Monday, April 20, 2015

psychological evaluations

I've only got experience with foster children and psychological evaluations (psych evals) here in Texas. They aren't something I hear a lot of other foster moms talking about. With my licensing agency, they seem to be a pretty big deal.

Originally the evaluations were only for children age five or older. And with all my kids those ages, the psych evals happened within a few weeks of the kids coming to stay with me.

I load up the kid(s) and trek to our licensing agency just under an hour away from where I live. Once there I'm handed a stack of paperwork to fill out based on the child's age. I've found these forms very difficult to fill out as I typically don't have much information on the kids that soon into the case. For example, I had NO IDEA how incredibly difficult MissArguePants and TurtleTurtle were really going to be as I hadn't experienced the full realm of their behaviors yet.

While I'm filling out paperwork about their overall development and behaviors, the children are taken into a room with a psychologist. They are interviewed and given several different tests to complete. Older children have to take an IQ test even.

Last, I go into a room with the psychologist alone and I'm interviewed. The whole process takes about an hour or so (longer if they're behind schedule or only bring one professional to do all the evaluating).

The results from these psych evals are used to make sure that the appropriate services are put into place for the children. An overall picture of the child is given describing their development. If the testing official thinks the child needs special education services, it will be noted in the evaluation. They also make recommendations for therapies that are needed for the child. The psych evals also list a "level" appropriate for the child. These evaluations are submitted to the third-party company that determines the per diem level for all foster kids in Texas.

I'm in favor of these evaluations being done. They are a good way to make sure that appropriate services are put into place for the kids. They can also help foster parents get new services for their child if necessary. I really don't think these evals are a bad thing at all.

But when the Neverland Kids were placed with me I was told that ALL foster children needed a psych eval...even the baby, Tinkerbell.

Now, Captain was five years old. So, he did need the eval no matter what. And Pirate had displayed enough questionable behaviors that I was more than willing to participate in a psych eval with him. But Tinkerbell?! That just seemed stupid. Since I was going to my agency anyway though, I didn't fight it. I told the scheduling secretary that I thought it was stupid. But whether or not she was evaluated really didn't affect me at all.

Fast forward to last week.

I got a call telling me that Russell's psych eval was today (Monday the 20th) at 3:30pm. The scheduling secretary must be a little scared of me. She apologized before she told me about the appointment and she asked me to not shoot the messenger.

Again I told her how stupid I think this is. But I told her I'd play along if it's required and all.

I got an email this morning politely reminding me about our appointment this afternoon. Because I'm done following every rule blindly, I had already decided I was going to talk to someone in the office when I got there. Her reminder email gave me an opportunity to jump-start the conversation. I replied to her email with:
We will be there.
Can I ask…who is the person responsible for deciding WHICH children need psych evals? I have to assume this is a (licensing agency) decision as I don’t believe all foster children in the state are required to have these evals as such a young age. It concerns me greatly that infants are having to go through this process. It’s not going to identify anything on such a young child and it’s, in my opinion, a horrible use of resources that could be used to benefit other children. I’d like to speak to this decision maker if at all possible or at least send them a letter asking why it’s necessary to do evaluations on children that can’t even walk or talk yet.
Thank you.
Cherub Mamma
Interestingly enough, the director of our licensing agency called me about an hour later.

Interestingly enough, I don't have to take Russell for a psych eval today!! All I have to do is provide documentation from the medical professionals in Russell's life showing that he has been given a developmental evaluation. That's easy enough to provide! We just did an exam for very purpose last Friday. I'll get someone in the doctor's office to photocopy the forms I filled out last Friday and I'll submit them to my licensing agency.

I saved myself two hours in the car and a meal out for dinner. I probably saved my licensing agency a crap-ton of money. I'm quite confident these evaluations aren't cheap!!

Foster parenting definitely keeps me on my toes. I'm glad I played my cards the way I did. All along I said I'd comply. All I wanted to know was the name of the decision maker so I could express my frustrations with evaluating such young children for no good reason. I wonder how many other foster parents just simply packed their babies up and went through the motions on this like I did the first time around just two months ago.

I'm done blindly following rules.


Bee said...

My agency made my foster son start psychotherapy at age 9 months. So once a week, I take him to a psychologist, and of course, it's me talking, since he can't even talk yet. It's ridiculous. I sit there and guess what he's thinking and feeling. It's funded by a private non-profit, if it was coming out of CPS, I would absolutely refuse to participate.

Cherub Mamma said...

OMG, Bee! That just about takes the cake!! They don't start therapy down here until over the age of three typically. In fact, when I had Dude and Dolly, only Dolly saw the therapist the first time around (she was four and Dude was three).

I hope you like the therapist. Free therapy for you as you deal with a System that wants to send a 9mo to psychotherapy!

That is just plain crazy!

At least this psych eval could determine the need for PT, OT or ST on an infant if the foster parent wasn't in tune enough to see it themselves or the doctor seeing the child hadn't noticed a need for it.

VJ said...

Psych Evals are REQUIRED there? That is a total 180 from our county. We had to beg for permission to take our toddler to get a psych eval because she was displaying some extremely alarming behaviors...only to find out she had already been diagnosed with a mental illness BEFORE she came into care. Our county will do anything to avoid the paperwork that comes with additional services, so it's interesting to hear that you are forced to get services that your kids don't need!

Anonymous said...

Hey Cherub Mamma!
Okay so since I have officially stalked every one of your blog posts, I feel like I know you (and ALL of your cherubs)! My family is meeting with an agency this week to see if they are a good fit for us, and I would love your advice on which questions we should ask! If you don't want to comment, please send me an email!

Thank you!

Annie said...

Good work!