View Full Version : Child Protective Services ---> Foster Care

02-24-2014, 08:43 AM
In my WIP, one of the MCs is orphaned because his father killed his mother and then turned the gun on himself. Then, he goes into the foster care of another family (which turns out to be alcoholics.)

Does anyone know what the process is from the uptake to the foster care? Thanks!

02-24-2014, 09:27 AM
I do have some experience in this regard. My family has been involved in the foster care system in Kansas for about 15 years, I have two sets of cousins that are also involved, and my aunt and uncle were for a number of years before my parents became foster parents. I also feel compelled to briefly defend the foster care system for a moment as I feel the abusive foster home troupe to be a bit outplayed. While such homes do exist, I have never talked to a kid (over 100 have passed through my parents home) and none have ever described any kind of abusive foster care system. I do personally know of a situation where a family of 5 children were in a foster home and the two oldest girls accused the FP's of abuse. An investigation was quickly carried out, records were checked, former kids were talked to, the three younger children were talked to and they were found innocent. However this almost drove these very loving people out of the foster care system.

Okay, derailment/rant over, back to the question.

In the situation you described, based on my experience in a small town (6,000), the police would round up the kid and first take him to the police station, there they would contact CPS or whatever private organization handles things (in my neck of the woods, two private orgs handle things, United Methodist Youthville and St Francis Community Services. There is also a hospital for troubled or suicidal children in need of more professional help called KVC, one of my roommates actually works for them as a type of orderly for lack of a better term). The police would then begin calling potential overnight foster care homes. Just FYI, during this time, the child usually has no idea what's going on, has brought nothing from home, no clothes, toothbrush, toys, etc. they are often scared, confused and lonely. In some communities, a local church(s) may have put together a sort of comfort box with needed items, toys, book, activities, etc. There are usually boxes for older teens as well, but like most things, they tend to gear toward the younger side.

Anyways, the police would locate a foster family (usually fairly quickly-in my town, again 6,000, the cops usually know who's house is full [CPS, except in extremely rare cases, won't allow more children in a home then there are beds and they do regular check ups to keep tabs. I've only seen this happen once and that was when there were 6 siblings I believe and 5 beds. One of the children was an infant and my parents keep a crib and that was set up in their room. Those children didn't stay long as they were quickly moved to a house with enough beds. Also any additions, major cosmetic changes to the interior, etc must meet their standards. For example, when my folks moved to their house in the country, they had to have certain windows in that would allow a child to climb out in case of an emergency. Another point of note, only certain approved babysitters are allowed to watch the kids, any natural or adopted children that may be in the house must also be vetted.]

Okay, where was I? Oh yes, the cops will usually know whose full and who has room and quickly calls someone. They will then drive the child to the overnight foster home. I've actually heard of this all being done in the car via cell phone.)

So the child is dropped off over night, and the next day an official case worker is assigned, interviews with the child are conducted and usually there is some sort of background check to determine if the child has any relatives. If they do, then the are usually shipped off to the relatives (I have a cousin that is a driver for the state and has driven kids to relatives or to the homes for visitations, etc.) or the relative comes and gathers up the child. This may take a day or two and usually the original foster home will put them up for a couple of days while things are getting sorted out. Kids don't go to school, if they go any where it's usually to their case workers office, the police (if a crime was involved and they need to be questioned), or to a therapist.

If a relative can't be found or can't/won't take in the child, their case worker will usually ask the original foster home if they are willing to take in the child. Then it is up to the foster parents to decide. Case workers also meet with their client on a weekly basis, sometimes in the home, sometimes in the office, sometimes over a Coke or Starbucks or something like that. The child also usually has a therapist assigned.

There was one case, where a mother, addicted to drugs, gave birth at the hospital. CPS was called, as the baby was being flown to a major medical facility. My folks were then called and asked if we would take in the baby. After about a week, the hospital agreed to release the child and my mother spent a night or two by his bed, learning, asking questions, getting instructions, etc. She then drove the baby back to our home. We had that child for almost 2 years (due to court battles with the mother, the father, and an original adoptive family dropping out). Thankfully a family was found and my parents were able to adopt their first grandchildren (the family agreed that it was for the child's best insterst, and my folks ended up "adopting" the whole clan of kids as grandkids.)

