting to access the situation and to write a safety plan, making sure that we told all the facts and how we felt about what they want the parent of the child to do or be responsible for, their visitation guidelines etc. This was our time to speak up for what was best for the children, making sure that the safety plan was a plan that we could uphold. If you find yourself in a similar situation, don’t be afraid to get in touch with the DCS case manager if you feel that the children’s parent isn’t following the plan. You always have to remember that the children you are caring for are the first priority; the parent of the children is not. Also noteworthy is that each time the DCS case worker changes so does the look of your case. Now I am in the process of looking into classes to become a licensed foster caregiver, a totally new and again daunting adventure.
It has been so rewarding for us to watch as our grandchildren are getting healthier, the youngest one is starting to talk and form sentences, the middle one is learning songs, the alphabet, counting, is finally potty trained and loves to dress himself, the oldest one has gone from struggling in school, to getting mostly 3’s and 4’s on her report card, reading very fluently and enjoying the schedule that she has.
This has been extremely hard to navigate and we find ourselves always second guessing decisions about which way to turn. We are always asking if we are doing the right thing to help the children, then we get that smile and hug, with the statement, “I am so glad I am living with you Nana”, and we know everything is alright.
My advise to a kinship foster is don’t hesitate to get the children out of the harmful environment, ask lots of questions to every caseworker that comes into your life, set up a safety plan that you can live with long term and remember that you are in it for the long haul, there is no easy fix…