A need for care: Families choose which kind of foster care works best for them
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Mikayla and Russell Grant knew they wanted to adopt. They looked into foreign adoptions and adoption agencies.
After learning about the options involved with foster parenting and the possibility of becoming an adoptive home, they moved in that direction.
“There’s a lot of laws and regulations that foster parents have to abide by,” Mikayla Grant said. “But within those laws and regulations, my husband and I have a huge say.”
Whether it’s long-term or short-term care, infants or teenagers, foster agencies have numerous options to accommodate different families. And, though becoming a foster parent is a life-changing decision, those who open their homes receive a wide variety of support.
Foster parents receive monthly financial reimbursement, weekly visits from an agency social worker, free training and seminars, three nights of paid child care for each foster child per year and a foster parent mentor.
Foster Family Service staff are available 24 hours a day to help in emergency situations. And all foster children have medical and dental coverage.
Foster parents can choose how many foster children and the gender and ages of those children. They can choose to be emergency short-term care or long-term, which can last up to 18 months. The ability for families to choose what works best for them leads the agencies to know where any given child will fit best.
“That’s one thing that I love about the system now. They really try to find the home that best fits the child,” said South Lake Tahoe foster parent April Herrera. “They always make sure it’s going to work.”
The problem right now in South Lake Tahoe is that there aren’t enough long-term care foster homes, said Megan Ciampa, a social worker with Foster Family Services. Without homes, foster children are often forced out of the area, which adds more trauma to an already traumatic experience.
Many types of people qualify to be foster parents. Individuals, single parents or married couples, homeowners or renters, are all welcome to apply, Ciampa said. Typically, potential foster parents will meet with an agency for an explanation of the program in detail. If they decide to move forward, applicants will be fingerprint cleared and have their driving record checked among other qualifications.
Homes must be inspected by social workers and must meet California safety standards, including locking up all medications and weapons, before foster children can be taken in.
Foster parents are expected to provide a safe, loving and stable home for children regardless of their race, religion or ethnic background. They must be involved in the child’s schooling and activities. Driving the child to medical and other treatment appointments is required. Though it can be a lot of work, it’s also a learning process, Ciampa said.
“Typically, what happens is that foster parents start fostering with one idea and they’ll change with experience,” Ciampa said.
Since the Grants started fostering 18 months ago, they’ve had four babies stay with them. They adopted one boy and have the desire to adopt another child. Mikayla Grant has also taken the training to become a foster parent mentor.
“Being a foster parent can be a confusing process,” she said. “Obviously there’s a lot of parents who have questions. I don’t always have the answers, but at least we can team up.”
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