There are cases, usually in abusive situations or because of gangs, etc., the child is transferred to a foster home in a different town or different part of the state. Again, this is usually traumatic for the child as they are being placed in a home they don't know, with people they don't know, in a town they don't know, away from their school, friends, etc. I've even seen firsthand, situations where Hispanic kids are placed in a home where the kids speak no English and the parents speak no Spanish. In that situation, my brother (who is of Hispanic descent and works at a Mexican restaurant where the back of house staff speaks very little English) translated as he lived at home at that time. A lot of Dora and Deigo was watched as well. My parents would ask my brother for specifics on how to say certain words. I think they were asked, in that situation, because the case worker knew my brother was living in the home and spoke semi-fluent "restaurant" Spanish.

Hope this helps and I didn't give TOO much information out. I tried to speak in as many generalizations as possible while still giving examples because many times cases are sensitive and confidential. We have to be careful with photographs, videos, etc and can't post them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. in some cases.

02-24-2014, 09:58 AM
You are amazing for taking the time to write all this out! It really shined a light on the process. Thank you so much!

02-24-2014, 10:16 AM
No problem! If you have any other questions about the system, feel free to ask. Again sorry if I ranted and derailed a little at times LOL NOT my intention.

02-24-2014, 05:49 PM
Bloo did a good job of summarizing the system. But let me add that despite everything you read in the news, foster homes with problems like alcoholism are very rare and require a breakdown in the system, especially the case worker.

There are a lot of checks and balances in the system, and although many foster homes don't meet the highest standards, it is very rare for one not to meet the minimal standards. The kids talk, a lot, and sooner or later someone listens.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

02-24-2014, 07:21 PM
Since CPS is going to stay involved and be checking up on your foster kid, let me say a little about them.

My own experience comes from having been a runaway and abused child, and from having watched both my mom (not the abuser - and got us out as soon as she learned of it) and my sister deal with CPS over the course of nearly 35 years. I was never in the foster system itself. My sister did spend some years living in a group home as a teenager.

First, I'm sure that many CPS workers are good and well meaning people who care a lot about their jobs and the children they work with.

That said, I've seen many CPS workers who seem more than a little clueless and uncaring, and a small few who are downright corrupt.

In most situations, lack of care is likely because the case workers are overwhelmed. They tend to be stretched VERY thin, with huge caseloads. A majority of those I've met are tired, sick of stupid regulations that prevent them from saving kids and burned out with the system.

That said, they do tend to be tenacious as heck, and if a whisper of abuse, alcoholism, drugs, etc. comes to their ears, they will hound the parents/caregivers for years. Expect random visits, both scheduled and unannounced. Expect the parents/foster parents to be treated like criminals until proven innocent. Especially if the child makes a claim, false or otherwise. In many cases, plan for multitudes of court appearances.

Regarding the few corrupt ones (which you'd probably need to get alcoholics able to foster kids) I'll tell you about the most memorable of the corrupt ones:

My sister was a battered wife and escaped when the older of her first 2 daughters was 4. The husband was a local cocaine dealer.

I'm aware that the husband had hit at least one of the children on a few occasions. We also had reason to suspect that the girls had been molested by him, but no absolute proof, and the girls frequently made claims and then recanted them.

Yep, all this had been brought to the CPS workers attention many times. However, the CPS worker liked the husband. (He could be quite charming when he wanted to.) I have no knowledge of whether she was romantically involved with him at some point, or it was merely a friendship or if he was paying her. I am aware she showed up at some of his barbecues and even, I'm told at his wedding (the one after my sister).

Time and again, any charges addressed regarding the husband (who continued to stalk and occasionally beat my sister well after she'd left him) were dismissed and evidence ignored.

It didn't help that he was also buddy-buddy with the local police force.

Meanwhile, any charges against my sister (there were many which were unfounded, as the husband was getting the children to lie and screwing with their heads in many other ways) were virulently followed up on. I'm not saying my sister was pure as the driven snow, but she did everything she could to keep her daughters safe.

