~« Missouri D e p a r t m e n t of Social S e r v i c e s IVISION The Children's Division thanks you for your interest in helping families andchildren across Missouri. We are pleased that you took the time to seek inf jrmation on becoming part of the team of professionals who are dedicated to locating homes for chil tren when they cannot safely remain in their own home. This team also strives to keep sibling groi ps together, reunify families, and support our foster and adoptive parent partners. There are many reasons why people consider becoming a f jster or adoptive parent. Whatever that reason may be, there is basic information that needs to be onsidered before starting the process. That information is included in this packet. The Children's Division is committed to locating and training couples and individuals who can provide stable, s? fe, caring, and skilled homes for children across the State of Missouri. Please take the time to read t trough the information in this packet and talk to your local Children's Service Worker so that you can make an informed decision. You have already taken the first step to becoming a resource for children in the state's care. We hope that you will continue through the training and asses: ment process and join our efforts to help Missouri families and children. Your Children's Service Worker will be happy to answer any further questions you have. Contact with Local Children's Division Staff Orientation or Home visit C( mplete Tra ning and Home Submit Application Your local contact person and address: Become a licensed foster parent or approved adoptive parent RESOURCE FAMILY OVERVIEW To be a Foster or Adoptive Parent, you must: > Be at least 21 years of age; r Complete a child abuse/neglect check and criminal record check; *- Be in good health, both physically and mentally; > Have a stable income; > Be willing to participate in and complete a free training and assessment process; » Be part of a professional team willing to voice perspectives and concerns; and > Be willing to partner with the child's family. You c;m: > Be with or without children; x Be single or married; and > Own or rent a home, apartment, condo, or other residence that meets the licensing standards. Foster Care Overview: Foster parents provide temporary care for children whose families are not able to care for them. Foster parents provide a safe and supportive home in which a child's emotional, physical, and social needs are met. Foster parents offer general guidance for growth and development to a child and their family, while supporting their relationships with kin and others who are important to the child. Throughout a child's stay, the foster parents will be expected to be an active member of a team that consists of children's service workers, the child and their family, the court and community members. The goal of this team is to meet the needs of the family in order to safely return the child home whenever possible. Adoption Overview: Adoptive families provide permanent, safe and stable homes for children. Adoption is the permanent, legal transfer of parental rights and responsibilities from a child's birth parents to the adoptive parents. Many of the children who wait to be adopted from child welfare programs have reached the age of five or older, are children of color, are part of a sibling group, have special needs, and have lived in multiple out-of-home placements. Foster Care and Adoption Frequently Asked Questions What is foster care? Foster care is a temporary placement for children without parental care due to abuse or neglect. Foster families provide a safe and nurturing home while the parents receive supportive services to regain custody of their children. What is adoption? Adoption is the permanent option for children who have been in foster care. Children are legally free for adoption only after the court has terminated the parental rights of the birth parents. Who are the children in State care, in foster care or awaiting adoption? Children in state care range in age from 0 to 21 and frequently are part of a sibling group that must remain together. More than half are of minority decent. Some of these children have physical, mental or emotional disabilities ranging from mild to severe. Children enter foster care due to abuse, neglect or abandonment. All have endured the trauma of being separated from their families. Just as each child is an individual, the challenges vary in meeting their needs, but they all need patience, understanding and unconditional love. Do I have to be married? You do not have to be married. Foster and adoptive parents are married couples, single, or divorced. Do I have to own mv own home? Foster and adoptive parents do not have to own a home; in fact, many foster or adoptive parents rent their place of residence. Foster and adoptive parents must be able to maintain their residence. What are the costs of becoming a foster or adoptive parent? There is little to no cost involved in becoming a foster or adoptive parent. The home assessment and training is provided by the state free of charge. The majority of adoption expenses are covered by the State. Do I have a choice in which children are placed in mv home? Together with a representative of the Children's Division, a child preference and parenting assessment is completed during the initial licensure of the home. Your individual parenting skills and the capacity of your home will be matched with the information you provide in regard to child preferences. This allows the agency to identify when you, as a parent, are most likely to meet the unique needs of a child in the state's care. The assessment process is on-going and part of the continuing licensure process. It is crucial that homes be identified that will best meet the parenting needs of children in care. Even if your home is identified as suitable for a specific child, foster and adoptive parents have the option to decline the placement. What type of support services