A Guide to 7 Members of Your Foster Child’s Entourage
Who ARE All These People?
When a family becomes a certified foster home and the first child comes to live with them, the event called “placement” is a whirlwind of activity. There’s paperwork to fill out and supplies to buy and rooms to rearrange. A child or set of siblings moves in, sometimes on very short notice, often shell shocked by trauma, including instant removal from the birth parents’ home. Everyone is in a period of extreme transition and adjustment. It’s hard work! And then come the phone calls and emails from providers, all valuable and important members of your foster child’s team. Sometimes there are so many it’s hard to keep the cast of characters straight. Here’s a quick, but probably not comprehensive, guide:
- County social worker—Every foster child comes automatically equipped with a county social worker, who carries the case and is ultimately in charge of the decisions made about the child’s life. This worker is employed by the county in which the child was taken into protective custody. (Some foster children have TWO county workers: an ongoing worker and an adoptions worker, if the child is heading toward adoption.)
- Foster family agency (FFA) social worker—That’s the title of the Sierra Forever Families worker, who helps to support and educate the family and the child as they get to know each other and as the placement continues. The FFA worker is also the family’s lifeline in helping them understand how the team operates and to coordinate contact so it doesn’t become overwhelming!
- Dependency attorney—Every foster child also has an attorney who represents the child in dependency court. It’s not uncommon for the child’s attorney, or a representative of the attorney, to contact foster parents directly to get information about the child’s health and welfare.
- CASA—The program known as Court Appointed Special Advocates trains volunteers to advocate, to be the voice of children in courts and the community. The CASA assigned to your child is empowered to report to the court critical information to ensure that a child’s rights and needs are being attended to in foster care. The CASA also has the right to inspect a child’s school records and visit with the child in or out of the foster home.
- Public health nurse—County-employed nurses work with the county social worker to ensure that children’s medical and developmental needs are being met while they are in care.
- Mental health worker—If the child in your home is receiving mental health services, he or she may also be assigned a mental health case manager, often employed by the county, whose job is to make sure that the child is receiving appropriate mental health services and to monitor those services.
- Eligibility worker—Also employed by your child’s county. In a bureaucracy—surprise!—sometimes there are financial glitches. Temporary problems regarding Medi-Cal payments for medical services are not uncommon. Your foster child eligibility worker is usually happy to straighten out these issues with a phone call or two.
Foster parents (or, as we call them these days, “resource families”) have the opportunity to make lots of new friends. It’s a time that calls for being flexible and going with the flow, and relying on your Sierra Forever Families social worker to help you sort it all out.