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Matt T.
04-28-2016, 03:45 AM
I'm in the early stages of writing a YA novel. A crucial part of the main character's past is that he was molested by his father when he was younger, which, long story short, ended up with him in the foster care system. He exits it long before the main story of the novel takes place (I haven't decided yet whether other family members take him in or if he's adopted), but I have a lot of questions about the foster care system because I'm not personally familiar with it.

They include:

What happens immediately after a child is taken by CPS?
How long does it usually take for a child to be placed in a home? Where do they stay in the meantime? I've heard of shelters or temporary homes, but more details would be useful.
In cases of physical/sexual abuse like my MC, what kind of immediate emotional care/therapy is given, if any?
Once a child is placed in a home, how is therapy handled? Assuming physical or sexual abuse, are they given some kind of long-term therapy, and if so, what does it entail? Is it initiated by the state, or is it left to the parents/caretakers?
What is the exact role of the social worker? Do they handle any of the therapy aspects? How long do they work with the child?
How much of this changes based on the age of the child? Right now, I'm imagining ten or eleven for my MC when this all happened, but that can be changed.

This is a sensitive topic, so I want to get as many of the details right as I can and to be able to treat it with respect.

I'm not asking that someone answer every single one of my questions, as I know that's a big request. Rather, I would be very appreciative if someone could point me in the direction of resources that could answer some of my questions, like a book, website, anything really. I've been searching on Google for a while now, and I keep coming up with frustratingly vague overviews of the foster care system.

jclarkdawe
04-28-2016, 05:10 AM
What age is he when this is discovered?

Is the father charged criminally and does it end up going to trial? Is the father placed in jail? (By the way, this is much more likely to be the step-father.)

Is there family for him to be placed with?

How was this discovered? By a doctor during a physical or because the child reported this (and to who?) or because someone discovered them in the middle of this?

When this sort of situation happens, initially the plan would be to place the child with his mother, unless she was involved or otherwise unfit. This involves the mother being faced with the difficult decision of siding her child or her boyfriend/husband.

There's a lot of differences between cases. This can play out in a lot of different ways.

Jim Clark-Dawe

Bren McDonnall
05-07-2016, 08:20 AM
It varies by state. In Colorado, a friend's sister ran afoul of CPS and the children were taken immediately to foster care, where they remained until the state decided her capable of taking care of them. She ended up moving back to North Dakota and having her mother petition to adopt them, as the state showed no propensity for giving them up.

In Wyoming, there are time constraints. A child can go into a children's home, but only for 6 months or so. Foster care depends on available host families, and isn't steady. A child might, in a year or two years, be in multiple foster homes. Then possibly back into a children's facility for another six months. Rinse and repeat.

The child will immediately be assigned a psychiatrist, and will meet with this professional at least a few times to determine if there are any mental health issues.

If there are correctional issues (the child acts out or is shown to be a danger to him/herself or others) off to a children's home of the more serious sort.

If there are mental issues that are not 'dangerous', the child will continue with regular therapy, even up to several times a week.

Throughout this (at least in the case I'm familiar with) there will be quarterly court dates where the state justifies keeping the child in the system. Hint, the bar is not high.

If the custodial parent was molesting the child, or somebody thought the parent was molesting the child, or somebody accused the parent of thinking about maybe molesting the child, a whole 'nother program starts. At the very least, and without any sort of evidentiary requirement, there will be restrictions on contact between the accused parent and the child. There will be psychological assessments of the parent, which will be given to the court.

All public venues the child might frequent are informed of the contact orders, such that, if a restricted parent shows up at a school play (for instance), they will be intercepted and escorted out.

At some point during the process, if it's determined that the child won't be going home, he/she is offered up for adoption, with the foster parents getting a preferential shot.


Full disclosure here. I was not married to the then future ex at the time they went into the system. Molestation wasn't the impetus for them going into the system.

The children are not biologically mine, nor did I have legal custody. Had I had the foresight to adopt them before the ex lost her mind, my pool of information on this subject would be considerably shallower, since the whole molestation riff was a construct of the guardian ad litem in response to learning of my intent to adopt.

The ex's claims were proven false and I did eventually get my kids back along with several heartfelt apologies from various of the CPS agents involved once the various documentation started to appear. As a result, I can't say what happens once the adoption circus starts.

Matt T.
05-23-2016, 11:00 PM
Thank you both very much for your thoughts. I'm still doing a lot of the planning, and I'll keep these things in mind moving forward.

FLChicken
05-26-2016, 12:25 AM
They include:

What happens immediately after a child is taken by CPS?


If the child is removed, the CPS worker will usually be in charge of seeking out other relatives. If no one is available, perhaps family friends. Again if no options, they'd have the Department (DCF or whatever it is based on the state) seek out a foster home. Sometimes, if the child has major behavioral issues, he/she might go to a group home. A child could be in a shelter if there are no beds available right away.




