Information On Foster Parenting In Georgia: How Do I Start?

Information on foster parenting in Georgia. There is a critical shortage of approved foster homes. Check here for an overview of the approval process.

There is a critical shortage of foster parents in Georgia and most other states. Because children in foster care have often already been abused or neglected, foster parents require a great deal of training and preparation to be able to deal with these special, needy children with the least negative impact possible on their own families.

In Georgia, persons interested in becoming foster parents begin by contacting their local Department of Family and Children Services, a branch of Georgia Department of Human Resources. Each county offers a free informational meeting, usually once a month, to give an overview of foster parenting. Often these meeting dates will appear in the local newspapers.

Foster parents can be married or unmarried, live in apartments or homes, own or rent, and may or may not have birth children in the home. It is no longer an absolute requirement that one parent be home with the children, and child care benefits may be available for approved foster parents.

Foster parents in Georgia are now paid $12.00 per day, per child, so foster parenting is not a money-making venture and, on the contrary, may be quite expensive. In addition to the per-diem rate, you may be reimbursed for some expenses, which will vary from county to county. Children in foster care are eligible for Medicaid, free lunches and breakfast at school, and some initial clothing allowance in most cases. Other items that may be reimbursed include school supplies and diapers. Most children in foster care receive assistance at Christmas as well.

Prospective foster parents will be asked to fill out many, many forms, some of which may be considered invasive, but they are designed to find out the most information possible about you before you are approved. This is for the protection of the children, as well as the agency and you. Your home and family will be examined minutely and an extensive background check will also be carried out, including a criminal records check of any persons in the home over the age of 18.

Training for foster parents includes a 12-week course called Model Approach to Partnership Parenting, M.A.P.P. Partnership Parenting means that you will be parenting children in foster care along with their birth parents and their caseworkers and other professionals who may become involved. Being able to work with these other parent partners is a critical requirement to become foster parents. Classes are usually one night a week and all adults in the home must attend all meetings. The training will include the potential impact of foster parenting on you, your children, and your extended family. Role-playing exercises will be carried out to help you learn some of the special circumstances children in foster care will face. One night is used for a panel discussion made up of foster parents, children in foster care, and others who will answer your specific questions and offer personal anecdotal information about foster parenting.

During the entire training and qualification process, it is possible to "wash out" of foster parenting. This can happen for a number of reasons which may have nothing to do with your qualifications or desire to foster parent and should not be taken personally. This decision may come from the trainers or from you. The training and qualification process is designed to help you and the agency find out if foster parenting will be good for both your family and the children in foster care. It is not unusual for many families to drop out during the training and is not considered a failure. Rather, it is encouraged if you find that you are not ready to become foster parents. Generally speaking, if you can be talked out of foster parenting, you probably should be. It is a job that is definitely not for everyone, and should be considered long and hard before you take the first child into your home.

Because foster parenting is a day-to-day, long-term commitment and can have significant impact on your life and family, personal issues may have to be dealt with including your own childhood traumas, relationships with your parents, and any abuse issues you may have. In addition, you must be ready and able to assume full responsibility for a child that is not yours, offer love and support to that child, and then be willing to return that child to his birth parents or perhaps have the child moved from your home to another with little or no control over those movements. You must be willing to work with caseworkers and the court system closely, as well as birth parents, who may not be the kind of people you are used to associating with.

Foster parenting is not a substitute for adoption, nor should it be looked at as a means to adopt. It is extremely rare for the courts to terminate parental rights on a birth parent and offer a child in foster care for adoption. If a child in your care should become adoptable, you may be offered the opportunity to adopt the child, but this is by no means guaranteed. Generally, children who become adoptable will be older children and may have extremely difficult special needs before they reach a point where they can be adopted.

If your goal is adoption, you should make that clear as soon as you apply. Some prospective adoptive parents can make very fine foster parents, but everyone needs to know in advance that adoption is the goal. This can save a lot of heartache later on.

Before making this commitment, talk to your immediate family as well as your extended family about foster parenting and its potential impact on them. All family members will be affected and will need to have input in this decision process.

Foster parenting can be extremely rewarding, but can also be painful and frustrating at times. The foster parenting approval and training process is designed to help you find out if foster parenting is right for you and your family. To find out more, please contact your local Department of Family and Children Services.

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