are provided after a child is placed in mv home? Foster parents receive a monthly maintenance payment to help cover the costs of caring for their foster children. Medicaid is provided by the state for the child's medical, psychological and dental needs. Foster parents and adoptive parents, who are employed or enrolled in school full time, may be able to receive childcare services. Visitation plans for children and their families are also part of the supportive services offered to families in order to maintain relationships and preserve those essential connections that are so important to a child's development and the process of reunification. What are the age requirements to become a foster or adoptive parent? The minimum age is 21. There is no maximum age limit. What are the training requirements for becoming foster or adoptive parents? STARS (Specialized Training, Assessment, Resources, Support and Skills), a twenty-seven hour pre-service training, is required of both foster and adoptive parents. Professional foster parents are required to complete 30 hours of inservice training during their two year licensure period. In two-parent homes, both parents must complete the required number of training hours. An additional twelve hours of training is required for individuals or couples wishing to adopt. Do I have to foster before I can adopt? No, you do not have to become a foster parent before you become an adoptive parent. Training Overview The first step toward becoming a resource parent is the agency's assessment and training program. All resource parents are required to successfully complete our STARS training program. Adoptive parents continue with additional training. The STARS program introduces prospective resource families to the rewards and challenges involved in caring for Missouri's most vulnerable children. The STARS program is important for even the most experienced parents; because fostering and adopting is very different from parenting a biological child. Resource parents need to support the relationship of the child with his/her birth family and help the child manage feelings about being in foster care or the possibility of being adopted. STARS is a pre-service training program that strives to prepare you to: * protect and nurture foster and adoptive children; * meet the children's developmental needs and address developmental delays; * support relationships between children and their families; * connect children with safe, nurturing relationships intended to last a lifetime; and * actively participate in a professional team. STARS also includes an in-home assessment consisting of at least four visits to your home by the Family Development Specialist. The specialist will discuss information with you about our agency and the children in our care as well as talk with you about your family. He or she will also look at your home environment for compliance with licensing requirements. Part of the assessment process is to help you make important decisions about whether or not fostering or adopting a child is right for you and your family. Additional training is required for prospective adoptive families. These classes offer families the tools and information that they need to: Understand how adoptive families are different; Anticipate the effects of separation, loss, and grief in adoption; Understand the need to maintain optimal connection with those who matter to the child; Understand attachment and its importance in adoption; anticipate challenges; Identify strategies for managing challenges as an adoptive family; and Explore the lifelong commitment to a child that adoption requires. Training sessions provide the opportunity to have questions answered, build relationships with other parents and agency staff, and to determine whether your family has the ability and desire to meet the children's needs. Resource Family Supports Agency Support It is our intent to support you in being as successful as possible. Some of the ways that we may support you include regular contact with agency staff, respite (as appropriate), ongoing training, professional development plan, support groups, child care, home visits, team meetings, phone consultation, and a formal process for sharing your concerns. Medical Services Medical and Dental insurance is provided to children in the state's custody. When a child in care needs counseling or therapeutic services, the state also provides for those services through a Medicaid provider. We will assist you in identifying a provider. In-Service Trainings and Support Groups The Children's Division, contracted agencies, and other community-based organizations offer continuing education and in-service training opportunities to enhance the skills and knowledge of foster parents. Each foster parent is required to complete fifteen (15) hours per year or thirty hours every two years of approved in-service training. Agency staff will assist you in locating the training opportunities. There are a number of local and statewide foster and adoptive parent support groups across the state. Parenting associations and agency coalitions are dedicated to supporting and advocating for foster and adoptive families. Resource lending libraries are available to families across the state of Missouri. These libraries include titles pertaining to child development, attachment, family dynamics, and issues related to adoption of children with special needs. Respite and Child Care Respite may be provided to resource families when temporary care is needed for their foster or adoptive children. Respite care providers are certified by the state and the Children's Division may cover the costs of using these providers. When childcare is approved for children who are not school aged, resource parents can choose the childcare facility for the child as long as it is state licensed/contracted. Maintenance Resource parents receive a monthly foster care reimbursement, which helps cover the cost related to caring for the children