Fostering connections with a social worker on your foster child's case is important to helping reunify a child's family and make for a smooth fostering experience for all involved. Here are tips to keep in mind when working with your foster child's social worker:
1. Be on time
If you are late you are holding up many busy people. You may also miss out on important information by showing up late to a meeting.
2. Dress like a professional
I don't mean that you have to wear a suit or your Sunday best, but choose something that is dressy-casual. I try to wear something that is nice, but wouldn't intimidate the birth parents, with whom I am trying to build a relationship. Showing up in dirty jeans and a t-shirt you once wore to paint the house would not be the best choice, but a good pair of jeans, a button-up shirt, and dressier shoes looks great for most meetings.
3. Doctor's Information
Bring medical information to meetings with the social worker so that he/she can update their files.
If you don't know who the child's primary health care provider is, bring a list of the doctors your family uses or the ones you will be using for the child. Don’t forget about the Optometrist, as well as the Dentist.
Be sure to have all of the doctors' names, addresses, and phone numbers written out.
If an appointment has already been scheduled, depending on the area you are in and the proper procedure for scheduling, bring your calendar with the dates of these planned appointments. Sometimes the social workers like for the birth parents to accompany foster parents to the child's appointments.
If you’ve already had the child in to see the doctor, be sure that you’ve had the proper forms filled out by the doctor and that you bring the forms with you to the meeting.
4. School information
Again, bring the following so that the social workers are up to date on all of the child's educational information.
Include the address and the phone number of the school.
Know the child's grade, teacher's name, and whether the child has an IEP(Individual Education Plan) for special education, speech therapy, or behavioral/emotional issues.
If the child has an IEP bring it to the meeting.
Bring the school calendar to inform the workers of school programs, conferences, and other school events that the birth parents may be interested in attending.
5. Other Needs
Be open in sharing any questions or concerns you may have. Voice your concerns in a helpful and caring tone. The case plan meetings are a perfect opportunity to ask about the following:
Does the child need to be tested for special services at school?
Does he/she need to be evaluated for therapy?
Do you think another mentor in his life, like a Big Brother or Big Sister, would be of a benefit?
If the parent visitation is set up during the school day - how has that been working?
This is also the time to ask permission for the child to participate in a dance class, sports, or scouting, if you have time for these activities in your schedule.
Does the child need a hair cut? Many states will only allow a foster child to get a hair cut with the parent's permission.
Attending your first meeting with a group of social workers on your foster child's case is usually very intimidating for new foster parents. By coming prepared and ready to participate - you will present yourself as a professional member of the team and will be treated as such.
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