Tag: crisis

Separating Siblings

Today I received six different emails requesting foster homes for sibling groups.  Today I had to reply that I did not have any foster families available who could take in these siblings.  May I share this with you?

6 year old boy, 1 year old girl

3 year old boy, 1 year old boy, 2 year old boy

7 month old girl, 2 year old girl, 4 year old girl, 7 year old boy

Newborn girl, 3 year old boy, 1 year old boy

8 year old boy, 12 year old girl

8 year old girl, 9 year old boy, 11 year old girl, 13 year old girl

This was just yesterday.  Every day our office receives dozens of emails requesting foster homes for sibling groups, a surprisingly difficult population to place.

This is because sibling groups range in age and size.  While a new foster family might feel equipped and prepared to parent a 5 year old, not too many feel equipped and prepared to parent a 5, 7, and 10 year old.  And that’s ok, because it is no easy task!

But what happens when foster homes aren’t available for these sibling groups?  They are forced to be separated; often times into multiple homes or into group home settings.   Today they will not only experience the loss of their home and parents, but will also be torn from their siblings.

This is a tragedy.  Praise God we no longer have children sleeping in DCS offices (remember 20015??).  But the work is not done.  Arizona has nearly 200% more homes than it needs for children ages 0-2 but falls far short of what we need for children over age 7 and especially for children who are a part of a sibling group.  You can view the statistics on the DCS website.

Arizona needs foster parents.  Foster parents who are willing to step out in faith, possibly have a very hard 12 – 18 months of parenting multiple children with multiple traumas, and stick around long enough to inspire others.  This is hard.  It requires people with real grit.  It takes people who are teachable and who are willing to be flexible.  Foster parents who have space, the time, and the ability to transport multiple children.  Foster parents who have a strong support system for when things get tough (or are willing to build one).  Foster parents who understand our calling as Christians to care for the orphan and who are willing to follow this command despite how uncomfortable it may be.

This is a good work.  I would argue some of the best work that can be done.  But it is hard work.  Are you willing to work alongside us?  We’ve been there, done that and we want to give you the tools to do it too.  Check out our orientation page and get started today!

 

Arizona Faith and Families was founded by Paul and Nikki Lehman.  Paul and Nikki started their family by adopting two teenage girls from foster care.  They are now the proud parents to five children and one grandchild and work to equip others toward successful foster care and adoption. 

Home Inspections 101

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 and weapons 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

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
  • First Aid supplies must be maintained and available
  • 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

Who are the kids in foster care?

With over 21,000 children in the Arizona foster care system, it is important to stop and reflect on who these children are and what help they need.

Why are they in foster care?

The number one reason children come into care is neglect (85% based on the latest report).  This means lack of appropriate food, supervision, and shelter.  Children also come into care when they experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.  Often times children who come into care because of neglect later disclose that they have also been physically and or sexually abused.

How old are they?

The largest percentage of children in care are between the ages of 1 and 5 (approximately 33%) followed by the ages of 13-17 (21%).  When foster homes cannot be found for these children, they are placed in shelters and group homes.  In Arizona, approximately 1 out of every 5 children in state care live in a group facility.

How long do they stay in foster care?

Children can come into your home for as short as a few days and as long as a few years.  Many factors affect the amount of time in care, but 50% of the time their stay lasts between 1 and 12 months.  56% of children are eventually reunified with their parents.

What behaviors do I need to be prepared to parent?

Behavior is the language of children.  As such, children will display a wide range of behaviors such as tantrums to express frustration, hording to express fear of starvation, lying to express fear of abuse, and bed wetting from night terrors.  They need loving foster parents who will not personalize or shame them for these behaviors but rather hold their hand through the healing process. Foster parents need a good support team and behavior management skills in order to meet this challenge.  Behavior and behavior management are addressed at length during the 30 hours of pre-service training.

What resources are available?

Children come fully insured with Arizona’s comprehensive medical and dental program (CMDP).  CMDP covers a child’s need for dental, health, and behavioral care.  There are also many non-profit organizations ready to help with clothing, educational resources, and access to scholarships for extra-curricular activities.  Arizona also provides WIC services to children under five and the free lunch program to school aged children.  Children in state care also qualify for financial assistance in enrolling in day care or before and after school programs.

