Breaking Silence

The 90/Ten Project has been absent of my personal touch for quite a season.  Something happened to me in the process of writing “This Is Mine: My Story, My Life”… I became so aware of the feelings and life stories of the foster children I was serving, had served, or would be serving in my profession as a child welfare worker that it became very overwhelming and I was emotionally raw.

I kept pouring through my memory banks of children and wondering if I had made the right decisions, advocated enough, helped them enough, or if I had failed them.  It is an agonizing dance, the dance of a child welfare professional.  If you have any heart and soul connected to your work, then you cannot stay emotionally distant from the people you serve.  Tethered to the job, I felt like I was losing focus and frankly, my health was deteriorating.  I left my career behind, in order to find healing for my own soul.

My heart and passion is, and always will be with children who are abused, neglected, and dependent.  I am not sure what shape this will take in the journey forward personally, but my voice is not silenced and The 90/Ten Project will continue because I am committed to the foster alumni who opened up and shared their stories with such brave intentions.  I am grateful for the journey so far and the lives that have been touched by the first book.

As I prayerfully consider the next stages of this project, please feel free to send feedback to



Positively Impact Children In Foster Care

We are looking for 100 dedicated people who would like to positively impact children in foster care.

The first 100 people who email us at with “Ambassador” in the subject line will receive a free .pdf of our book “This Is Mine: My Story, My Life.” In exchange for the free e-book, we ask that you read the book and post an honest review on Amazon by May 17.

Our book is titled “This Is Mine: My Story, My Life” because many children have their people, their possessions, and their person-hood stripped away when they enter foster care, but nobody can ever take away their story.

If you have a heart for helping children who are in foster care, then this is for you!

The 90/Ten Project launched our first book “This Is Mine: My Story, My Life” in January of 2014.  Our book details courageous stories of thirteen incredible individuals who have survived horrific instances of abuse and neglect and have decided to make an impact on the world around them.  They have joined The 90/Ten Project to share their stories, so as a community we can make a positive impact on the foster care system.

This is where you come in!  We would like to expand the outreach of our book. In order to do that, we need honest, heartfelt reviews of the book.

“And how is this going to help foster children..” you ask?!  Your honest review will help others make a decision about whether (or not) to purchase our book, which will positively impact sales and ranking.  Your review will impact children!  The first 100 people to email us will become ambassadors for The 90/Ten Project and will be invited to join a private Facebook group, which will include special updates on upcoming projects and will help shape the future of The 90/Ten Project.

The 90/Ten Project is committed to donating 90% of our profits to organizations like One Simple Wish so that we can grant special wishes to children in foster care!  We are SO excited to partner with you as we do it!

Your Voice Matters!


Walking Through The Valley of the Shadow

Finding Healing for Foster Children

In my professional life as a social worker, there have been seasons that I can only explain as “Walking Through The Valley of the Shadow.”  These seasons tend to be a characterized by layer after unforgiving layer of trauma experienced by the families I serve.  Children who have experienced abuse, neglect, or significant losses have had long seasons walking through the valley, prior to our involvement with them.  It is our job to help them get to the other side and discover that even flowers grow in the valley.

The shadows in the valley are the “Unknown”.  Children in foster care are constantly anxious, for good reason.  I recently had a conversation with a very wise young man that bravely admitted he was afraid to get too comfortable anywhere, or too close to anyone, because he did not know if he would be expected to pack up and leave, his closest ally being his caseworker. The anxiety of the words, “if you don’t… straighten up / pick up your room / behave at school / insert behavior here… I am going to call your caseworker…” The threat to call the caseworker to have a child moved to another home is a big, scary shadow that lurks around every corner.

The rocks in the valley trip us up as we stumble over past hurts and triggers.  Children in foster care stumble over rocks that others cannot see.  Any sight, smell, or sound can trigger an emotional response in a traumatized child, sometimes the child may not realize why they are so angry, upset, or shut down.

Once we trip over a rock, we inevitably fall into a prickly bush.  Prickly bushes are the people who inflict their painful words onto us.  We try to get the thorns out of our flesh, feeling as if they are impossible to remove.  We feel that they are permanent, there are so many thorns we cannot count them all.  These children need help recognizing the thorns for what they are, removing them one by one, and allowing the wounds to heal.  A tiny thorn can cause a lot of distress… do not underestimate the painful impact of the words these children have already experienced.

While we are removing thorns, we don’t always notice the stream.  The stream is that still, quiet place where we find our balance, center ourselves, and cleanse away our hurts.  Foster children need the opportunity to be children again, and they need help finding healing waters.  They need to feel the splash of a puddle, the cleansing of the water.  They need to hear the sound of the brook to remind them that they are still alive.  They need something to help them find their balance.  