in their home. Typically, the costs are for the child's food, clothing, and personal needs. Foster care reimbursement amounts vary depending on the age of the child, the level of care being provided, and the training level of the foster parents. In foster care, an infant allowance is paid for qualifying children between the ages of 0-2 to help with the additional costs of providing for the specific needs of infants, such as formula, diapers, special food, extra clothing and supplies. Each child in foster care is eligible for a clothing allowance to assist the resource parents with the expense of providing for the child's clothing needs. Kinship Care Relatives and other significant adults in families' lives have always played a role in raising children when their parents could not care for them. The care, nurturing and protection of children by extended family and other significant adults, in fact, is a long-standing tradition in all cultures. Increasing numbers of children who enter foster are being placed in the care of kin. Kin are a source of support and a vital resource for parents. When engaged early their support can prevent a child from being removed from their home. If the removal of a child from their home becomes necessary, kin are often ideal caregivers. When a child has entered into the state's care, we look first for kin to care for the child. This ensures that the child has a level of comfort during the placement process, as they are familiar with the people who are caring for them. In a kinship care arrangement, children have the opportunity for continued family relationships and contact with persons, groups and institutions they were involved with while living with their parents. Kinship care reinforces the social status that comes from belonging to a family of one's own and the sense of identity and self-esteem that is inherent in knowing one's family history and culture. Kinship caregivers have the opportunity to attend STARS training for "Caregiver Who Knows the Child" and work with the agency for completion of the home assessment and screening process. Only licensed kinship caregivers receive financial support from the state. OVERVIEW OF RESPITE CARE Respite providers offer temporary care of children from resource homes in times of need. There is a great need for respite care providers who will care for children with a variety of special needs, including medical issues, and physical and behavioral challenges. If you are considering becoming a resource parent, respite care is also a great way for you to meet parents who have already worked with bur agency and the children we serve. You will gain first-hand experience working with the children and youth in state care. You will develop relationships with resource families you can turn to with your own questions as you explore the world of foster and adoptive care. Persons wishing to provide respite care must: Contact their local Children's Division Office to express your interest in becoming a respite provider Complete and return the application provided by the agency Complete a child abuse/neglect screening and criminal background check Understand that a home assessment will be completed to ensure your home meets licensing standards, including sleeping arrangements and fire/safety requirements Read and sign the required agreements for discipline and confidentiality A Day In AAy Life.... The alarm in our house goes off between 4:45-5am. Pushing the snooze for a few extra Z's only happens if she is dry and I have food handy. That's right; I have an 18 month old baby girl. I also have two boys both age 8. And since we are mentioning age, I will only state that I was around when Ike was President. During the school year, we are all up and out of the house by 6'-50am. My son goes to school 20 miles away and my other son goes to school here in Marshall. I try to have everyone delivered to their school or day care by 8 am. The original plan was that I would then be able to go to the Y and work off some weight and stress. However, I have found that a nap works better. After school, the boys do their homework, if they have any. If not, they read a book to me while I make dinner. One of them recently thought if he read me a cookbook, dinner would be edible. Thank God for complete meals in a box! Now that I have you attention, I really can't imagine a life without these children. They come to me from various backgrounds, morals, values and standards. While I have my way of running my home, I also have to consider the fact that they may not have had the same experiences my bio children had growing up. These children are taken from their homes and placed into the home of a stranger. They are scared, worried, anxious and fearful of what the future will bring. The first thing this child needs is to know that you will do your best to protect, guide, feed, house and cloth them. Safety, security and trust are of the utmost concern to this child. Some days are easy; some days are not. Maintaining a sense of humor helps you make it through the hard and difficult times. The staff you work with are supportive and help give you a different outlook when you feel you have run out of answers. In later years, a child that you felt you just didn't effect, will call you and tell you how grateful they are that you took the time and effort to share you life and home with them. This is what makes this type of work the most exciting and rewarding job on earth. MISSOURI'S CHILDREN NEED YOU!! THANK GOD FOR MY FOSTER HOME Hello, My name is Tyler and I am a 13 year old currently in foster care. This is the second time I have been in care. The first time was because my Dad was in jail and my Mom abused me and my older sister. We were reunited with my Mom but I'm now back in care because my Mom got hooked on drugs. When I came into care this time, I was getting almost all F's at school. I was cutting School a lot and also getting into a lot of trouble even when I did go to school. I am