Author: Bonnie Barsalou

Left Behind: Teens in Foster Care

When people hear the word “teen” and “foster care” in the same sentence, they tend to tense up. All too often they picture a pierced and tatted teenager full of angst and bad choices.  But what if I challenged that view? What if I told you all too often they look nothing like that at all? What if it’s a doting sixteen-year-old girl who just wants to be near her three-year-old brother that she has helped raise since birth. What if it’s a 12-year-old boy who loves soccer and his 13-year-old brother who loves the outdoors. What if it was just normal teenage kids whose parents were the ones who made the bad choices, not them.

Teens do not enter care because they are “bad kids”; they enter care for the same reason all other children do, because of abuse or neglect. Teens, like all children are longing for safety, a loving home and the ability to be near their siblings. In the state of Arizona alone teens make up over 60% of the children in group homes.

A few weeks ago, during our “Night of Hope” event Arizona Faith and Families heard from Amber Smith, a woman who is changing the way siblings and teens are viewed in foster care. Amber runs a co-ed group home in Gilbert, Arizona. She provides a place for brothers and sisters to remain together under the same roof. Something that is almost unheard of in the state of Arizona. All too often homes are willing to take in just females or just males. They are willing to take in just teens or just littles. But Amber challenges how things are “normally” run and instead says give me the largest sibling group you have and I’ll provide the home they need. Currently she is housing a sibling group of 5 under her roof. Five brothers and sisters ranging from ages 6-17. I asked Amber why she decided to do this and she responded by saying “children deserve to be with their siblings no matter their age or gender”. She went on to share how special it is to see all five siblings sitting at a dinner table together praying and eating with one another. She believes it helps reduce some of the trauma that they have encountered by entering care when they can remain with their family.

Amber shared that a typical sibling group is around 3 children and comprised of mixed genders. She shared that they can range in age from 5-17 or 6-13. When asked what the greatest barrier from getting teens into foster homes she said it was peoples fear of teens and teens fear of people. She shared that she has found the teens in care constantly fear being judged. They fear that people are talking about them and thinking of them as “the bad kids”. They fear that people won’t want to take them in and will not accept them for who they are. The sad reality is that this is all too true. So many times, people are fearful of the teens, thinking they are scary or bad.  Foster parents are also hesitant to take in a teen who may have trouble bonding or is careful to express love and gratitude.

So what do we do? How do we challenge and change this view of thinking? I asked Amber what are teens looking for in a family? And she shared the following…

Teens are looking for someone who cares about their interests. In their deep heart of hearts, they want a mom and dad. They want the mother who braids their hair and the father who attends their soccer games. They want to be loved and accepted rather than judged and feared. Teens want what every other child in foster care wants: to be loved and to be safe. These children; who at the end of the day are still children, just want a safe family to come home to at night and that’s what they deserve no matter their age.

So I challenge you today to rethink the way you see teens in care. Rethink the way you see family or your home. If you have an open heart and a home with enough space, maybe God is calling you to care for these sibling groups. IF you really want to help foster children in Arizona, consider meeting the largest need we have: Teens and siblings.

Interested in finding out more about becoming a foster parent?  Visit our orientation page and get started today!

 Don’t miss our next Night of Hope, visit our events page for more details and be sure to “like” us on facebook to stay up to date on future events and blogs. 

 

Steps to Becoming a Foster Parent

This is the first entry in a 6-part series on foster parenting.  To view a list of all the videos and blogs available in this series, please click here.

Step 1: Review the Requirements for becoming a foster parent

Minimum requirements to become a foster parent through Arizona Faith and Families:

  • At least 21 years of age
  • Legal U.S. and Arizona resident
  • You may live in an apartment, rented home or home you own
  • Must pass a fingerprint-based criminal history records check
  • Must be in good mental and physical health
  • Must be in agreement with our statement of faith listed here
  • Must be a member or regular attender of a local Christian church

Step 2: Attend an Orientation

Orientation is a required step in the foster care licensing process, it is a great place to ask any questions you may have.

During orientation you will learn:

  • More about the children in care
  • The specific requirements to become a foster or adoptive parent
  • The roles and responsibilities of a foster/adoptive parent
  • The process to become a foster/adoptive parent
  • The support you will receive when you become a foster/adoptive parent

Orientation is available online and can be viewed HERE.