Next to the stream, flowers pop up in all their glory.  The flowers are new beginnings.  The flowers can easily be trampled on, especially when we spend our time in fear, watching for shadows.  If your foster child is constantly living in fear of the Unknown, he or she is not going to have the ability or patience to pick out the prickly thorns, get up after stumbling over the rocks, cleanse in the stream, OR notice the beautiful flowers around them.

This is where we come in.  The rest of us.  Foster parents, friends, neighbors, teachers, social workers.  

We don’t have to live in the valley, but we do have to recognize that this is where these traumatized children live.  We can take their hand, help them up, and show them to the stream.  We can remind them of the flowers and all the blessings around them.  When we start listening to them, helping them feel safe and secure, and helping them up when they stumble and fall, we are off to a healing start.  We can help peel away the trauma, layer by layer, until they see the flowers in the valley, and all the beauty that unfolds before them.


Fostering Stories, and Perspectives

Guest Post by Nikky Greer,

Why is the foster care system so complex? Everyone knows it is broken, so why don’t policymakers fix it? Whose fault is it? Who suffers?

These are some of the questions that plagued me as I began developing a research project centered on the foster care system. I wanted to help young people and children in foster care, but didn’t know how. As I learned more, I was surprised. Foster kids aren’t the only ones suffering under current foster care policy. But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. One question at a time.

Why is the foster care system so complex, and how does it work? There is no simple answer. It is complex because determining how best to keep kids safe, to protect the rights of families and children, and to develop a system that gets kids into adoptive homes (when needed) is a complicated task. I learned pretty quickly that there are different perspectives in foster care: there are the kids, the biological families of those children, the foster parents and families, and the professionals who work in a variety of settings (e.g. family protective services case managers, judges, lawyers, advocates for the children, even law enforcement).

Each of these perspectives has a different space for sharing what happens to them in foster care. Social workers publish in professional journals. Lawyers and judges publish in different journals. As it turns out, as they train for practice, social workers and lawyers often don’t read much of what the others have written and learned. For a long time, children who had been in foster care had no place to be heard. Thanks to the web and more recent books (like This Is Mine: My Story, My Life) that is changing. Foster parents and bio families are still struggling to be heard. All of these groups have at least two things in common though. First, media has a lot to say about them and who is at fault. Blame is shifted in the media to whomever makes the most sensational story. Second, all of these perspectives are subject to policymakers’ ideas about how foster care should work and how much money is spent on it. Policymakers get the most feedback from professionals, often through academic journals written by social workers, court workers, psychologists, and sociologists. That means that the voices of fostered youth and foster care alumni, foster parents, and biological families are underrepresented when policies are being developed. Even when research is based on what happens to the people in foster care, it is from the perspective of the researcher.

It is safe to say that policymakers are interested in helping children who suffer as a result of abuse and neglect. It is also safe to say that there is no consensus on the best way to do it or how much money should be invested. These are academic and political issues, as well as human rights ones.

As an anthropologist concerned with human rights, political issues and academic debate, a very special tool in my skillset is a holistic approach to problem solving and research. We are trained to understand how complex social systems work by studying their parts. We believe that the best way to understand the big picture is by better understanding the pieces that make it whole. So for me, the best way to understand the foster care system was to go to its source: the people who participate in the system everyday, from all its different perspectives, or parts, to get the most whole picture of the system.

This research project tries to understand foster care the way it is, not the way policymakers intend it to be. But how it is understood varies from one perspective to the next based on experiences. That means my goal as a researcher is to collect those experiences, to compare and contrast them. If we truly understand the needs of each group better, we can write more effective policies.

Here is where I need help though. The strongest research projects are based on a lot of data. That means I need to collect a lot of stories about foster care experiences from many perspectives. I decided to do this in two ways. The first way is a traditional anthropological research method: the fieldsite. We go to one area and spend a long time with the people there trying to understand the way things work from the perspective of the locals. For this research, I chose a city and am spending time with foster care alumni, professionals, and families and collecting their stories. The second method is one more often associated with sociology: it is a broad survey. I developed a website to collect and share more stories.

This website,, is a way for me to collect more data and is also a sounding board. It is place where you can tell your story about foster care—no matter which perspective you represent. There are four separate qualitative surveys on the website. Surveys that ask me to rate things on a scale or a pick one choice to best describe something often leave me wishing there was a fill-in-the-blank option to describe what’s really happening. That’s what I did with the online surveys at They ask about your experiences and let you describe them, rather than using a scale or multiple choice. Each survey is oriented toward a different perspective: foster care alumni, kin and biological families (or friends who had a special connection to the situation—like a best friend’s parent or a youth pastor), professionals and social workers, and foster families. Just click on the survey picture on the home page that best represents your experiences. The surveys collect some demographic data to put things in context, but they are mostly the kinds of questions I ask at the local field-site. They are about collecting your stories!