Despite restraining orders (not worth the paper they're printed on as protection until after you're dead), photographs of my sister's bruises, claims of molestation by the girls, the fact that he was both using and selling drugs as well as drinking heavily (he claimed to go to AA but did not more than once or twice), he was continuously awarded more and more visitation of the girls, and was eventually granted custody of one and partial custody of the other.

I can't remember the exact words, but at one point the CPS worker told the children (in front of my mother) what a nice guy their father was.

We've tried to get her recused on numerous occasions, but she's still highly involved with my sister's cases.

Over twenty years since my sister left the husband, CPS is still involved in her life, and not in a helpful way. She now has two younger children from a second marriage. The older girls are now very messed up adults (one of them has a Borderline Personality Disorder, possibly brought on by the cord wrapped around her neck at birth combined with abuse as a child) and have been making my sister's life (and the life of the younger two) hell. (Drugs, theft, acting out in front of the little ones, and more.) Meanwhile there are now grandchildren involved, and CPS has done little to help them, despite many cases of neglect by their mother.

The BPD daughter was also shuttled through various group homes, lockdowns and psych wards which did just about nothing to help her. She's now over 18 and just gave birth to her first child. During the pregnancy she was cutting on her belly. I am hopeful that CPS will be aware of this and help the baby before he too becomes traumatized and broken but I'm not holding my breath.

LOL yes, my sister and I are writing a book.

So back to your story, you'll need to decide on what the status of any CPS workers and how/why they are allowing alcoholics to foster a child. Are the workers corrupt, overworked, clueless? Have there been allegations of alcoholism made about them by other children they care for? What kind of alcoholics are they: maintenance drinkers? occasional binges? How are they managing to hide their alcoholism? Are they allegedly in recovery?

02-24-2014, 07:53 PM
Incidentally, the only foster home I've known of/been associated with was that of my Girl Scout leader. She had something like 5 or 10 kids. Not sure which if any were her bio kids.

All the girls were in either my Cadets troop or my sister's Brownie troop. We had most of our meetings at her house (my only complaint was that we spent waaay too much time on making crafts for the church bazaar and little doing camping and such) plus I was good friends with one of the foster daughters and spent a lot of time there when we weren't doing GS things.

The house was always neat and clean. All the kids seemed mainly happy and well adjusted. Absolutely zero signs of any abuse. Much evidence that her kids loved her dearly even when going through the usual bratty kid phases.

02-25-2014, 07:42 PM
The specific system will differ a bit state by state and country by country. My mom works on the mental-health-related fringes of the foster system in Oregon. I could ask specifically, if anything from that earlier description is different there. It sounds right to me, except that in many places the police would call a CPS crisis person who is on call 24 hours (my mom does this and is often called by cops to respond immediately). In that case, it wouldn't be the cops taking the child to the temporary foster home.

The alcoholic foster parents is also an issue to pay attention to in the plot. It isn't that it could never happen but it would have to be well-hidden alcoholism. It does exist but that would take some research, if I had to do it. It also raises the question of why the foster parents wanted to be foster parents, when they didn't have their lives very well together. Some possible reasons are that they are really broke and at least one is unemployed and they think (pretty much erroneously) that this is a way to make a little money or that they are religious fanatics of one sort or another out to either save or convert the heathen disadvantaged children of the world. (Statistically many problematic foster and adoptive stories have religion as a component but that is just a common thing, not always true.)

Beyond that, yes, you would also have to deal with the issue of where the case worker went wrong, at least for your back story even if you don't mention it in the text. Flaky case workers do exist. Some of the reasons that kids stay in bad placements can be local politics or the case worker wanting to keep a child in the system for convenient caseload reasons.

Another issue to consider is why the child had no extended family or close family friends to go to when the murder/suicide happened. CPS researches this and will highly prefer a foster parent that the child knows or is related to. (In fact, this could be a reason why the foster parents don't work out, although they still have to be vetted. The caseworker might well be a bit more lenient or go through the process faster and the alcoholism might be easier to hide.) But the fact that the child has no family or close friends says something about social/economic class often. Just a thought.