Foster Parent Information

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Is there comprehensive information somewhere about what all is involved in being a foster parent?  Oh, yes!  Almost everything you always wanted to know about being a foster parent in Arkansas is in the Foster Parent Handbook (PUB-030).  Additional publications (but certainly not all of them) are listed at http://www.cakid.org/publications.html.  (If the above PUB-030 link doesn't work, there has probably been a revision in the handbook.  In that case, go to the publications list and click on the Local Copy of the PUB-030 link there.)

How do we apply to become a foster family?  Go to: https://dhhs.arkansas.gov/wa_FC_adoption/FCA_Inquiry.asp.

Is there a manual that governs standard practices for case workers?  Yes.  A huge comprehensive guide for case workers and other DCFS staff is the Family Services Policy and Procedure Manual.

What kind of training do foster parents get?  Before becoming certified to be a foster parent in the Little Rock area, you will go through 30 hours of training ("Foster Pride/Adopt Pride"), either around 4 hours per week for 8 weeks (usually weekday nights), or 8 hours per week for 4 weeks (usually Saturdays).  This is usually conducted at the Mid-South Center for Social Work Education, Research & Training at 100 S. University Ave., Suite 100, Little Rock.  Click here for a map.  You will also fill out mounds of paperwork, and go through several background checks, as well as having your home inspected, to become a foster parent (the background checks and the home inspections are an annual event to keep your certification current).  You will need to get certified in CPR/First Aid, including infant and child CPR, and maintain your certification by retaking the training every year or two (depending on who you took the training from, such as the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association).  Besides the 30 hours of initial training, you must complete 15 hours of training each year, such as those listed below.  Both in-state and out-of-state conferences may be counted toward your training hours.  The training does not have to be specifically offered by DCFS, but, may be other child-related training, such as the full-day Down Syndrome conference that we attended (you will have to have certificates or letters attesting to the hours for the training or conference).

MidSouth also offers an annual 3-day "Arkansas Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect", usually in September at the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs.  This multidisciplinary conference gives you an opportunity to hear nationally recognized presenters and local experts speak on issues in child abuse and neglect.  The conference registration is around $160.00 (as of 2009) for the 3 days (plus your hotel, meal, and travel expenses).  This and other training opportunities can be found at their web site, http://www.midsouth.ualr.edu, where you will click on "Trainings Offered & Register Online" to see their list of free courses.  Some courses are just listed for DCFS personnel and school teachers, but, they might let you in if there are open slots.  Some of the courses they have offered include:

Treatment Homes, a nonprofit organization that provides therapeutic foster homes for children with emotional or behavioral problems, also offers some foster parent courses.  Along with MidSouth, they offer the Foster Pride/Adopt Pride pre-service training.  They offer therapeutic foster parent training three times annually (therapeutic foster care is for children with severe emotional, behavioral, or medical problems).  The first session is an orientation and introduction to therapeutic foster care, describing the program, the responsibilities, and the rewards.  Their therapeutic foster homes are associated with them, and are not DCFS therapeutic foster homes (although some people switch between the two).  They also hold the Arkansas Action for Foster Children State Foster Parent Conference, usually in early summer.  They will host a Foster Parent Orientation ("Become a Foster Parent") on Thursday, September 4, 2008, from 6-7 p.m. at 700 West 4th Street in Little Rock (call (501) 372-5039 for details).

DCFS offers a one-day Foster Parent Training Conference, usually in May or October, with various speakers and sessions throughout the day.  The statewide foster parent conference is held every year to give foster and adoptive parents the opportunity to obtain training hours as well as time for socialization and networking with other families from around the state.

MidSouth produces and mails out a quarterly newsletter for foster parents, called Foster Pride, including a schedule of training available through them.  They post the most recent publications on their web site http://www.midsouth.ualr.edu/index_fp.html and they have sent us their 2008 and 2009 publications, which are posted here:

Spring 2008
Summer 2008
Fall 2008
Winter 2008

Spring 2009
Summer 2009

A newsletter for DCFS staff (although foster parents can also find some good information there), called Connections, used to be produced quarterly by the DCFS Program Excellence Unit, but, they only came out with two issues of it.  Mona Davis says they may bring it back.

What financial and other assistance is available for foster families?  Foster parents get a monthly stipend (around $400-$475), called a Board Payment, to take care of each foster child, depending on the child's age, plus an additional amount to cover any special needs that the child may have, along with an initial clothing allowance and a quarterly clothing allowance.  If both foster parents work outside the home, free child care is available.

