New Immunization Requirements for Foster Families

For the safety of the foster children who are placed in our care, the Office of Licensing is updating foster requirements for foster parents. One such rule update has to do with immunizations:

(14) Verification of compliance with the Utah Department of Health’s recommended immunization schedules shall be provided for each individual residing in the home who is not a foster child.

(a) Recommended influenza immunizations are optional unless a foster child in the home has an immunocompromised condition.

(b) If compliance of all residents in the home cannot be verified, the license shall be restricted to only placements of children who are over the age of 2 months and who are immunized in accordance with the Utah Department of Health’s recommendations for their age.

(i) Foster parents must disclose if any individual residing in the home is not in compliance with the Utah Department of Health’s recommended immunization schedules to the child placing agency prior to accepting a placement.

(ii) Newborn infants must reach the required age and receive their first dose of required vaccinations to be considered appropriately immunized for their age.

What, exactly does this mean to us as foster families?

Simply put, each member of your household (who is not a foster child) must show verification of immunizations which are up to date in order to take placements of children who have not yet been immunized.

immunisation

Some COMMON CONCERNS & QUESTIONS foster families may have regarding this updated rule are:

Q: The members of my family are up to date on our immunizations but I don’t have verification. What should I do?

A: If you have received your immunizations in Utah and would like a record contact your local county health department for a copy in person. You may also go online and use the following link to request that your records be mailed or emailed to you:

http://www.usiis.org/acrobat_files/Release_of_Immunization_Records.pdf .

Your primary care physician may also have a copy of your immunization records.

Q: What if the adults in our home cannot locate our immunization records? Can we choose to be re-immunized?

A: Absolutely! Contact your online local county health department about getting re-immunized. The online link for finding an Immunization Clinic near you is:

http://www.immunize-utah.org.

Q: My family prefers not to be immunized. Does this mean we will lose our license?

A: Of course not! Nobody is forcing you or your family members to be immunized. HOWEVER, for the safety of those children in foster care who are not current on immunizations or whose immunization status is not known, they will be placed in a foster home where were immunizations of those in the household can be verified. Your license will be valid only for placements of children who are appropriately immunized for their age with the required vaccines.

Q: I’ve received the “major” immunizations but I don’t like getting the flu shot. Will this affect my licensure?

A: No- Influenza immunizations are optional for licensure unless you want to take in a child who has an immunocompromised condition.

Q: Will the Office of Licensing be checking each foster home for verification?

A: Because the Office of Licensing may perform an audit at any time it is a good idea to have a copy of immunizations in case your licensor asks for them. Just as our licensors may not check every single cabinet in our home to ensure that medicines and chemicals are locked up, it is better to be prepared than to risk losing your license.

Q: Are there any exemptions?

A: No. The school and daycare systems can recognize personal, health, and religious exemptions with immunizations because if there is an outbreak parents can simply withdraw their child from school. However, for a foster child there is no equivalent. The risk to the unimmunized child is the same regardless of the reason for not having family members immunized. Foster homes are being treated more like medical settings than schools since they involve care in a very intimate, around the clock setting that the foster child ideally can’t be separated from the same way. Variances for unique situations, especially if the placement is kin, may be granted. Those must be submitted to the Office of Licensing and approved prior to placement of a foster child whose immunizations are not verified.

Q: How soon does my family have to comply with these immunization rules?

A: The new rule goes into effect October 23, 2015.  You will have 60 days from the time the new rule goes in effect.  If you know you will not be able to provide this verification within 60 days of the rule going into effect, Office of Licensing would like you to notify your licensor so that they can document that on your license. In addition, you are expected to disclose that status to DCFS prior to taking any new placement of a child that may not be fully immunized.

If you have any additional questions or concerns about this updated licensing rule please contact your licensor, Foster Families of Utah at fosterfamiliesofutah@gmail.com, or Diane Moore with the Office of Licensing at dmoore@utah.gov.