Godly, patient, and loving foster parents are needed to care for these precious children as they wait to re-unify with their birth families or to be placed in an adoptive home.  Who are the children in foster care?  They are real children, with real needs, and real stories.  If you feel God might be calling you to this task, please consider attending an orientation to find out how!

Not ready to foster?  Here are five ways to help now!

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.

A Practical Prayer Guide for Foster Care

People often ask how they can be involved in foster care; the number one way to be involved is to pray.  Acts 1:14 explains how the disciples were “joined together constantly in prayer”.

If we, the Christian Church, seek to step in and care for these orphaned then we need to be “joined together constantly in prayer”. This is no light task we have taken on, but if God is for us who can be against us? When we look at the broken system that is foster care today we should be deeply moved to go before our Father in prayer on behalf of all those involved.

Let’s take the first step in caring for these children, would you join in praying today?

Biological Families

  1. Pray for the biological families of these children to come to saving faith in Christ and be transformed in how they parent. Pray that God would send Godly mentors and friends to help them on their journey
  2. Pray for them to receive the help they need
  3. Pray that they would be treated well and loved by the Christians they encounter through the system
  4. Pray for Godly foster parents to show them Christ’s love and partner with them in working towards reunification

Children

  1. Pray that they would come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior
  2. Pray that God would heal their wounds and hearts
  3. Pray for them to be safe from abuse while in foster care
  4. Pray for them to find a forever home either through reunification or adoption
  5. Pray that God would send them someone who can speak truth into their lives and help them to heal from the trauma they have encountered.

Foster Families

  1. Pray for more laborers in the field
  2. Pray that God would continually encourage them and strengthen them on their journey
  3. Pray for boldness and opportunities to share the Gospel with these children and their biological families
  4. Pray for their marriage to remain strong and united
  5. Pray for biological children living in the home, and for foster children moving in, to transition well

Adoptive Families

  1. Pray that they would not be discouraged as they wait
  2. Pray that their marriage would be unified through this time
  3. Pray for them to love their child as God loves their child
  4. Pray for them as they raise their children to have wisdom and guidance

The Workers

  1. Pray that God would draw Godly people into the field of social work
  2. Pray that they would be encouraged in their job and not grow weary in doing good
  3. Pray for Godly judges, therapists, support staff, ect. to be involved in this process
  4. Pray for them to boldly live out their faith daily and for opportunities for them to share the Gospel

Please feel free to print and share this post as a tool for guiding your prayer time.

The Ministry of Foster Care

This is the fourth 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.


The bruises and sores are finally starting to heal.”

It was prayer request time at our small group.  And the report wasn’t on someone who was recovering from a car accident.  She was describing two young children in the foster care system.

When children are removed from their homes by DCS, they carry many burdens.  They have often been subject to neglect, physical abuse, or sexual abuse.  Instead of being nurtured and cherished by their caregivers, they have been sinned against.  This has a drastic effect on the psyche and spirit of these children, and more than anything, they need healing.  These children need healing for their broken relationships, healing for their broken bodies, and most importantly, healing for their spirits through the gospel.

“And it came to pass on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, who were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them” – Luke 5:17

The power of our Lord knows no bounds.  He is capable of healing any child, no matter how badly they have been abused.  They can be healed of the burden from their past abuse, and also from the unrelated burden of their own sin.  This spiritual healing comes through the gospel and the regenerative power of the Holy Spirit.  As Christian foster parents, we have a unique opportunity to share the facts of the gospel, and to model the fruit of the Spirit for children in our care.  Whether we have them for a couple days, or adopt them and have them for the rest of our lives, we have the great privilege of sharing the message of the gospel with children who have probably never heard it before.

“How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed?  How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard?” – Romans 10:14

There are many secular foster homes that can monitor and facilitate the care of children.  There are many secular foster homes that can provide a safe place for bruises and broken bones to heal.  But as Christians, we alone can offer the power of the gospel.  We can provide something infinitely greater.  The question is, will we?

To find out how you can be involved please visit our FAQ page and contact us today.