very thankful I was placed in my former Pastor's house. He and his wife are also foster parents. They have helped me a lot. They have taught me the importance of respecting God and all those in authority. I really hated the rules at first, but now I understand why they are important. I'm happy to say my grades are much better (A's, B's A C's now), and I hardly ever get in trouble at school. I got to play on the championship soccer team, the 7th grade football team, and even on a Park and Rec basketball team. I still have a bad temper, but I'm doing a lot better controlling it. I'm writing this story to let people know that being a foster parent can really help a person in life. I know I would not be doing so good if I wasn't put in this home. My foster parents have really helped me and they are very caring. Sometimes I wonder how they can love me! I hope other foster kids can find a good home too. If you really want to help a child, please become a foster parent. Tyler Kids and Families Need You! One day a few years ago I came across a story on the internet that changed my life. The story was written by a man who had suffered a nervous breakdown and was placed in a psychiatric hospital to get the help he needed. While in the hospital he noticed an unusually high number of children there. After being in the facility for a number of days, he asked one of the attendants "Why all these children here, many of them are seem very normal". The attendant replied, "you're right, there's not much wrong with most of them but they had no other place to go". The attendants reply stunned the man, (and me too as I read the account). At the time I read this story I was employed at a residential Boy's Ranch in southern Missouri. While working there for a number of years it struck me that even many of the boy's in our facility would be much better served in a home environment. Before I continue, don't misunderstand what I'm trying to say. There are some children that need the intensive level of mental health services. But there are a vast number of children that would flourish and be better served in a loving, stable, nurturing, family environment. Unfortunately, there are not enough foster homes in which to place these children. Recently I asked one of our local case workers about our little county in southwest Missouri. I was saddened to hear that there are over 160 children in custody, and less than 30 active foster homes. After reading the hospitalized man's story, my wife and I decided we could help by opening our home to children. We became a licensed foster home and have ministered to, and made a difference in over 70 children's lives. We even adopted a young boy who had no hope of reuniting with his family. We have done our best to help each child realize they are special, and they are loved. As you can imagine, being separated from your family can be very devastating to a child. You can help children by caring for them until their family is able to meet their needs. I know firsthand, because 37 years ago I was placed in a foster home. I was reunited with my family but will always remember the lessons I learned in my foster home, and the love and encouragement I received. Would you be willing to make a difference in the life of a child and his or her family? It may not be easy, but I can assure you it will be worth it! We Built Our Own Extended Family My name is Layla and this is my story about how a bond was formed with the foster parents who were assigned to my three young children. I first met the foster mother in August 2002 at a meeting about reunification with my children. In July of 2002 I had given birth to boy/girl twins. I had used meth and marijuana during my pregnancy and after giving birth, the twins and I tested positive for these drugs. I was found unfit to take care of them and the Children's Division placed them with a foster family. Heather and Andre. My seven year old was taken also and placed with his brother and sister. I was lucky to have had them all placed together in one home. After the children went to foster care, I admitted myself into a Rehabilitation Center. I was there for thirty days and completed the program. I also faced my legal troubles. Then I was ready to start the reunification process. During the first few meetings I had mixed feelings about Heather. I felt as though she didn't want me to be there. Once I had accepted responsibility for what was happening, I then realized that Heather wanted nothing more than for me to have the children back. Heather was determined to help in any way she could, within her guidelines as a licensed foster parent. Heather was honest about it all because she cared. She and Andre helped me as much as they could with anything I needed after my children were placed back with me. Whether it be reading the newspaper to help me find a better job, or giving me some clothes that their children had outgrown , or just being someone for me to talk to, they helped me. The children were placed back one at a time with me and when it was time to pick up my boy twin from Heather, I thanked her. She had my kids in her home for six months before I was given custody. Heather, Andre and myself always stayed in contact after that. They said that they do not always get to see the kids they help once they leave their home, but they were such a big part of my children's life that I didn't want to take that away from them or the kids. I appreciated them so much. To this day they still help when I need it and they know if they ever need my help I will be there to give it to them. We have made our own little extended family. They are my guardian angels. I am 4 years clean and sober now. I owe thanks to my mother who has always been there for me and to Heather and Andre for showing me that I can do anything I put my mind to. Mostly, I thank my beautiful children who never gave up on me I Love You! Thanks for letting me share my story.
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