It has now been more than six months since our last foster placement. At the beginning of the year, we made the difficult decision to switch foster agencies. After how long it took to get licensed the first time, the prospect of another delay was discouraging. But I feel confident that we have found an organization who’s mission we can support and who is fully able to support foster families like us. We are hopeful this will help us better care for kids moving forward without burning out.

Why we switched

When we first got licensed, we reached out to the main organization we knew and immediately started the process. I am very grateful for all the support they provided to us and our foster kids, but we felt increasingly at odds with the values of the agency. The local branch of the agency has a large proportion of families wanting to adopt out of the foster system. While there is certainly a need for homes for children with no hope of reunification, we believe the primary goal of foster care should prioritize relationships with relatives as much as is beneficial for children. The more time we spent with our old agency, the more we saw how the culture minimized the role of kin in a way we though wasn’t best for foster kids. No one was acting malicious, however it felt like the focus of the organization was skewed to center around the foster parents rather than the kids and their biological families.

In theory, a focus on foster parents would mean more support, but we also had some structural concerns with the organization. The small office had a lot of manual processes, mostly via email. This might be manageable for another charity, except foster care involves complex judgement calls and legal requirements. We had multiple issues with missed communication, lost information, and processes that weren’t fully followed. To me, it felt like the organization didn’t have the controls in place to adequately support families when difficult situations came up. Everyone we met at the agency was working hard to take care of families, but the institutional support seemed lacking. When the only employee with long term experience in the San Diego foster care system left, we decided we would be better off getting licensed elsewhere.

What’s different about our new agency

We took some time to evaluate several agencies before moving forward with one that we felt we can trust. We talked to people we’ve met in the foster care community to help narrow down our options. We reached out to two organizations before deciding which to apply to. In the agency’s orientation, we were glad to see they made it explicitly clear that they focused on reunification first and that adoption was not the priority. They are one of the larger agencies in the county and have been much more organized throughout the process. With their size brings a network of support and fellow foster parents to connect with. The main drawback with this organization is that they focus on younger foster kids. That is okay for the time being, but we’ve also considered the possibility of fostering teens in the future. Ultimately we felt a lot more confident trusting this organization to walk us through the hectic journey of foster care.

What’s going on now

Since foster licenses aren’t transferrable, we are essentially re-doing the entire license process. We hope that the out-of-state background checks which delayed us last time don’t need to be requested again so we may be able to skip that portion. We have been working through our application process as quickly as we can, filling out paperwork, getting fingerprinted, and filling out more paperwork. The next step is our training which we won’t be able to attend until July. If things go well and we complete the final phase of our application quickly, we should be licensed not too long after that.

In the meantime, we are trying to get more settled here. We continue to work on our home, on ourselves, and to learn all we can about the experiences of foster children. This week, we attended a local stream of the Hope for the Journey Conference which talks a lot about caring for kids who have experienced trauma. There’s been a few times where we’ve been able to help other foster families with brief, respite care. We’ve also seen the two kids we fostered and their baby sister a couple time this year. We are encouraged seeing them continue to grow up in their family’s care. Though this delay was unplanned, we are making the most of it and hope to be as prepared as we can for whatever comes next.

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