Whether you got to share your story with The 90/Ten Project or not, you can share it (or share it again) for this research. It is also a place for your family or friends to share their experiences. The project is still in its early stages, so I need to hear from everyone. And if you don’t want your story to be publicized online, but do want your story included in the research data, that is okay too. It doesn’t have to be put online. Many people want an opportunity to be heard, but for some it is too painful. Like with most research, names are changed to protect the identities of the participants. 

I do not know what the data will reveal about what makes the system broken. But I do know this much so far: everyone in foster care is suffering. Kids are bumped around and treated unfairly, often without anyone asking what they want at all. Foster parents have their hearts broken. Biological families are torn apart and parents’ dreams of reunification crushed. Professionals are burned out, underpaid, and, in the trenches, often go unheard too. Of course, there are stories of hope and success out there too that can give us clues to what could work better. I think the first step to making things better is understanding. The only way to understand all those perspectives is to hear your stories! 

A Note from Malinda Phillips, Founder of The 90/Ten Project:

I encourage you to support this important research.  It is through valuable projects such as this that we are able to make improvements for others who are struggling. Please share this post with others.  Your voice matters!

What To Do If Your Child Is Depressed

Childhood Depression can be a very serious issue.  Like adults, children can suffer from depressive episodes.  Children who suffer from depression may not be able to put into words how they are feeling.  Childhood depression is quite similar to a clinical depression and is not just “feeling down” or having a “low mood” that is temporary.

Childhood depression is not resulting from the child being sad that they have been told they cannot have or do something, it is biologically driven.  It can become life threatening if the child’s mood is so low that they begin to consider ways to harm themselves.

We often consider children to be in a care-free stage of life.  Demands of school and family expectations, problems with peer acceptance, and any trauma history of abuse or neglect can contribute to childhood depression.  These factors can trigger a downward spiral that may need professional help.

Causes of Depression in Children

1. A family history of mental illness or suicide.

2. Physical, Sexual or Emotional Abuse (current or historical) or Chronic Neglect.

3. Chronic illnesses.

4. Loss of a parent/primary caretaker at an early age to death, divorce, abandonment, or out of home placement.

5. Improper diet and lack of sufficient exercise.

6. Excessive exposure to negative factors (domestic abuse, arguing, gang exposure, etc).

7. Insufficient parental attention.

Symptoms of Childhood Depression:

1. No longer interested in hobbies or activities.

2. Remarkable change in appetite, abrupt gain or loss of weight.

3. Change in sleep patterns (either increase or decrease).

4. Difficulty concentrating.

5. Making depreciating statements like “I’m not good enough, I’m stupid…”

6. Persistent Sadness.

7. Excessive clingy behavior or withdrawal from human interaction.

8. Recurring thoughts of Suicide.

*Seek medical attention immediately if your child tells you they have thoughts of harming him or herself.

If you notice any of these concerning behaviors in your child or foster child, it may be time to get some help.  The first step may be to have a genuine heart to heart talk.  Make time to give your child some undivided attention to find out if there was anything that triggered their depressive mood.

If your foster child is exhibiting signs of depression, make sure you let his or her caseworker know your concern so you can be referred to a physician, therapist, or counselor for help.  Take time out to be there for your child.  Be aware of who he or she is spending his or her time with.

Consider treating depression as a family activity.  If your family focuses on proper nutrition, some form of exercise (walking, yoga, etc), and having meals together to facilitate bonding and communication this can do a lot to ease your little one out of their depressive state.  Devote thirty minutes or more a day for open air recreation for yourself and your family. Visits to the zoo, active play, and swimming tend to relieve tension created in the home, school, and work.  Making treatment a family goal will lessen the stigma that often accompanies depression.

Depression is a treatable illness for both children and adults.  Those who are struggling with clinical depression feel hopeless, as if nothing will ever get better for them. There is help available. If you or someone you love is contemplating suicide, you can get help at or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Painful Past, Promising Future & Powerful Presence

WARNING: Some of the information shared here is graphic in nature.

This Is Mine: My Story, My Life

This Is Mine: My Story, My Life

We are intensely busy reading, drafting, formatting, typing, crying (a little) and prayerfully lacing together the stories that our amazing foster alumni have so bravely shared in our book (their book), “This Is Mine: My Story, My Life“.   You will meet some very determined, independent, amazing individuals who have triumphed over great adversity and have stepped forward to share their journey with you.  Each person has their own unique style of writing about their life, and we have preserved their story for you to experience their individuality. Let us introduce you…

Meet Phyllis Amalfitano Kessler Guilmette Thompson:

When I was taken from my mother, I was found broken, burnt, nonverbal and locked in a basement, with a boy just a few years older than me. For years as a young child, the identity of this young boy plagued my dreams and instilled a child-like fantasy of lost brother and sister running down the street into each other’s arms.

