Wednesday, April 8, 2009

35 Minutes, and Then They're Gone

The interview toward accreditation went basically like I had expected. In the last couple of hours before she arrived, I had a sudden fear that I would be asked to share MY files, similar to the way they go over agency files. That was an intimidating thought, for sure -- and I'm glad it didn't involve anything like that. The interviewer was female, from a mountainous state to the west. I was surprised to hear that she was a volunteer. She asked me my thoughts, rather than specific questions, but many were close to what I had expected.

She asked about our training, and what I thought of it. I responded saying I liked that we are allowed to get 1/2 our training hours from outside sources, so I could attend trainings specific to my children, especially those with medical needs. (I did not say that the trainings offered by the agency were often boring and repetitive, unless they were presented by someone outside the agency, from new material. I was trying to be a good team member.) She also wondered about my role as a trainer of new foster parents, and how that was structured. We team-teach: a degreed social worker, counselor, or other professional, along with a foster parent. (We provide the color commentary to go along with the play-by-play.) She delved a little further into that, getting assurance from me that our practice is full involvement with the training, actually presenting half the material, not just dropping by occasionally.

Another question was about mentoring of new foster parents. Although we do a lot of mentoring, some of it arranged by the agency, and some of it naturally occurring by active foster parents and through the foster parent group, there is no official mentoring of every new foster family that I know of. It has been mentioned, but is not in regular practice.

She also asked if I felt I was part of the team (definitely, and I remember the time, years ago, when that was not the case), and if the agency is responsive to concerns (also a definite yes answer). In fact, with the new administration in our agency, we now have regular meetings to share foster parent concerns with the administration. Naturally, we have some complaints about things not on the local level, but I believe they're doing what they can, locally. A little more flexibility would be nice, but we can't have everything.

I was asked the one thing I'd most like to see changed, and then the one thing I enjoy most about what I do. My biggest concern is lack of new foster parents, and foster parent retention. The more families we have, the better the matches can be made, and the more successful placements will be. Along with that -- actually the basis of retention of foster parents -- I think is feeling supported by the agency. The key to this is knowledgeable workers - seasoned workers who have some experience under their belts. In this area, we are a college town, and have many new graduates who begin their careers in our agency, then move elsewhere. The constant turnover is a downfall, but I'm not sure what to do to prevent it. The thing I enjoy most is seeing a child's success -- those little daily things, having a child experience growth through something he's accomplished that he didn't belive he could. That's all I need - just a smile from a kid, and an occasional pat on the back from the agency.

There were a couple of other subjects that I can't think of right now -- I'll edit later if I remember them. The team left here to meet with an adoptive parent, and then a young man who aged out of the system.

All in all -- it was a good experience. I hope they get the information they're looking for, and our agency can get back to the focus of serving the children in our care, rather than meeting accreditation standards. Paperwork is important, but not the most important thing, by far.

1 comment:

Living on Less Money said...

Bless your heart for taking care of these children. Our family did foster care years ago and I loved it. I wish I could do it again now that my children are grown but my husband's health won't permit it. You are a blessed mother!