“Jesus bears with him power to heal; this is His honour and renown.  He has the eagle’s eye to see our sicknesses, the lion’s heart bravely to encounter them, and the nurse’s hand gently to apply the heavenly ointment; in Him the three requirements of a good surgeon meet in perfection” – Charles Spurgeon

Next part

Click here to view the next part of this series which will explore the topic of shared parenting.

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.

The 17,000

17,000. The number is remarkable.  Over 17,000 children in the care and custody of the state of Arizona.  The number is staggering, the need is great.  The state has contracted with twenty-nine agencies to recruit and license foster parents for this crisis.  Of those twenty-nine, six list themselves as faith-based.  Six.  That’s just 20% of the state’s contracted agencies targeting their recruitment at Christians.

That means that 80% of families are recruited from among the general population. The very children we are responsible to rise up and care for.  The children we will hold an account for when our days are done, are not being cared for by us.

This is no easy task.  This is no easy calling.  But we will not be measured against its difficulty, we will be measured against our willingness to obey.  And there is hope for this generation of children in state care.  The first step toward foster parenting is an easy one!  Simply attend or host an information meeting.  These orientations are one hour long and will give you valuable information about becoming a licensed foster parent.  Orientations are held monthly and listed on our calendar.  They can also be privately scheduled for your church or group.  Contact us today to find out more!

The Broken System

*Writers Note: The following article contains links to news and data related to this topic.  Please take the time to educate yourself on the crisis in Arizona and then pray about where God would use you to move on behalf of children and families in crisis.

Spend any amount of time in social services and you will inevitably hear the phrase, “The system is broken”.  In fact, the “broken system” has become such a norm that we never really pause to think about it.  It is a widely accepted fact that we simply must work within.  It’s broken, but we do our best.

But the question must be asked:  Why is the system broken?  And more importantly, can we fix it?  With over 17,000 children in Arizona Foster Care, can we really afford to do our best with something that doesn’t work?  Children born to broken homes, handed to a broken system; the irony is palatable.

I’ve meditated on the issue for the past ten years as I’ve worked in and around foster care and adoption.  I have spent a decade with this system and her children.  Watched its attempts at success, and had front row seats to its failures.  It was broken long ago, and it will crumble with these rising numbers.  The current system of foster care will not sustain 17,000 children.  It will fail.  That failure has a cost no child should pay.

Children failed by the system have multiple moves, caregivers, schools, and homes.  They are over medicated and under schooled.  They are sexually assaulted, physically abused, and lose their lives under the rubble of this system.  These traumas have life long consequences.

And Christian, it is important to note, that we are the ones holding the sledge hammer.  The mess and failures of this system belong to us.  It is not the state’s fault that the system is broken, it is the fault of the Christian church who handed it to her.

The government is not designed to raise children.  It is not designed to heal broken families.  So it should be no shock to us that it is not possible for the government to successfully play this role, no more than we would expect an elephant could climb a tree.  It is outside of its design, structure, and purpose.  The government plays this role not because it is best fitted for the job, but because it must.  It must protect its citizens and the most vulnerable of its people.  It must play this role, because the church has not.

The reality of this truth is painful.  The truth that our Lord and Savior tasked us with the care of the widow, the orphaned, and the oppressed.  The truth that the job of the foster care system was not intended for a government but for the Christian church and her people.  This fills me with so much shame as I look at the disaster it has become.  It is so terribly broken, Christian, and the blame belongs to us.

This conviction is not meant to chain us down with guilt.  It is meant to awaken us.  It should sting, but let that sting cause us to open our eyes!  We may have failed in the past.  We are definitely failing right now.  But praise God we do not have to keep on failing.  We need not stand in the refuse of the system and keep trudging forward.  We don’t have to come up with programs or funding and try to rebuild a broken building with broken bricks.  We are not a government or another human institution.  We are the people of a Holy Church and worship a Holy God.  The God who tasked us to care for the widow, the orphan, and the oppressed only asks that we step forward to do the job.  He is the one that will supply the tools, resources, and structure.  He is the one who will repair it, we need only show up to work.  Will you show up to work Christian?  Church, will you rise up and take back your job?

The question has been asked:  Why is the system broken?  And more importantly, can we fix it?  The system is broken because of us church, but praise God, Yes, it can be fixed!

To find out how to get started please visit our FAQ page and Contact us to get started.