I've been thinking a lot about about the things you can't learn in foster parent training. I've got several different things that come to mind including parenting issues, Medi.caid, and more. I'm going to try to touch on several of them in future posts.
One of the biggest things we weren't told though was one of our agency's policies. They literally left off their official stance on "supervision". I had no idea the kids weren't allowed to play outside without me watching their EVERY move. With our first girls Miss Argue Pants and Turtle Turtle, I treated them like normal 8 and 9 year old girls. (I had been told that the goal of foster care is to give kids as normal of a childhood experience as we can.) I allowed them to go over to neighbor's houses to play. I let them ride their bikes around the neighborhood. I trusted them until they proved they couldn't handle the trust. It seemed like the right way to handle things. (I'm a rather free-range parent to begin with. The deeper I get into things the more I realize this conflicts horribly with foster care in general.)
I found out - after the fact - that my agency would have said I was negligent with my supervision if they had known I let them play like that. Each child is supposed to receive an ISP (Individualized Service Plan). In this plan they list out very detailed rules, expectations and goals for each child in care. I just didn't happen to ever get an ISP for the girls. Not sure why.
Included in the ISP is the level of supervision they say the child needs to have. For example, Pumpkin is required to be in my hearing and/or line of sight at all times. This means that if I go upstairs to put away a basket of laundry and I leave Pumpkin downstairs playing I'm breaking the rules. (Shhhh....don't tell CPS that I have to break this rule every now and then.)
There have been several different policies and standards that I didn't learn until after the fact. Unfortunately, you can't seek out this kind of training ahead of time. You're literally at the mercy of your agency or county to learn all the ins and outs.
I recommend going online to read the full list of minimum standards that your state requires. This information can be found on your state's department of health and human services web site. We sat through the training for minimum standards but they glossed over it so fast and it all sounded so simple and common-sense like. I have now found out how ridiculous some of the standards are.
For example, I'm not allowed to keep water in our wading pool overnight. Our state's minimum standards do not allow any standing water on our property. (This even includes bird baths!) Now, this rule is a bit over the top for me. I can't afford to drain and refill the pool every day. As an environmentalist (wanna-be) I also can't justify using water this way. So, I drain the pool when it gets dirty (every couple days or so). It's good to know what the rule actually is though so I won't leave the pool up for a week and allow it to get all slimy on the bottom. I truly don't want to get busted for breaking a rule like this if I was to get a surprise inspection.
You never really know what standards are big deals and what ones are in writing but no one really cares. No one told me that I'm required to have outlet covers throughout the entire house. Not even the investigator that came to do an inspection last year! So, obviously, that's not a big deal. However, they are cracking down on the rule that says anyone that enters your home more than 2 times a month must go through a full background check. And yes, this even applies to the contractor you hire to re-tile your bathroom. Of course, the only way you'll get busted on this one is if you just happen to have a surprise inspection from licensing while the contractor is there.
Every area has their own set of rules. When we were licensed in the Midwest the experience was totally different than what it's been like down here. We're learning on our feet though and doing OK. I'll write some more about other things we've learned on the fly in future posts.