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School Enrollment Delays

Yesterday, Foster Families of Utah met with the Utah Coordinating Council for Youth in Care, a committee that oversees education for children in foster care and juvenile justice.  Foster Families has grown increasingly concerned about complaints from foster parents that children are experiencing delays when trying to enroll in school. Of particular concern was the practice of school districts to hold an intake or screening meetings with students. Below, you can read the text of the letter that was sent to the state committee from Foster Families of Utah.

Utah Coordinating Council for Youth in Care

Ms. Chamberlain,

As a new school year begins and children in foster care endeavor to enroll in school, foster families are increasingly concerned about school districts’ policies and practices around intake screening and meetings.

We understand each school’s desire to meet the needs of their whole student population. An intake meeting or screening can provide school administration with critical information about safe school violations, risk to other students, and needs of the student. We understand the caseworkers gather information for an intake form and then districts may or may not have an intake meeting with or about the student. We appreciate the services provided to students in foster care through Youth in Custody funding.

Our concern is about the impact of intake meetings on students. DCFS, foster parent training, and therapeutic services have all moved to a trauma-informed focus. In light of that, and given the risk of triggering trauma for students, we would like to ask the council to reconsider when and where an intake meeting or screening may be necessary.

We would like to propose the council and school districts follow a new policy that would waive the intake meeting for students who are in level I, II, and III foster care placements and instead rely on the intake form to identify any risk-issues.

Adoption of this policy would decrease the risk of triggering trauma for students, streamline the registration process, simplify procedures for school districts, and still keep all students safe. As always, foster parents welcome the opportunity to work with educators to help children in foster care succeed in school.

We would welcome an examination of other ways school districts could keep all students safe and decrease barriers for students in foster care and we would love to be part of those conversations.

Thank you for all of the work you do and services you provide to help our students succeed.

Respectfully,

Lisa Cummings, Vice-President, Foster Families of Utah

As a result of the meeting, the Coordinating Council is committed to looking at the process of school intake meetings, as well as other reasons a student might experience enrollment delays (caseworkers not turning in paperwork in a timely manner, etc.). They intend to do a statewide assessment of the meetings and recommend policy changes accordingly.

We will keep you posted as we hear more.

Advocacy is a process but we can make a real difference!

Fighting Foster Family Stereotypes

By Laurieann Thorpe, President, Foster Families of Utah

Maybe you have noticed there are a few stereotypes about foster families in the media.  They run the gamut from foster parents as villains to foster parents as saints.  My personal favorite is the foster-parents-are-in-it-for-the-money stereotype.  Ha!

Did you know that Foster Families of Utah has a committee for fighting those stereotypes?  Because at the end of the day, foster parents are just people who want to help kids, not extraordinary and not money-grubbing-bad-guys either.

Fighting inaccurate perceptions in a tough job.  But think about it, if you weren’t capable of doing tough things, you wouldn’t be a foster parent!

The first and best way to change perceptions is on a grassroots level.  It’s having a conversation with everyone you know and saying things like, “Oh, that’s funny.  Do I seem rich to you?  I guess I’m not in it for the money.” or, “Sure, it’s hard to let them go.  But it doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be loved.”

Then, maybe you say good things about fostering in your social media.  Maybe you start a blog and talk (appropriately and preserving confidentiality) about your fostering experiences.

Then, maybe you see a misperception online and correct it.  You write a letter to the editor and say, “That’s not been my experience.”

You can chip away at misperceptions by doing small things every day.  And, you can volunteer with Foster Families of Utah and we can help you do some of the big things.

Please contact us on our hotline (801) 252-5395 or email us at fosterfamiliesofutah@gmail.com and follow us on Facebook.

Introducing Foster Families of Utah

We are so excited to introduce the new vision and name of your foster parent/adoptive parent advocacy group, Foster Families of Utah, formerly known as UFAFA or Utah Foster Adoptive Families Association.

We represent the voice of foster and foster/adoptive parents and families in every setting; with the legislature, with community partners, and with the media.  We have four focus areas:  Legislative Advocacy, Public Relations, Parent Voice, and Resource Development.

We need your help!  We would love to have you join us and help us change Utah into a foster/adoptive-friendlier world.  If you are willing and able to volunteer, we can and will use you!