I wish I could provide the perfect plan to help a foster family avoid allegations from occurring. The sad fact remains that allegations are part of the risk of being a foster family. I can provide solid advice on how to keep them from being a constant in your foster care experience.
Note: I would like to point out that if a foster family is guilty of the abuse or neglect allegation then I believe that that foster family needs to take ownership of that allegation and work to make positive changes or face the necessary consequences. My advice is not to protect a guilty foster family, but to help those who are facing false allegations.
Ask questions about each foster child. Consider creating a list of questions that you ask when you receive calls to take foster care placements. To help allegation proof your foster family, here are some important ones to ask:
- Know why the child is coming into your foster home.
- Ask if the child has a history of making false allegations. If the child is needing a new foster home due to an allegation, that is a red flag of a child's past behavior toward foster families.
- Know the child's past history, if the information is available. Past sexual and physical abuse will give your foster family clues of needed awareness within the home.
- Ask about any diagnosis's that the child may have which will also give yo clues on what behaviors to expect.
- Do not feel bad saying no to a placement that is not a good fit for your foster family. If you don't feel that you can meet a child's needs while maintaining your home and family in a mutually safe environment, then say no. There are other foster families that may be a better fit for that child.
Document everything! I mean, everything. That may seem excessive, but if your social worker, therapist, birth parents and other team members know how a child is doing in your home, good or bad, that open communication will only serve you well if a false allegation is made against your home.
- Document anytime a child is injured.
- Note anytime the child is upset with you over discipline, or other disagreements within your home.
- Document if a child walks in on any member of your family in the bedroom or bathroom.
- Document any arguments between any member of the case management team or the community.
- Chart behavior changes, especially before and after a visit.
- Note how a child is making changes within your home, good and negative behavior changes tell a story of a child's development.
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Maintain proper boundaries with a child and for a child. Many foster children, especially those who have been sexually abused do not have healthy personal boundaries and often become sexually abused again and again.
- Have an open door policy during play and nap time, meaning no child can be in their room behind closed doors with other children.
- No care giver or older child should be left alone in the same room with a foster child that has a history of sexually acting out or making false allegations. Times to be especially cautious include bath time and bedtime. While working with children with a history of sexual abuse or making false allegations, try to have another adult present.
- Do not give children with these types of past abuse experiences full frontal hugs, but consider other ways to show affection, like side hugs or high fives.
- Supervise play between children.
These guidelines are not only good advice for the foster family, but also help protect the child as well.
Understand ways to discipline foster children. Know your foster care agency's discipline policy and follow it.
- Do not use corporal or physical discipline.
- Do not threaten a foster child with physical discipline.
- If a child has severe behaviors and is out of instructional control, do not restrain the child, unless you have been properly trained and been given permission to do so by your foster care agency.
Be wary of support groups. I know that sounds negative, but speaking from experience and the experience of other foster families, many allegations against foster families come from three sources, beyond foster children and birth family. They are the foster family's neighbors, church family, and other foster families. While we may feel that we are sharing our concerns and frustrations with a supportive group of who understand, we may also be adding fuel to someone who may be judging our foster family. The attitude, of I could do better work with that foster child, is powerful and often leads to the reporting of an allegation against a foster family.
- Instead consider forming your own small, close knit group of foster families that you personally know and trust. Look for experienced foster families who have perhaps provided respite for your foster family. Also, consider asking your foster care social worker for recommendation of foster families that would be a support to you and your family.
Understand why allegations occur. Along with those close to foster parents, the foster children and their birth family are also prone to making allegations. Many allegations are made due to misunderstandings, confusion of reality and flashbacks, attention seeking, revenge, avoidance of consequences, distrust, jealousy, and judgmental attitudes. Keeping documentation, maintaining boundaries, and having open communication can help when these situations arise.