This article originated from The Omni Family of Services website (link at the bottom of the page) on the Foster FAQ page. Omni Visions is one of our providers and is committed to the very best care for the youth they serve.
What is foster care?
Foster care is the temporary placement of children outside of their own homes. It occurs because of parenting issues, abuse, neglect or other family problems.
When a Juvenile Court Judge determines that a child cannot return to their home, then alternative placement is researched. The law requires that the Court uses the “least restrictive placement” possible. Relatives are considered first, followed by traditional foster care, then treatment or therapeutic foster care.
The goal of most foster placements is to resolve problems and to return the child home.
How is therapeutic/treatment foster care different than regular foster care?
Treatment or therapeutic foster care is a step above traditional foster care.
The children serviced in therapeutic care all have complex trauma or a mental health diagnosis and are receiving additional services such as counseling, medication or case management. Many children in therapeutic foster care simply need more support and services than can be provided in traditional foster care.
Therapeutic foster care focuses on helping children reach their goals and transition back to their family or find other permanent placements such as adoption or independent living.
What kinds of children need foster homes the most?
Many kinds of children need treatment in foster homes. The children who currently need homes the most are:
- African-American adolescents
- Teenage mothers and their babies
- Children with special medical needs
- Caucasian adolescents
- Siblings who need to stay together
- Hispanic children
- Babies born with drugs in their system
What are the ages of the children served in therapeutic foster care?
We serve children from birth to 21 years old. Typically, most of our children are in the pre-teen to teenage range.
Do all treatment foster children have issues?
All of these children have had traumatic experiences to some degree. Many are frightened and confused at the sudden separation from their parents. Some are very angry. Others may think they are being sent to a foster home as punishment. These problems gradually lessen, though, as a foster child comes to know that you care for him and Omni Visions staff offers its intensive support.
How do I become a foster parent?
You can complete a request for information form here or call a local office to express your interest in becoming a therapeutic foster parent. This will result in a local Omni Visions representative contacting you about the process. A representative will then make an appointment to come to your home.Many children in therapeutic foster care simply need more support and services than can be provided in traditional foster care.
That person’s job is to help you decide if foster care is a good plan for you and your family. The representative will also give you an application and a medical form to have filled out for each member of your family. Because the law requires that a criminal background check be run on all applicants, you and all adults living in your home, will be fingerprinted. In addition, references you provide will be contacted.
While these checks are completed, you will attend thorough training classes to help prepare you for your future role.
How long will it take me to become licensed as a therapeutic foster parent?
Generally, it depends on how efficiently you complete and submit the requirements. On average, it takes approximately four months to complete the process.
How soon after I receive my license will a child be placed in my home?
We cannot guarantee a specific date or time frame for placing a child in your home. A lot of factors affect placement such as a child needing a specific school district, race/religion preference, needing a two-parent home vs. a single parent, ability to be placed with other children, etc. Also, your own preferences may affect wait time.
The more open to behaviors, ages and differences you are, as well as your demonstration of therapeutic skills, the sooner you may get a placement. However, all parties involved must agree that this will be a good match. Please be patient with this process.
How will Omni Visions assist me as a therapeutic foster parent?
First and foremost, this not a solo effort. You will be joining a team to help you with the child placed in your care. You will be assigned a resource coordinator to provide support, guidance and assistance. In addition, Omni Visions offers 24/7 on-call support and monthly training sessions to help you build your knowledge base and skill sets.
- Financial Assistance: Therapeutic foster parents receive a monthly reimbursement to cover the child’s food, housing, clothing, transportation, personal allowance and treatment needs of the youth. Each state has levels of care, meaning the level of service the child is expected to need while in the program. Each level has its own foster parent per diem. The higher the level of treatment needed reflects a higher per diem.
- Medical Care: Most foster children get a medical card from the state, which guarantees payment for all necessary medical care and preventive medicine. We will help you select a physician for a child placed with you. The medical card is also accepted by many hospitals and for approved prescriptions. You should not pay any medical bill directly.
- Educational Services: Foster children go to regular public schools. An Omni Visions staff person will assist with school liaison and assessment of educational needs.
- Personal Support: Omni Visions and your supervising child’s referring agency caseworker are responsible for supporting your family on a daily basis. Each agency, including Omni Visions, has developed internal support, which includes foster parent support groups, after hours telephone numbers and community resources.
Do I have to own my own home?
No. You can rent your home or apartment. If you rent, you are required to have renter’s insurance.
Do foster children need individual bedrooms?
No. A foster child can share a room with your children or other foster children of the same sex. Each child must have a bed of his or her own.
Do I have to be married?
No. A lot of therapeutic foster parents are single. However, if you are married or living with a partner both will need to complete all licensure requirements and complete all training.
Can I take my foster child on vacation?
In most cases, yes. If it involves out-of-state travel, you must call your child’s Omni Visions caseworker in advance for approval and to complete the proper paperwork.
Can my foster children go to church with me?
Yes. Omni Visions will try placing children with you whose religious background is similar to your own. If a foster child is of a different faith, he or she must be allowed to attend worship in that faith, as well as assisting him/her with the transportation to the church of their choice.
How will my children react to foster children?
If you’ve prepared them well for the coming of a foster child and they understand the temporary nature of foster care, there should be few problems. It’s not unusual for your children to be a bit jealous at first — just as they might be jealous of a new baby in the family. With the support of the Omni Visions staff and by answering their questions honestly and forthrightly, these potential jealousies diminish quickly, and your child may find a new friend.
Can I choose the type of child placed in my home?
You can express a preference for the age, race, and sex of the child that you think would best fit in with your family. The home study process helps to determine the best match of a child or children to your special skills and strengths. You do not have to accept a child you do not want or feel would not fit into your family. Most often you will be provided with a lot of information about the child before you make your decision about accepting the child. We want the placement to be just as successful as you do.
How many foster children can I take?
That depends on factors such as your ability, your enthusiasm, how many children you have of your own, and how much room you have in your home. The maximum number, by Omni Visions standards, is flexible state to state. Contact us for more details.
Do a child’s birth parents visit him or her?
In most cases, yes. In fact, visits between parents and children are an essential part of the efforts to reunite families. The child’s caseworker has the primary responsibility for planning visits and arranging supervision if required. The caseworker will talk with you and the child’s parents to work out the time and location of the visit that is agreeable with both parties.
Can I ever adopt a foster child?
The first goal is to return foster children to their families when possible. Most of the children we place through Omni Visions are older and have a voice in being adopted, but if a foster child who has been in your home for some time becomes available for adoption, you can discuss your interest in adopting him or her with the caseworker and meet the requirements for becoming an adoptive parent.
Won’t it be hard when the foster child returns home or is adopted?
Yes. That is, in fact, the hardest part of being a foster parent. You will certainly feel sad for a time. It’s only natural — just as it’s natural for your foster daughter or son to want a family of their own.
There will always be new foster children who will need your care and affection. We suggest foster parents view treatment foster parenting like taking in a foreign exchange student. You know they are going to return home after a period of time, but during the time they are in your home, you will support them and show them the example of an appropriate parent and family.
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