One of the most important aspects to remember about foster children is that nearly all of them will have some kind of special need, whether it be something as simple as developmental delays or something more serious such as paralysis or brain damage. The only way to truly care for these children is to know what your limits are: what are you capable of taking on, what resources are available to you, how much time will have to be put into caring for the child’s special needs along with daily needs, what is your agency or Department of Family Protective Services allowing you to assist with or allowing you to take on.
Children come into care usually listed as basic care children, which just means that they have mostly your day-to-day care for their age range with minor behavioral issues. Some children come into care as what is known as moderate care. This means that these children need more than routine guidance and supervision to ensure their safety. The highest level of care that requires specialized training by the foster parent is specialized level. This level means caregivers must have specialized training, and the children must be monitored and have care 24 hours a day, every day, to ensure their safety. To learn more about the levels of foster children, their requirements, and what qualifies a child for these levels click here.
It is hard to know in the beginning of a child’s placement what level they truly need to be listed at to get the care and services that they need to improve. If you have a good agency, they can assist you in testing the child as they are in your care to learn what may be best for the child. The Department of Family and Protective Services only places basic care children, so as a foster parent if you’re needing assistance with a child who is above this level, the foster parent will need to seek an agency for assistance.
When fostering, it is best to look at each child individually…
Just because a child is listed at one level does not mean that that level is permanent; it can be upgraded or downgraded if needed. The main aspect a foster parent will want to research if they discover their child is not a basic care child is: what resources are available to treat the child’s needs, how much time will it take away from work if a parent must take time off for appointments, how much support will a parent have from case workers to obtain the treatment needed for the child, and how much travel is required to reach an appointment.
If the foster parent doesn’t have adequate knowledge, resources, and support, taking a child above a basic care level would not be in the best interest of the child nor the parent. When fostering, it is best to look at each child individually, know as much as you can about their history, watch for delays in development, or any behavior that may be out of the ordinary that would likely benefit from therapy.
Of the eight children I have fostered so far, all but two have needed some kind of therapy, whether it be physical, mental and emotional (play therapy), occupational, or speech; all were listed as basic care children. I had one who needed to be moved into moderate care as he was diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder and was extremely aggressive and strong at two and three years old. The Department of Family and Protective Services refused to allow him to be moved to that level, and he was moved to family before I could really get him the therapy he needed. This is why I stress the importance of finding a good agency and having that support to assist the foster parent in getting the most out of therapy for their child who has special needs.