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!I don't really have a lot of advice here. Though, I haven't always been thrilled to death with my agency, so I do have a few things to think about. I'm hoping some other readers can chime in with advice and questions they'd ask as well.
One of the reasons I went with the agency we're with now is because of their size and the fact that they are faith based. My agency has several locations in Texas and also operates in a few other states as well. I had hoped that being this established that they would be organized and would operate with the mindset of someone that follows Christ.
I really liked the director of the agency that handled our initial trainings and got us licensed. She assured me that they were in the process of putting in an office closer to where we live. I was told repeatedly that we wouldn't have to travel almost an hour away for all of our training sessions.
Sadly, many of the things I thought to be true about my licensing agency simply were not. They've never established a satellite office. They're anything BUT organized. And, as a whole, they regularly function like a bureaucracy dealing with us as glorified babysitters and not as people trying to serve Christ by doing foster care. They've been through multiple directors since we've had our license and social workers come and go all the time!! But...I never would have known any of this because all of my questions were answered wonderfully when we signed up with this agency. And the first director was terrific. The atmosphere of the agency has changed with each new director. And honestly, each social worker has their own way of doing things too.
Now...I do simply adore Rainbow. Her role has changed many times. First she was our social worker. Then she became the local recruiter for the agency. Now she serves as both the recruiter and the placing coordinator. She wears a lot of hats. And Rainbow has ALWAYS treated me fairly and with respect. It's largely because of her that I decided to stay with our agency when we decided to re-license after taking the hiatus over Christmas.
I don't really know what to tell you about choosing an agency though. It's important to know the role of the licensing agency in the area where you live. Some agencies handle visits. Some agencies even manage therapy sessions and doctor appointments.
Where I live, the role of the agency is to make sure that our home is in compliance with the Minimum Standards that Texas has in place for foster homes. They offer no transportation to anything. They have nothing to do with visits. And they do nothing more than locate a therapist for you if your child needs counseling - and that hasn't been true in every case I've had. Sometimes CPS coordinates counseling.
That said, figuring out how your agency handles what they are responsible for is the big thing. Do they allow online training? (My agency, in general, does not.) Do they come to you and train you in your home? Do they give you enough notice or are they always springing last minute training sessions on you?
What role do they serve in the children's lives? How often do they have to visit the home? How accommodating will they be with your schedule?
Most of my biggest complaints really have to do with the State of Texas anyway. They are the ones that determine what the Minimum Standards are. So it's not my fault if my agency has to have me fill out ridiculous amounts of paperwork for things that don't make sense. (Like a recreation schedule for an infant!) The agency has to do what the State tells them to do.
I don't regret choosing our agency. I would totally jump ship and go with a new one if I truly thought it would be better (more organized and the trainings closer to home). I don't honestly trust any of the closer agencies to be easier to work with though and I'm very established with ours now. I don't really want to go through the home study process again.
My biggest advice is to trust your gut! As calloused as it may seem to say, these agencies NEED foster homes. They do like to put on the pony show to make themselves sound wonderful. If something isn't sitting right with you, trust yourself and ask around. See if they'll let you talk with current families that are fostering in their agency.
Best of luck to you as you start out on this adventure!! Does anyone else have advice for this mom and how to choose an agency?