Step 3: Select a Licensing Agency

After you attend Orientation you will have a list of the agencies to look through. It is important to pick an agency that is a good fit for your family. You will spend a lot of time with your licensing agency and they will spend time getting to know your family. You want to choose an agency that you feel comfortable working with.

Your licensing worker will help you understand the role of foster parents, submit the needed documents for your license, write your home study and help you with your home safety evaluation. They will assist you not only in the licensing process, but once you are licensed, they will continue to work with you and conduct monthly visits.

At Arizona Faith and Families, we seek to recruit foster and adoptive parents from within the Christian church, to train and license them within a biblical world view, and to equip them to serve their Savior, home, church, and community.  Arizona Faith and Families is committed to a foundation of prayer and biblical training throughout the licensing process.

Step 4: Attend Training

Training will provide you with the tools you will need to parent children who have been neglected and abused. Even if you have previous parenting experience, this training is important because parenting foster children who have been abused and neglected is not the same as parenting children whom you have given birth to. Training also provides you with all the information you need to decide if now is the right time for your family to become licensed for foster care or certified to adopt.

You will spend a total of 30 hours in training, and if married, you and your spouse must attend the same training.  For a list of our upcoming training sessions please click here.

Step 5: Family Home Study and Home Safety Evaluation

Your licensing worker will visit your home and spend time with you and your family collecting information for what is called a “home study”. The purpose of the home study is to determine your ability to serve as a foster parent and your willingness to comply with foster care requirements.  Additionally, the agency will request a state inspection of your home.  You can find out basic home inspection information here.

During the home study process, your licensing worker will:

  • Interview you and all the members of your household
  • Ensure that you are physically, mentally and emotionally capable of caring for children
  • Obtain and verify at least five personal references
  • Verify your financial condition
  • Verify that your apartment or house is a safe environment for children
  • Verify that you have passed fingerprint clearance, criminal history, and DCS records checks

Step 6: Placement

Once you are a licensed foster parent, your agency will work with you and DCS to place a child in your home.

You will be licensed to take up to two children your first year (subject to change only if accommodating a sibling group).

After placement, your agency will work closely with your family to help you adjust to life as a foster parent.  This exciting and rewarding process takes approximately 3-6 months to complete.

Next part

Click here to view the next part of this series which will explore the topic of saying goodbye to our foster children and why we decide to foster.

This blog entry is part of a 6-part series on foster parenting.  To view a list of all the videos and blogs available in this series, please click here.

Preparing Your Home

This is the third entry in a 6-part series on foster parenting.  To view a list of all the videos and blogs available in this series, please click here.


During the licensing process, the Office of Licensing and Regulation (OLR) will conduct a life safety inspection in your home. This is to ensure that your home is in compliance with the safety requirements for licensed foster parents. We know this can be a stressful time for families, but no need to worry we have you covered! Simply, look over this document to learn about some of the major safety concerns addressed during the inspection.

*This is a brief overview of the most commonly asked about safety requirements. A full detailed list of safety requirements for foster parents will be given to you during the licensing process by your agency. Your licensing agency will also do a walk through with you to help you prepare for the States inspection.

Medication and Toxins    

(Many families attach magnet locks to existing cabinets for the locking of medication and toxins.  You can view a sample here)

  • Medication must be maintained in a securely fashioned and locked storage, unless:
    • The foster child may access their medication specified in their case/service plan
    • The medication must be readily and immediately accessible i.e. asthma inhaler or epi-pen
  • Refrigerated Medication
    • Must be safeguarded in a locked box within the fridge. (Many families use a tackle box with a lock)
  • Highly toxic substances are in locked storage (substances that can cause serious bodily harm or death if improperly used)

Fire arms

  • Fire arms must be unloaded, trigger locked and locked in a storage container of unbreakable material
  • Ammunition must be locked in a separate storage from the firearm
  • Other than some provisions for law enforcement officers, no foster parent is permitted to carry a weapon around or near a foster child. This includes individuals with a concealed weapon permit

Fire Safety

  • 2A 10BC fire extinguisher is to be stored near the kitchen. If you have a multilevel house, you must have a fire extinguisher on all levels
  • Families are required to post and review emergency evacuation plans with foster children and maintain a record showing when it was reviewed
  • Emergency phone numbers are to be posted in a prominent location (Poison control, 911, non-emergency local police, Family emergency contact, and crisis hotline)
  • Smoke detectors are to be installed in each living area and bedroom
  • If necessary, a functioning carbon-monoxide detector is to be properly installed on each level of the home

