Meet Layne, A REAL Foster Parent

At our recent Foster Learning, Building Bridges Conference we were pleased to have award winning videographer, Ryan Hender, join us and interview a few foster parents who wanted to share their story with others.  Layne is one such foster parent and this is his story:

Stay tuned for more stories which will also be used by DCFS for recruitment purposes.

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Founder’s Award- Laurieann Thorpe

In addition to Foster Families of Utah recently recognizing one outstanding RFC from each region, we were pleased to present a Founders Award to Laurieann Thorpe, who has worked tirelessly in her efforts to get Foster Families of Utah off the ground.  Laurieanne is the former President of Foster Families of Utah and we are fortunate to have her expertise as she will continue to serve on our Board.

In addressing Conference attendees at our recent Foster Learning, Building Bridges Conference, Laurieann used her characteristic  humor and as well as her heartfelt passion when she noted “foster parents in Utah foster because they want to help children.”

Thank you for your service, Laurieann!

Emergency Preparedness for Allegations

By Laurieann Thorpe, President, Foster Families of Utah

As a foster parent, you might face a child abuse or neglect charge.  Are you ready for that kind of emergency?  Would you know what to do?

At the National Foster Parent Association Conference, I learned what foster parents can do in the event of an abuse or neglect allegation.

Did you know that as a foster parent, you are at a greater risk for an allegation of neglect or abuse?  Lana Freeman, a foster/adoptive parent, child welfare trainer, and the President of Oklahoma Foster Care and Adoptive Association of Oklahoma, presented a class titled, “SOS . . . All Hands on Deck for the Inevitable False Allegation.”  She says foster parents are at a greater risk of allegations than biological families because they are scrutinized and held to a stricter parenting standard by their communities, and because biological families may make allegations of abuse to disrupt placements.

The possible consequence for a foster family who faces an allegation could include suspension or closure of the resource home, placement of the foster parent’s name on the child abuse registry list, criminal prosecution, or civil lawsuits.

You hope to never experience any allegations but you should be prepared, just in case!

Below is a short list of what to do if an allegation is made against you:

-First, call Foster Families of Utah (801) 252-5395.  We can walk you through what to expect and what to do.

-Stay positive.  Assume that the charge will be proven false, and try not to presume guilt.  65 to 70 percent of allegations are false.  Child protection has to investigate to be certain the child is not being abused.

-Document everything.  Start a notebook to record details of every phone conversation, interview, and correspondence related to the allegation.  Write in pen, preferably in a notebook that does not have tear-away paper, and be prepared to use the notebook to back up your story in court.  Request copies of the written charge against your family, and the letter that formally states the allegations were unfounded.

-Educate yourself.  Get a copy of Utah’s foster care rules and laws pertaining to allegations and abuse, and learn about agency policies and procedures.  Find out what will happen during the investigation, what your rights are, and how you can appeal an investigator’s determination.

-Cooperate with the investigation.  Work with, not against investigators.  Be professional but forthcoming.  Tape-record or have a witness to every interaction with investigators.

-Communicate with your partner.  Allegations, especially those of sexual abuse, an drive a wedge between partners.  One thinks, “How could they think I would possibly do something like that?!”  The other wonders, “Could it possibly be true?!”  If not openly discussed, these questions can pull couples apart.

-Know your rights.  Don’t be afraid to appeal, request a waiver, and learn how the grievance procedure works.  Hire legal counsel, especially for sexual abuse allegations.

Ideas for this article were compiled from materials in Lana Freeman’s class, the article, Adopting and Advocating for the Special Needs Child by L. Anne Babb and Rita Laws, and an article Allegations Happen: How to Prevent and Survive Them by Diane Martin-Hushman with NACAC.

 

 

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.

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!