Under Medicaid, foster children have their medical expenses and therapy sessions paid in full at Medicaid approved facilities.  They may also be eligible for WIC (Women with Infants and Children) vouchers which pay for formula, cereal, and juice for children through age 5.  You may pick up the formula at the WIC office, if they carry it, or contact ABC Infant Formulas at 1-877-463-3663, if you haven't applied to WIC yet, and they will deliver the formula to your doorstep each month until WIC has been approved (don't go but a month or so like this - ABC is only for the short term).  For special needs children who are not potty trained by the age of three, Medicaid will pay for diapers each month (we got 117 diapers each month for our child with Down Syndrome).  To qualify you must get a prescription from the child's doctor that the child requires "incontinence supplies."  You can send the prescription to Habibi's Durable Medical Equipment (phone: 501-663-1553, fax: 501-661-0738), and they will deliver the diapers to your doorstep each month free of charge.

Your foster children are eligible for free meals at their school (breakfast and lunch), required school materials and school fees (pre-approval is required), and holiday giving allowances (included in the November check) - yes, DCFS will help your foster child pay for gifts for others.  Child care or baby-sitting fees when required to attend training or for oneís own children when transporting a child to services are also reimbursable.

An Incidental Expense Fund provides items and activities which serve to normalize a child's life experience while in care. For example, camp fees, music lessons, field trips, school uniforms and other items not specifically covered by other means may be met by this fund. The Incidental Expense Fund is intended for items or activities which cost $25.00 or more and use of the funds does not require prior approval. Items covered by the board payment are not eligible for reimbursement from this fund. In addition, these funds shall not be used for Holiday gifts. The Family Service Worker will assist the foster parents to access these funds when the money is needed for a situation that meets the policy guidelines.

Other assistance includes transportation to and from appointments with doctors or therapists (but, we would rather that foster parents accompany the children to such appointments), coverage for damage to the home caused by foster children, a high school graduation allowance of $500, a high school prom allowance of $350, and a high school senior ring allowance of $250.  Special needs children may also qualify for a Social Security Trust Fund, in which funds are deposited to be spent on the child (we were surprised with a $1,200 trust payment which we had to spend in 3 days on one of our boys or we would lose it - we got him a crib, an exersaucer, clothes, extra formula, toys, and other things, all of which went with him when he left).  Just be aware that these funds must be spent or they will be turned back to the government if they accumulate over a certain amount (around $2000).

Foster parents can also get reimbursed for travel expenses (mileage) for some errands and obligations, such as taking a foster child to a doctor's appointment, therapy session, or the hospital, or for attending a court session or staffing meeting regarding the child's case.  You will need to fill out a Travel Expense Reimbursement Form (TR-1) each month and send it in for approval and reimbursement (see instructions for that form).  (These really aren't good instructions for foster parents filling out TR-1's - I will be adding foster-parent-specific instructions at a later date when I find the letter that DCFS sent out about it around the beginning of 2009.)  Note that the Medical travel expense goes on a different form than other travel expenses.  Most of the above information can be found in the Family Foster Parent Handbook.

Foster parents also have access to "The CALL Mall" where you can pick up clothing, baby items, bedding, and even furniture at no charge.  Then, when you have similar good gently used items that you want to get rid of, take them back to The CALL Mall for recycling to other foster parents.  The CALL Mall is located at the Markham Street Baptist Church at 9701 W. Markham Street (at Meadowbrook Drive) in Little Rock.  Access is by appointment - contact Dana Thomas, Deborah Isreal (disreal74@yahoo.com, 455-5503), or Tracy Jeffries (fosterassoctjeff@att.net, 350-2514) - and is usually open on Saturday mornings, but, can also be opened for emergency needs.

You will get great bargains at the children's consignment sales happening at various times throughout the year around the area.  We have listed some of them here.  Should you know of any other consignment sales in the area, please email that information to Nancy Rea <nancy1rea@gmail.com> and we will add them to our list.

There are several organizations which offer a "Parent's Night Out" program, where they will provide you with free or low cost child care for a couple of hours or more in order for you to get out and do some things on your own without the kids (maybe a movie or dinner, or a date night with your spouse), or, just stay at home and "veg" - a great opportunity to recharge!  Note that they will have to be an approved DCFS facility or program, or have approved DCFS workers in the program and there that night.  Below are some of the Parent's Night Out programs around the central Arkansas area that we know about.  If you know of any more of these, please let me know so that we can enter them here.

