Danielle Maloney, a Licensed Social Worker in Massachusetts, has been working in child welfare for twenty-eight years.
MS: What do parents have to do to become foster parents?
Danielle: There’s an application process. In Massachusetts you need to be at least 18 and have US legal status to become a foster parent. You may be single, married, partnered, divorced or widowed. Your family must have a steady source of income and cannot be reliant on the foster care stipend. You may either own or rent your home. The living and sleeping quarters must provide adequate space for all household members. Some people wonder if children can share a bedroom with birth children. Yes they can, but the children have to be same sex and age appropriate. During the application and licensing process, Department of Children and Families (DCF) will complete a CORI check (criminal offender record information), fingerprinting for applicant and household members ages 15 and above, and physical standard check of household to make sure the home meets safety requirements and standards.
In addition to the CORI and the physical standard check, potential foster parents in Massachusetts have to do a mandatory ten week training called MAPP Training (Massachusetts Approach to Partnership and Parenting). The training helps families better understand the difficulties children in foster care face and how fostering will affect your family.
MS: How do parents qualify?
Danielle: There is an inquiry, application, training, and licensing process.
MS: What qualities are important for a foster parent?
Danielle: DCF is looking for people with good communication and problem solving skills. It is important to have the ability to express and understand feelings your own and those of your children. Having a good sense of humor and being flexible are great qualities when dealing with the unpredictable nature of fostering.
MS: Can single parents foster kids?
MS: What reasons do most parents give for choosing to foster?
Danielle: Most say that they want to give back.
MS: What are the most common issues parents face when fostering?
Danielle: The first concern that people come to me with is getting too attached to the child and having their children be too attached to the child. People also worry about having negative influences coming to the household.
MS: How often does fostering lead to adoption? Are some kids only foster?
Danielle: Regionally this can be very different. When out of home placements occur, DCF works with families toward reunification. When this is not an option, adoption with kin is explored. If kin is not available adoption outside the family may occur.
MS: What do you wish people knew before they started the process?
Danielle: Our kids are very resilient and there are “happy endings.” Children in foster care need what every other kid needs to thrive, stability and nurturing and respect/acceptance for who they are and where they came from.
MS: What resources are available to foster families?
Danielle: Foster parents will have a family resource social worker and the children placed in their care will also have a social worker. Additionally there are many ongoing trainings as well as foster parent support groups available.
As for financial support, foster parents receive a stipend for daily expenses, and a quarterly clothing allowance as well as insurance coverage for medical, dental and therapeutic needs. The stipend does not count as income so it doesn’t affect tax status. In Massachusetts, the stipend is around $22 to $26 per day per child depending on the age of the child. .
MS: How is the relationship with birth parents managed?
Danielle: Foster parent involvement with the child’s family is determined on an individual basis by the case manager.
MS: What should foster parents do when it’s not working out?
Danielle: Turn to DCF staff and professional collaterals for help.
MS: What is the most common question you get?
Danielle: People ask, “What if I get too attached?” My answer is: “We want you to get attached. How could you help a child thrive if you didn’t get attached?” So, yes, you are going to get attached but for most people knowing they helped a child by providing a sense of safety and stability helps them get through the sadness when they leave your home.
For more information on fostering and state-specific requirements, check out these sites:
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