Updated 05/12/2010 10:20 AM
The business of rehabilitating foster children
To view our videos, you need to
install Adobe Flash 9 or above. Install now.
Then come back here and refresh the page.
-- Imagine leaving your home, your school, your friends and even your family. Now, imagine starting over alone with nothing but a suitcase.
That’s a reality for 27,000 Texas children in foster care, and it happens all too often. Some get moved five, 10 or even 20 times. The results yield young people continually re-traumatized by the system that's supposed to rescue them.
1) Complete an "interest form" for your Texas area and receive an informational packet from DFPS staff in your area.
2) Attend a free foster/adopt information meeting. View the schedule of information meetings in your area, local contacts, events and statistics.
3) Work with a Private Adoption Agency who works in partnership with DFPS.
For 19-year-old Jarod Smith, he just learned to detach himself.
He learned that from living in 35 different foster homes since the age of 10.
"I've been detaching myself from everybody and anybody," Smith said. "I stay most of the time in my room. I don't know why. It’s just me and my emotions. They’re just overrating right now."
Smith will be the first to tell you he's not easy to handle.
CPS rates children according to their rehabilitative need, and Smith bounced between the top two, of the four, service levels.
"Going to a new place is scary because my personality is, I don't want to get to know nobody," Smith said. "They're just going to hurt me, and I’m going to hurt them. My foster dad and my foster mom, I just didn't want to click. I didn't want to have that experience with them like I had with my real mom."
So whenever things got rough, Smith's foster parents would request he be moved. That's a common pattern in foster care, former district judge and child welfare expert Scott McCown said.
"You have such need to have children placed in foster care, that if that child is the least bit of trouble to me, I want to toss him out. I don't have to worry that I lose any money because you have so many other kids, you'll place another one with me," he said.
McCown is talking about the state's foster care reimbursement system which consists of four service levels. Each level comes with a distinct pay rate.
• Basic = $22.15 per day
• Moderate = $38.77 per day
• Specialized = $49.85 per day
• Intense = $88 per day
"The fee for service system doesn't incentivize, I hate that word, but incentivize good behavior. In fact, it doesn't favor helping the child or helping the family," McCown said.
It also makes it hard for foster families to keep a child once his service level drops.
"I don't do basic care children because at $18 a day, you look at the overhead. You can't do it," foster parent Joyce Johnson said.
Johnson runs a group foster home in Orange. She's seen around 600 teenage boys come and go in the 15 years as a foster parent.
"What helps these kids is the supervision we give them," Johnson said.
• Read and watch more about Jarod Smith's story.
• Click here to view our interactive timeline of the changes of CPS and foster care. Also you can see videos of those who've made it through the system and see their take on it all.
Johnson has rehabilitated many boys to a "basic" level. The boys have wanted to stay longer, but she's had to tell them no, because she couldn't afford to keep them.
"When you’ve got a $600 light bill and a $300 water bill, $2300 in mortgage, I've got teenage boys that eat. Then, you can't do it," Johnson said.
The Legislature recognized the problem in 2009, but didn't do anything about it. A bill that would have looked at changing the reimbursement policy died when lawmakers ran out of time.
Now, it's up to a group of public and private partners to reexamine the problem. The group is drafting a plan to redesign foster care. Lutheran Social Services President Betsy Guthrie is a member.
"We are penalized financially for doing well with the child," she said.
Lutheran Social Services is the largest of the agencies. They’re contracted to manage the state's 10,000 foster homes. Jarod Smith knows those homes all too well.
CPS Assistant Commissioner Audrey Deckinga said Smith's experience was unacceptable.
"It sounds like we have failed him in not finding a place, a provider and the department together, working together to keep him in one place," she said.
You will need to attend an information meeting in your area where you can discuss the scope and requirements of being a foster or adoptive parent.
You will get basic information and questions are welcome. Your local DFPS office will furnish you with this information if there are no informational meetings in your area. You do not need an appointment. Find free foster care and adoption information meetings in your Texas area.
Preparation and Selection
If you can meet the basic requirements, you are invited to meet with DFPS staff to decide if fostering or adopting is right for your family. You will also be assessed by DFPS staff. This process furnishes you with information about DFPS and the children who come into the foster care system.
You will attend training (PRIDE) to learn more about the children available through DFPS and to assess your strengths in parenting children. The classes also boost your knowledge and confidence to meet the challenge of taking children into your home and to be sure you are ready to follow through on the commitment.
What is PRIDE?
Child Protective Services (CPS) recognizes that 16 hours of pre-service training for foster parents is insufficient. Therefore, CPS requires potential foster parents to attend Parent Resource Information Development Education (PRIDE) as part of the family’s required pre-service training.
Texas PRIDE is a 35-hour competency-based training program that is co-trained by an agency staff member and a foster or adoptive parent. PRIDE provides prospective foster families with base knowledge of information on caring for children in the child welfare system. PRIDE covers topics such as child attachment, loss and grief, discipline and behavior intervention, effects of abuse and neglect, sexual abuse, working with the child welfare system, and the effects of fostering and adopting on the family.
Through collaborative efforts with the Texas Alliance, a statewide advocacy organization that represents many private CPA’s in Texas, DFPS has made PRIDE available to private CPA’s.
Additional Training Requirements
The state minimum standards require that prospective foster families also complete the following trainings or certifications, which are not part of the PRIDE curriculum:
• Universal precautions training
• Psychotropic medication training
• Certification in both First Aid and infant/child/adult CPR
State minimum standards also require that verified foster homes receive annual in-service training. Depending on the number of foster parents and the needs of the children in a foster home, the annual training requirements range from 20 hours per family to 30 hours per foster parent.
Family Home Study
A caseworker will visit you in your home. The purpose is to discuss your personal history, family interests and lifestyle, childcare experiences, the types of children you feel would best fit in your home, and your strengths and skills in meeting the children's needs.
Information provided by the Department of Family and Protective Services.