Animals

  • No animals on the premises should pose a threat due to behavior/venom/disease
  • All dogs over 6 months of age need to have documented proof of current rabies vaccinations

Pool Safety and Spa Safety

  • If you have a pool and intend to take in children younger than 6 years old, you must:
    • Have a pool fence that is at least 5 ft. high
    • Keep the pool gate locked, except when in use and there is an adult in the pool enclosure to supervise
    • Surround the pool with an enclosure (if your house acts as part of that enclosure you will need to read the Pool Safety section to see how to be in compliance)
    • Have a shepherd’s crook and a ring buoy
  • Hot Tubs and spas must have safety covers that are locked when not in use
    • In addition, a hot tub/spa is required to be fenced in compliance with R21-8-113.B for homes providing care to a child of six years of age or less
    • If drained, fenced or unfenced, you must keep the spa:
      • Disconnected from all power sources
      • Disconnected from water source supply
      • Covered at all times

Sleeping Arrangements

  • Each child in your home needs their own bed.  Futons, pull out couches, and trundle beds do not constitute a bed
  • Children need to be provided with a bedroom but they can share a bedroom with other children.  Lofts, or rooms without windows, walls, and a door, do not count as bedrooms
  • The state does not allow more than 8 total children, or more than 5 foster children, to reside in a licensed foster home.  There are some provisions available for sibling groups
  • Children over the age of 6 must sleep in bedrooms with children of the same gender

For a complete list of the state’s life safety inspection guidelines please click here

Next part

Click here to view the next part of this series which explores the ministry opportunities of foster care.

This blog entry is part of a 6-part series on foster parenting.  To view a list of all the videos and blogs available in this series, please click here.

5 Ways You Can be Involved in Foster Care Today

I’m sitting in a coffee shop reflecting on the information I have just received. News of DCS workers receiving five newborn babies in one day and having to halt their desk jobs to care for them. Stories of a new facility being built to house children so they don’t have to sleep on the floor while they try to find homes for them. It is overwhelming and simply not okay.

I hear the stories, I know that God has not asked but that He has commanded we care for these orphans. So what do I do?

Many of you, like me, are wondering how you can follow God’s command to care for the orphaned according to your calling and gifting. Here are five ways to serve God in caring for the orphaned children in Arizona, I implore you to pick one and begin fighting for the voiceless today.

PRAY

Paul tells us in Ephesians to always be alert and praying for the saints (Ephesians 6:18). So pray for the foster parents; those preparing their hearts and homes for these children, and those already parenting children in their homes. Paul tells us to pray that when they open their mouth words may be given to them so they may make known the mystery of the gospel. Pray that they would share the Gospel daily with the children in their home.

Pray for God to raise up parents and homes to house these orphans and pray for these children of the state to be safe and cared for.  Set a reminder on your phone to make it a daily priority to pray over this crisis.

RAISE AWARENESS

How can someone help if they are not aware of the problem? It is important to share the information about foster care and the great need with everyone you know. Share articles on the internet, tell your friends, family and Church. Orientations are held weekly so that people may learn more about what foster care is and the great need for more people to open their hearts and homes. Keep up to date with these orientations so that you may provide an opportunity for anyone looking for more information.  Make the Church aware of the problem so that one day they may say “Lord here am I, send me”

RESPITE CARE

Respite care is a way to provide short-term care enabling the foster parent to take a break. Some children require round-the-clock intensive care, and this allows for the parents to take a break and reenergize when their energy is running low. Respite care is a great way to minister to families providing foster homes and a way to care for children in foster care.

MENTORSHIP

Many foster care organizations have a mentorship program, you can mentor a local foster child in your area. Take this opportunity to pour into the life of a child in need and to provide a positive role model for them. Take a moment to walk alongside someone and live life with them just as Jesus did with so many in His day.

FOSTER

We are in need for people, especially the Church, to rise up and open their
homes to these children.  To find out more about becoming a foster parent, please see Steps to Becoming a Foster Parent.  The first step you can take in this process is to attend an orientation. Here you can gather more information on Foster Care to decided if this is the next step for your family.

God has not asked us, He has commanded that we care for these orphans and to do so is to have a heart ready and willing to serve.