And, last but not least (and not necessarily focused just on foster children) are the reduced fare and "Kids Eat Free" offerings of some restaurants, usually just on specific days.  There may be a ratio of how many kids per paying adult that you must adhere to, but, you could end up just paying for the parents while feeding the whole family.  Below are some of the "family friendly" restaurants around the central Arkansas area that we know about.  You may want to call them before you go to make sure that they still offer free or reduced kids meals that day.  If you know of any more of these, please let me know so that we can enter them here.

Who can I talk to about the special board rate for my special needs child?  You will need to talk with the case worker or the county supervisor about a special board payment for your child.  They will evaluate the need and fill out form CFS-304 ("Justification for Special Board Rate").  For a complete listing of steps DCFS goes through, see "PROCEDURE VII-F2: Requesting a Special Board Rate" in the Family Services Policy and Procedure Manual.

Is the board rate (the monthly payments from DCFS for caring for a foster child) taxable?  No.  Board payments paid to foster parents are not considered taxable income by the Internal Revenue Service.  However, if the child has been in your custody for at least six months during the tax year, you may count them as dependents on your federal and state tax returns.  There is also a child tax credit that you may claim on your taxes (in addition to claiming them as a dependent), which is worth up to $1000 per child (fill out Form 8812 for this child tax credit).  Also, there is a $500 Arkansas state tax credit for taking care of certain special needs children, such as those with Down Syndrome, Autism, Mental Retardation, Epilepsy, and Cerebral Palsy.  For the credit, the child's primary physician must fill out Arkansas tax form AR1000RC5 (Developmentally Disabled Individual Certificate) attesting to the child's condition.  The form is good for five tax years before you have to get another one filled out by the physician.  Be sure to discuss these tax credits with a qualified tax accountant or equivalent before you take these credits and deductions.

How do I "prove" that this foster child is in my custody, should I be questioned about it, and what other information do I need about the case?  When you are given custody of a foster child, the case worker will fill out a Foster Home Agreement Addendum (Form CFS-462A), which includes the child's name, birthdate, SSN, and case number, along with the monthly board rate for caring for the child, plus your name and signature, and the case worker's name and signature.  Do not take custody of the child until you have the completed form (including signatures and board rate) in your hands, even if that means leaving the child in the hospital or other custody of the case worker for another day or so until the form is filled out.  That's the only thing that shows that you have legal custody of the child.  If the case worker does not have a copy of the Addendum, print the one out here and have them fill it out.

Besides the Addendum, you also need to get the child's Medicaid number (which may change a few times while you have custody of the child) for medical coverage.  You will also need to get the cell phone number and e-mail address of the case worker and their supervisor, along with the on-call case worker's phone number (whom you may contact after-hours in case of an emergency with the child, including relocating the child if necessary).  Also, within 72 hours of the child coming into care, the judge will assign a Guardian ad Litem to the child.  Be sure to get their phone number and e-mail address as well, so that you can keep all of the parties apprised of the child's progress, accomplishments, medical and other appointments, and general well being.  (We recommend that you send a status e-mail to them at least once every couple of weeks.)  Privacy, Please!  You need to keep information about the child's case confidential, no matter how hard it is for you to NOT talk about their case!  We recommend that you give them a nickname when sending e-mails about them, and only use that nickname in the e-mails (we have had Princess, Tater, Sad Eyes, Itty Bits, Button, Monkey, and Mr. Wiggles).

Is there someone who can take care of my foster child if I have to go out of town, or have some other function to go to, or just need a break?  Yes.  This is called "respite care".  You will need to call your child's case worker as soon as possible to have them find a respite home for your child for the time you are gone.  Respite care could be for a weekend, a week, or any other time up to 10 days.  You are encouraged to make friends with other foster families and to recommend them to the case worker for your child's respite care (if they are OK with that).  The respite foster parents get paid out of your board payment for the days they care for the child.  You may also find your own baby sitter for the evening, and pay them yourself; however, they must have undergone a background check by DCFS and be approved by DCFS before you can leave your foster child with them.  Pre-approval of one or more friends or relatives for babysitting is encouraged.

There are other programs in Arkansas that offer respite care for foster families (mainly for special needs children).  The Arkansas Federation of Families has it's Therapeutic Recreation in Parks (TRIP) that takes individuals with special health care needs on a weekend respite journey to Arkansas state and national parks.  Treatment Homes also has respite care families.  And, Camp Aldersgate holds week-end respite care camps for special needs foster kids, along with week-long summer medical camps.

