There are lots of ways to stay organized. And we all know that paperwork is half the job when you're a foster parent. I've decided to share my organization system with y'all today.
I've seen this in several other blog posts. By no means is this original. But it's how I've been doing things all along so I figured I'd share. I've even taken some pictures. :)
I keep a 3-ring binder for each foster kid that comes into our family. Pumpkin's binder is 3" thick and is completely full! I call it Pumpkin's Bible. I go nowhere without it!! Dude and Dolly are a lot easier to care for – they share a binder.
Before I explain how I do it, I want to explain WHY I do it.
For the most part, foster parents aren't always taken that seriously. Like I mentioned in my last post, we are at the very bottom of the totem pole. One way to help level that playing field is to stay organized. When I show up with my binder, people usually do a double take. I had one social worker practically bug his eyes out. He asked me if I was a brand new foster parent. My response was, "No. I'm just organized. I want to always be able to back up what I have to say with proof if necessary."
I needed that social worker to take care of a medical paperwork snafu. Under other circumstances, he might not have been inclined to believe that Pumpkin had truly had her physical. He probably would have told me that if I received a letter saying she needed a physical, then that's what I would have to do. Because I had my binder, I was able to - right there on the fly - bring out paperwork showing all the exams Pumpkin has ever had. This social worker, one whom I had never met, took time out of his busy court schedule to fix the problem for me.
My binder system is very simple. The first page is probably the most important. This sheet, more than anything, impresses the heck out of the professionals involved in my kids' cases. It contains all the contact information anyone could ever need. For Pumpkin's book I've got her name and birth date at the top. Under that I have our name, address and phone numbers. (I'm really not worried about anyone getting ahold of our contact information. I make it available to everyone. I just don't give out our social security numbers - ever.) Under the immediate contact info I list out all the professionals involved in Pumpkin's life. They include, but aren't limited to, doctors, dentist, rehab, day care, school, our licensing agency, her CPS worker, GAL, lawyer, CASA and her Medicaid case worker. I keep this sheet of paper in a clear page protector so I can pull it out. If I know I'm going to be meeting someone new (if her worker changes or I'm meeting with CASA) I print out an extra copy so I can just give it to them.
The second page is a list of all of Pumpkin's medications. Again, this is in a clear protector so I can give a copy to any interested parties.
Page three is for the copies I have of Pumpkin's birth certificate and social security card.
I use folders for the next couple categories. The first one contains "Things to Turn In". Every time Pumpkin sees a doctor I have to have a special form filled out that I have to turn in to my agency. When the month is up, I store her med logs in this folder until I see our worker, Rainbow. When Rainbow comes for her visits, I'm able to simply grab the bible, turn to the folder and hand her everything all at once.
The next folder is for paperwork I want to keep but for items that change frequently. I don't keep all my copies of everything. For example, our agency worker has to write up an Individual Service Plan every few months. I only keep the most current copy. And since it's quite thick, it's easier to store this in a folder instead of hole punching it. I also keep a current copy of the clothing and personal possessions inventory sheet I have to fill out every 3 months.
Behind all the folders are sections for all the paperwork.
General Health (including her immunization card in a clear binder)
CPS Forms (placement forms & medical consenter forms)
Education (504 & IEP)
I simply three-hole punch everything and file it behind the appropriate tab. I keep everything here forever. In fact, since all I was required to give CPS when Pumpkin went home in September was the education section, I kept my bible intact. I figured Pumpkin's mom didn't care about this information before – she probably hadn't started caring. When Pumpkin came back in to care 11 days later, I still had everything I needed. When Pumpkin leaves my care to go to a relative (hopefully), I will be able to give them her complete medical history (or as complete as I've been able to put together).
Finally, I keep a folder behind it all to store blank copies of forms. If I have to rush to the doctor or hospital for an emergency, I know that I've got her Medicaid card (I store that in the front pocket of the binder itself), medical history and necessary forms. If left to my own devices, I'm quite confident that I would forget to get the medical form filled out if I didn't keep copies with me at all times.
Because of Pumpkin's special needs, lots of people need information out of different sections. She saw a new dentist last time and he appreciated getting the actual diagnosis list from the neurologist. Yes, I could have told the dentist everything. But it's more official when I can give him a signed copy from the neurologist himself. The school needs her medical information. Her social workers need everything. And when I have had to go to the hospital, it helped to be able to show them official forms from each professional.
People respond positively to organization. And showing up to every event with full documentation on our kids helps level that playing field. I feel like I'm taken more seriously because of this binder and I don't leave home with my kids unless I've got their binders with me.