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Documentation Is One Foster Parenting Skill that Has Many Benefits

3 Days to Awesome Documentation

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What You'll Learn Today

  1. How documentation can help children in foster care.
  2. How documentation can be an 'insurance policy' for foster parents.
  3. How effective documentation can continue to help adoptive parents and their children.

How documentation can help children in foster care.

Documentation such as monthly log sheets and incident reports are a communication tool between the different professionals on a team. These reports often show a pattern of behavior that a child is exhibiting, such as screaming and crying before school, or night terrors. This helps the team see that perhaps the child needs a medication evaluation or weekly therapy to help manage these issues.

But documentation also shows the good things that are going on within a foster home. For example, one of our foster children at age 8 upon entering foster care could only read at a Kindergarten level, but after six months in care was able to read at grade level. After a year in our home and entering into an adoptive placement the child was able to read above grade level.

Documentation after visitation with birth parents can also help direct a team to what birth parents and children need in order to have a successful reunification.

Documentation can help:

  • with diagnosis,
  • ongoing therapies,
  • medication evaluations,
  • additional case mangers and workers,
  • supports needed during school or after school,
  • inpatient programs,
  • independent living programs and arrangements,
  • noting progress as to what was working or not working

Read the following article Be Prepared to Participate and Work with a Foster Care Social Worker for more information on working as part of a team.

How documentation can be an 'insurance policy' for foster parents.

Unfortunately one of the negatives about foster parenting is the fact that allegations occur. It's not an 'if,' but a 'when' because allegations will happen. The best and only defense is the knowledge that someone at sometime will turn you into the State for something. So be prepared.

While documenting incidences can help, it's not to be thought of as a shield that will keep allegations from happening, but more of an insurance policy. It's like flood insurance, you hope your home is never flooded, but you sure want that insurance just in case. And like insurance polices, you are only covered for so much.

For example:

  • Document how you handle a child's acting out behavior: If Johnny is throwing a fit and destroying his room - explain his behavior, but also what you said and did in response.

  • Document when a child walks in on you in your bedroom or bathroom: If Susie walks in on your husband using the restroom, explain how he handled the situation and any discussion with Susie later.

  • Document when a child falls and injures himself: If Tommy falls and hits his face on a fence and gets a black eye, call the worker and let her know immediately and document it in writing, maybe even an email.

Why Document the above? Because Johnny may report to his birth parents that you handled his tantrum with a spanking. Susie, after losing cell phone privileges for an 'F' in Science, may report to her therapist that your husband exposed himself to her. Your neighbor may call the State and report that Tommy has a black eye and heard you "yelling at the poor child all day."

It's not about being paranoid, it's about understanding that as foster parents, we live in a fish bowl. Since we're taking care of other people's children, many think it's their responsibility to keep an eye on us and our families.

IF, you did spank Johnny, as a response to his tantrum or any of the above scenarios reported by the foster children are truth, then consequences should follow. Documentation is not about protecting or an insurance policy for bad foster parents. It's a help to foster parents who do their best daily to help children, not keep horrible foster parents in business.

I do believe that documentation is a valuable skill for all foster parents. I am passionate about the subject as it has helped our children, even post adoption to receive services, and it has helped our foster home against false reports from vindictive people. It happens. People do use the system to hurt others. Documentation of events is one way to keep these people from really hurting good foster parents.

How effective documentation can continue to help adoptive parents after a foster care adoption.

We continued to document our children's behaviors long after our foster care adoption. These notes and reports from school on their behavior were invaluable in helping our children not only continue in therapy, but receive long-term inpatient care as needed.

The same list above held true after adoption. My documentation helped:

  • with diagnosis,
  • ongoing therapies,
  • medication evaluations,
  • additional case mangers and workers,
  • supports needed during school or after school,
  • inpatient programs,
  • independent living programs and arrangements,
  • noting progress as to what was working or not working.

I don't regret for a moment the time spent in my continued documentation as it helped my sons.

Also document when you have attempted to find help and were turned away. This too was helpful in rattling cages as needed, especially when life and the deterioration of a troubled child continued.

Today’s Assignment: Get Smart About Allegations

Take some time today and read these two articles about allegations.
How to Make a Foster Family Allegation Proof
What to Do When Allegations Have Been Made Against Your or Your Family

Also, contact your foster care agency and ask how they handle allegations. Are all children removed from the home during the investigation? What about your birth or adopted children? What support, if any, can your agency offer you during that time? Do you have the number for your local foster parent association handy?

Usually it's only during a serious allegation such as physical or sexual abuse that children are removed from the foster home, but I'm an advocate for preparing for the worse and hoping for the best.

This lesson is not intended to scare anyone away from fostering a child, but to become a foster parent with wide open eyes and full understanding on how to be a smart foster parent.

Recommended Articles in Today’s Lesson

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