We are having problems with our foster child.  Is there any help for us?  Before things get too out of hand, please discuss these problems with your foster child's case worker.  Perhaps you need a break from each other.  Respite care may help in that case.  Unfortunately, if your foster child is threatening to make things difficult for you with DCFS, such as making false accusations about you to DCFS, you must immediately demand that the child be removed from your home, either to the child's case worker or by phoning the on-call case worker if your child's case worker is unavailable.  This is one of the difficult issues of your foster care calling, but, you must bite the bullet and do it.  If your foster child does accuse you of something to DCFS, they are required to remove all foster children from your home and close your home down while an investigation is made, which could last a few weeks or even a month.  The complaint will remain in your file forever, whether the accusation was true or not.

If an incident occurs necessitating an immediate removal of a foster child from your home (such as physical threats from the child against you or other children in your home), you must call the on-call case worker for your area to have the child removed.  They will usually send someone to pick up the child within an hour or two after the on-call case worker is contacted.  You need to pack up as much of the child's clothes and other possessions as you can during that time to send with the child when the child is picked up.  If you have a life book that you have been keeping for the child, please give the life book to the case worker that picks up the child, or save it for the child's case worker (don't put it in the child's luggage).  Anything else left when the child is picked up can be given to the child's case worker at a later time.  Note that when a child is moved from your home, you will probably never see them again (as foster parents), and the case worker cannot tell you where the child was placed.

We are having problems with our case worker.  What can we do to resolve them?  First, contact the case worker's supervisor and explain the situation to them.  I know that "our children" can be an emotional topic, and we fight for them as if they are our own, but, try to stay calm and stick to the facts about the situation (possibly even pointing them to the relevant procedures in the Family Services Policy and Procedure Manual or the Family Foster Parent Handbook).  If you are still not satisfied with the results, contact the Area Manager (the Area Director for Pulaski County is Beki Nance at 501-371-1268, or email Beki.Nance@arkansas.gov).

If you can't get an answer from your case worker or their supervisor, please feel free to contact the director of DCFS.  Her name is Cecile Blucker.  She is a hands-on manager who took the time to come to one of our foster parent meetings, listen to our needs, and give us some solutions and pointers.  If the case worker or their supervisor isn't doing it right or doesn't follow the correct procedures, you may contact her at the DCFS central office, but please do so only after you have exhausted all options with your case worker, their supervisor, and the county administrator.

Cecile Blucker, Director
Arkansas Department of Human Services
Division of Children and Family Services
Phone: 501-682-8770
Cell: 501-412-1542
Fax: 501-682-6968
e-mail: cecile.blucker@arkansas.gov

 

We would also like to adopt, if the opportunity arises.  Will being a foster parent help?  Officially, no, but, in reality, when a child is TPR'ed, the current foster parents of the child are usually asked if they want to adopt the child, in order to maintain stability of the placement.  A child is usually required to be in the home six months before an adoption can be finalized.  If you have had the child in foster care for at least that amount of time, you are probably immediately eligible to adopt the child; otherwise, you will have to wait until the six months have passed before the adoption can be finalized.

Where else can I find information about being a foster parent?  In addition to this web site (cakid.org) and the DCFS web sites, you may wish to look at the Arkansas Foster Family Services web site at http://www.fosterarkansas.org.  It includes a list of statewide foster parent associations, so, if you aren't in Pulaski County, there is probably a foster parent association near where you live.  You can also see our Other Information web page, which contains additional web sites for foster parents.



Some sad statistics:

At the end of 2002, there were 371 children currently in foster care in Arkansas who had been placed into foster care 10 or more times (which is 6% of the total children in foster care).  Also, 11% of the children who are abused will be abused again within one year (according to substantiated (true) reports).



One hundred years from now it will not matter what kind of house I lived in, how much money I had, nor what my clothes were like, but that the world may be a little better because I was important in the life of a child.


The beautiful pictures on cakid.org are graciously used by permission and copyrighted by Darrel Tank at www.darreltank.com.  These and more may be seen at http://www.cakid.org/Darrel_Tank/thumb.html.  Thank you, Darrel, for your contribution to the foster parents of Arkansas.  We thank you, and our kids thank you!


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This Page Was Last Updated on 08/04/09



All information, forms, manuals, and other material on this web site are freely available to all
foster parents (in any role), potential adoptive parents, DCFS staff, CASA workers, guardian ad litem's,
county judges, legislators, and any other state officials or state employees that may need it.

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The webmaster who maintains this web site (Stephen Rea, a foster parent) may be reached at srea1957@maristream.com.
Please let me know if you have any other resources or information for foster parents that we can post here.
Your contributions would be greatly appreciated by us and the other foster parents across the state!

Dedicated to Olivia