In most states in order to obtain your foster care license, you will need to contact the local social services office (ie DCFS in Illinois), fill out a bunch of paperwork and you will be required to take classes. In our situation, there were a series of 9 consecutive 3-hour long classes that we took at a hospital in the area. At first I had no idea what they could possibly be teaching us. It turns out that what they teach is invaluable. The following is a link to the DCFS Virtual Training Center for Illinois.
DCFS Training in Illinois
Most states are using the same training materials that you can find at the website listed above. The topics they cover give you a glimpse into the world of a foster child, a birth parent, and the team of professionals you will be working with. Foster care is not a clean and neat process. It’s messy, there will be mistakes, you will never be prepared, your heart will be broken over and over again. Everyone involved is human, they are imperfect, no amount of training can keep you from screwing up, or saying the wrong thing. The biggest thing I took away from these classes is to see the humanity of everyone involved, and to learn how to be more understanding. When dealing with human emotions, you need to be as understanding as you can possibly be.
Another take away is the story of the birth parents. They have a history too, they may have also been in foster care, or at least should have been. Something happened in their life to get them to where they are right now, and they may not have known how to handle it, or may be been too depressed to try. They have been humbled to the point of giving up. I’m not trying to make excuses for them, but attempting to wrap my mind around the fact that these kids belong to them, and the emotions involved for the child and parent when seperating them.
The biggest relief was when I learned in the classes just how much support you have access too. You are not in this alone… I hope this is the case for other states as well. You will have access to therapists, counselors, doctors, lawyers, tutors, a network of other foster parents willing to help, and so much more. You just need to keep excellent records on the children you take in, and stay in contact with your team to make sure that everyone has the information needed to give this child the best care possible. School, daycare, and medical care will be covered through the state, and you get a stipend that helps cover the cost of food and clothing. There are other things that may be covered as well, just ask your licensing office. You will most likely be spending money out of your pocket to care for these kids, this is not a money making venture… but if you’re like Jason and I, you’re doing it to help others, and possibly to start a family of your own.