Report Recommends Greater Input for Foster Parents

A new report guides states on empowering foster parents to help them make the best decisions for kids in their care. (Anita Peppers/Morguefile)

Suzanne Potter
California News Service

SACRAMENTO, Calif – California’s foster-care system looks after 60,000 children a year, and a new study points out ways to make improvements, by giving foster parents more of a voice.

Researchers at The Annie E. Casey Foundation suggest that state agencies make their treatment plans with the observations of the foster parents, treating them as partners, not just service providers.

Denise Goodman, a child welfare consultant, said foster parents are typically closest to the child, so their perspective is especially valuable.

“Foster parents want to be involved in the child’s case planning, in the treatment planning for the child, in their school, in their health and mental-health processes,” Dr. Goodman explained. “But oftentimes, those systems push foster parents out.”

The study said some foster parents have been hamstrung by regulations in the past, and need legal protections that empower them to make everyday decisions for the kids in their care, from sleepovers to after-school activities and even haircuts.

Jennifer Rodriguez, executive director of the Youth Law Center said her organization has launched the “Quality Parenting Initiative” in nine states, including California. The program pushes state agencies to prioritize high-quality foster parenting.

“Up to this point, we have thought of foster parents as primarily ‘the beds’ in the system, and that all of the professionals on the team do the healing work for young people, and that perspective is backwards,” she said.

Roberto Favela, vice president of foster care and adoption for Uplift Family Services in Campbell, California, said the State Department of Social Services launched a reform of the entire system last year with an emphasis on supporting families so they can keep children in the home, and foster parents are key to its success.

“They’re getting out of residential institution settings into family community placements and decrease the time to achieve permanency, meaning that child is returned to his family, or is adopted,” he said.

The state has already revamped its foster-care regulations and is now moving toward raising payments to foster parents.