How long does it usually take for a child to be placed in a home? Where do they stay in the meantime? I've heard of shelters or temporary homes, but more details would be useful.


They'd be in some sort of placement right away. If sexual abuse, they'd also consider if the child is rooming with another child. Would there be a risk of being victimized again? A risk of the child acting out on another child? Sometimes, kids cannot share rooms.




In cases of physical/sexual abuse like my MC, what kind of immediate emotional care/therapy is given, if any?


Individual therapy. Could take a few weeks for that to start if there's a waiting list.





Once a child is placed in a home, how is therapy handled? Assuming physical or sexual abuse, are they given some kind of long-term therapy, and if so, what does it entail? Is it initiated by the state, or is it left to the parents/caretakers?


The caseworker would make the referral. If a caretaker notices the child has other outstanding needs, they'd notify the caseworker to make other referrals. If it's a judicial case (open case), the state would pay for the therapy, etc.




What is the exact role of the social worker? Do they handle any of the therapy aspects? How long do they work with the child?


If by social worker you mean caseworker, they'd be responsible for driving the case. Ensuring service providers are in place for the children and the family. They'd work with the family on their case plan to get reunified....or adoption, whatever the goal is. They attend court. They advocate for the child. The caseworker has to see the child every X amount of days (varies by state) and does a home visit. They have to make sure the child is safe and take care of. Check for marks and bruises. Interview the caretakers. The caseworkers also meet with the parents who have had their children removed so they can work the case. Essentially, the caseworkers ensures that the "safety, permanency, and wellbeing" of the child. There's some lingo for you.


see above

Siri Kirpal
05-26-2016, 02:43 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

I've heard of cases like this, and in all cases (California and Texas) I've heard of, the kids went first to Children's Receiving Home (the name in California, at least it was 40 years ago) and then to relatives or foster care. Not sure of the name in Texas, but the kids went to a similar institutional home, and then went to available relatives, or to foster care.

But it probably varies by state, and possibly even by county.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal, who lived a few blocks from Children's Receiving in San Diego in the 1960s

shadowwalker
05-26-2016, 07:53 AM
It will depend on where your story takes place. Once you decide, contact the local office of Child or Family Services there. Might as well get it from the horse's mouth (most folks are more than happy to help writers out with the facts; just let them know you are a writer and ask who you could contact to ask the questions you have).

cornflake
05-26-2016, 08:54 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

I've heard of cases like this, and in all cases (California and Texas) I've heard of, the kids went first to Children's Receiving Home (the name in California, at least it was 40 years ago) and then to relatives or foster care. Not sure of the name in Texas, but the kids went to a similar institutional home, and then went to available relatives, or to foster care.

But it probably varies by state, and possibly even by county.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal, who lived a few blocks from Children's Receiving in San Diego in the 1960s

This clearly does depend, as I've not heard of something like that. If there aren't relatives, and there's no issue with the kid, areas I'm familiar with will place in a foster home. I dunno if every foster home or possible foster home takes any kid but there are foster homes that specialize in emergency care; they get calls at 2am to take a kid right then.

FLChicken
05-26-2016, 06:21 PM
It will depend on where your story takes place. Once you decide, contact the local office of Child or Family Services there. Might as well get it from the horse's mouth (most folks are more than happy to help writers out with the facts; just let them know you are a writer and ask who you could contact to ask the questions you have).


Very true. It definitely varies by state/community. Also keep in mind, if those "backstory" took place several years ago. Things have changed since the "old days"...hopefully for the better.

Orianna2000
05-31-2016, 08:30 AM
I dunno if every foster home or possible foster home takes any kid but there are foster homes that specialize in emergency care; they get calls at 2am to take a kid right then.
My parents were foster parents for 25 years, across California, Arizona, North Carolina, and Tennessee. They were highly specialized foster parents--they only took infants and occasionally toddlers, with a preference for "medically fragile." Meaning, we usually ended up with drug babies, preemies, babies with feeding tubes, oxygen, or heart monitors, babies who'd just had surgery, etc. One time, we took a 6-week old baby girl who had two broken legs and some cracked ribs. (And no, she didn't have a bone disease.) We were always getting phone calls in the middle of the night . . . "A baby was just born addicted to heroine. Can you pick her up at the neonatal care unit?"

The only time my parents accepted older children was if it was a dire emergency and DCS promised it was VERY temporary, like a few hours . . . or on very rare occasions, if the child was a sibling of an infant we'd agreed to take. One time, we took a baby and her 4-year-old sister, because they didn't want to separate them. Another time, we took two sisters, a healthy 5-year-old and 2-year-old, only because the mother was in our church and begged my parents to take her kids, so they wouldn't be given to total strangers.

So yes, there are foster homes who don't take any and all kids who need homes. My mother had health issues that would have prevented her from looking after older kids, and she knew enough about drug babies and preemies to be highly sought after by those at DCS. (By the way, the name given to the local family services office varies by state. I've seen DCS, DSS, and other variations. Be sure to look up the correct name for the location of your story.)