Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Juggling a crazy schedule

I've got one question left that Stacy, a reader, posed to me awhile ago...
How can a two-parent family where both parents work full-time (I don't remember if that's your situation) can do the appointments, phone calls, etc. required to foster a baby or preschooler?
My partner and I are thinking about fostering but it seems like there's so much scheduled on top of the normal parenting requirements that there almost needs to be a stay-at-home parent.

This is going to be a difficult question to answer. Every single state, agency, and social worker operates differently. So, what I know to be true about my area might not apply in yours Stacy.

Because I work from home I've never tried to put extreme limits on when and where those appointments and phone calls, etc. take place. I've pretty much let everyone know that I can go with the flow. However, I know that Mimi at I Must Be Trippin' is a single foster mom that has structured her schedule. I believe, and correct me if I'm wrong Mimi, that she was very up front with all parties involved in her cases. She does home visits with everyone only one day a month. She meets with social workers, CASA volunteers, lawyers, etc. during that day only. Where I'm at I bet being that strict with my schedule would be met with a great deal of resistance. However, the need for foster parents is so great! I'm betting that if you were up front during your home study and extremely up front the first time you meet with any of the professionals involved in your kid's cases that it would be do-able just about anywhere.

The first couple weeks of a new placement will probably be the most difficult each and every time. Where I'm at we are required to take our kids to a doctor within the first 72 hours of placement for  a communicable disease screening. I simply take my kids to the doctor and get a full physical done as well to at least get that ball rolling. Often kids will need a few different doctor appointments when they first come in to Care. I've had several placements where the children were behind on vaccinations which required multiple appointments to get caught up.

I have 30 days in which to make sure my kids have seen a dentist. Again, the dentist has always required multiple visits as well. All my placements have arrived with rotting teeth that needed extreme restoration.

Then of course you might have to juggle therapy, psychiatrist appointments, family visits and more. Each of these are case specific though.

Legally, your job has to accommodate your appointments. The Family Medical Leave Act entitles you to 12 workweeks of leave within the first 12 months following a placement. Granted, this is unpaid. But you are legally entitled to take time off to tend to the various appointments. When we were licensed in Iowa I worked outside the home and my husband was a full-time college student. I approached my boss with the idea of us fostering prior to us getting our license. He was generous enough to understand that I was going to need a flexible schedule. I personally ended up just being able to take time off as necessary and work extra to make up for things. Thankfully, during the time we fostered in Iowa it was MUCH, MUCH easier than it is down here in Texas. I had so many fewer appointments.

I'll be honest – I'm not sure how a single foster parent or a two-parent family where both work outside of the home do it. But they do!! Here are some blogs I read by either a single parent or a two-parent working family. Maybe they can be of help or inspiration.
Letting Go of Mie
All My Pretty Ones
I Must Be Trippin' 
Love's A State of Mind 

I'd love it if any of my readers could comment on this blog with more advice about juggling the craziness that is foster parenting with a full-time working schedule. I'm guessing that most of the responses will include getting a strong support system that is approved by your licensing agency/State to help back you up. Transportation services are available in many areas as well. Please chime in with other helpful hints!


Sara Bentley said...

We foster- currently have 3 kids, two from one family (ages 2 and 4) and one from another family (7 months) and we both work outside the home, full-time. We currently work with an agency that transports to visits, and meets with us at home in the evenings. The two older kids are in play therapy, their therapist goes to their daycare to meet with them once a week. Currently, I work at home on Fridays, so I do a lot of their appointments those days. I also have a very flexible boss- probably the most helpful thing to have!

My husband blogs for us:

aka. Mimi said...

Wow! I saw my name and got all "Look at me! I'm a celebrity!"-like... ;-)

You're right though. Because I'm single and work full time outside of the home, I am very up front with all of the workers before I take a placement. They know from the beginning that I will most likely be unable to transport to weekly visits and that they will need to make arrangements for that.

I take the 3rd Wednesday of every month off work. My CASA, caseworkers, agency, etc. all know that if they want to do their home visit DURING THE WORKDAY, they will need to come that day. Otherwise, they have to schedule after I get off work, or very early in the morning.

I use FMLA intermittently throughout the year to cover time off for doctor appts, court hearings, and other unavoidable appointments.

It is very doable. You just have to be up front with your workers and your employers. It took me a year or two to realize that I CAN set limits when it comes to missing work, and for the most part, everyone has been very understanding. Like Cherub Mamma said, the first couple of weeks after a new little arrives are always the craziest in terms of time off from work, but that's what FMLA is for! :-)

I've written a couple of posts on juggling everything as a single, full-time working foster mom. I think this one gives quite a bit of detail and ideas. Hope it helps!

Kristin said...

We also foster and both work full-time outside the home. We currently have 3 fosters (all unrelated) ages 13, 9 & 6 months and 2 bios ages 2 & 4. We live in a state that transports to visits & can meet with us whenever it's good for us - usually evenings. I used to have every other Friday off - which was great for appointments and stuff, but I had to stop taking that because I had to be in by 8:00 and that didn't work with dropping kids off at school/daycare.

I can say this - it's very doable as long as you are organized. We are lucky because our kids don't have tons of appointments (only 1 has any therapy and her person picks her up & they go out). And if we are really stuck on doctor's appointments, they will even transport then there, but we always feel bad about that.

It does help to have one person who can take off of work easily though. My partner is a teacher and she cannot, it's more work to take time off than to just go to work. So, if there is a day-time appointment, I am the one that takes off and it (usually) works out fine.

But, we don't sit down until after 9:30/10:00 most nights - between dinner, clean-up, baths/showers, bedtime, homework, packing lunches, etc. there is not time for much else. The more you get done at night the easier your morning is - and I value that little bit of extra sleep over everything. Luckily we both have our strengths, for example - my partner is great with homework and I am great getting the little kids bathed & to bed and organizing for the next day. It all just flows after the first week or so of adding a new kid into the crew!

Foster Mom - R said...

If you don't mind I'm going to piggy back off this post and answer this question too because I get it a lot. We are a two parent full time working household with 4 school aged kids. Thanks for the shout out!

CandCFamily said...

I am not going to say it is super easy, but we make it work. Both hubs and I work full time in Pharmaceutical IT jobs. Luckily, our busy/stress times at work don't usually coincide as we work for different companies. We have three kids in the house and seem to make it work. Our SWs are good about scheduling visits on my work from home day so I don't need to rush home from my office. I have been able to get daycare slots for my kids relatively quickly (immediatley for the first as she was already in a daycare, I just had to drive 25 minutes out of my way) and within 7 weeks for the second kid. I took some time off, took leave, then worked from home. She was a baby so it was easy. I also had lots of help from friends. My kids are relatively healthy and were babies, so we didn't have a lot of visits. Also, SS transported for 95% of the visits.