Meet MindOfAGeisha:

The day I was placed in foster care was a very odd day for me. I was ten years old, traumatized, and very afraid. I think back now and realized I had every reason to be scared, foster care would later on drag me through hell and back…

Meet Helen Ramalgia:

…hands busted through the screen door and took me to a car.  We went to a Juvenile Detention Center where we lived for several months to keep us safe from our father.  They had to lock me up to keep the man who was supposed to love and protect me, from killing me.

Meet ShirleyAlexis:

It is the distorted face of my Abuser, that I see today, in my Nightmares and Flashbacks, as I endure re-living the event of when she was holding me underwater…

Meet Nikki J:

For years, my big brother and I had taken care of our three younger siblings. We were forced to grow up at a young age ourselves and then one day we were all ripped apart. Trying to learn to become a child again, was nearly impossible.

Meet Leroy Berrones-Soto, Jr.:

NEVER give up on your kiddos or youths. Learn and listen to their stories. We all have our unique story, even if it’s just a sentence different. Treat them as your own child and give them as much love and support without, of course, invading their personal space and life.

The Future of The 90/Ten Project

These amazing individuals have a painful past, a promising future and a powerful presence today.  They invite you into their lives for just a moment, to learn from them, and to use their life experience to make things better for others.  We will be donating 90% of the proceeds of this book to organizations that currently serve children in foster care to provide extra support for birthdays, holidays, and special needs. We hope to have the book finalized, formatted, and complete for Thanksgiving.  Thank you for your amazing support.

Order Your Book Today

Garbage Bag Kids

Imagine that you have five minutes to grab everything that is important to you.  What would you grab?  Would it be your clothes?  Photographs? …. You can’t take your favorite kitty with you.  Now imagine that you are six years old and you The 90/ten Projecthave to shove your belongings into a black, stretchy garbage bag.  You grab the hand of the social worker who you have just met, walk out to a complete strangers car, and the worker buckles you in.  In the background you can hear mommy crying.  You have no idea where you are going.

This is not an abnormal experience for a child who is entering the foster care system.  Sometimes there is no black garbage bag with your favorite teddy bear, your baby sisters prized foo-foo, or any photos of your family.   Some children leave their parental home with only the clothing on their bodies.

This Is Their Story

The 90/ten Project is their story.  Adults and children who have experienced life as a foster child want you to hear their stories.  Some stories are triumphant, some are heartbreaking. All stories are anonymous and each participant will be identified by their chosen username.

The Idea

The 90/ten Project came about because as a child welfare worker I have seen firsthand the joys and heartaches of children who are unable (for whatever reason) to remain with their family.  I see foster families struggle to care for these children who, to no fault of their own, are just trying to survive in the very abnormal world that was imposed upon them.

The 90/ten Project

The 90/ten Project

My desire is to help children who are placed in alternative care have some “normalcy” in their lives.  The 90/ten Project is establishing a private foundation where caseworkers, foster parents, and foster children can apply for a scholarship to fund extra-curricular activities such as: guitar lessons, participation in school sports, special birthday gifts, homecoming dresses, etc….

The Book

The 90/ten Project will be funded by our book: “This Is Mine: My Life, My Story.”  A full 90% of the proceeds of this book will go toward establishing The 90/ten Project scholarship fund.  The remaining ten percent will go toward operating and administration costs.

How You Can Help

1. Pre-Order your copy of the E-Book: This Is Mine: My Story, My Life” today.  The book is $19.99.  We anticipate the book will be released in time for Thanksgiving.  When you order we will add you to our email list to alert you of any updates to the book launch.

2. Share This Story With Others:  Please share The 90/ten Project with others.  We will be very transparent with regards to income generated by book sales and scholarships awarded. Please “like” this page, retweet, repost, share, and exchange.  The more support we have, the more children’s lives we can touch.

3. Send Us Your Story:  We are still accepting submissions from adult’s who have life experience in foster care and children who are presently in care.   Email for more information.  All submissions are confidential and will be anonymous in the book.

Click Here to pre-order your book today.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole stairway.” –Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sign Up Here:

To sign up for email updates from The 90/ten Project  CLICK HERE

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Children Worth Fighting For?

As I write this post, I cannot help but feel very disheartened.  I have been a Child Protective Service Worker in my county for over five years. Recently, my county commissioners have funded capital improvements, paid off the mortgage to our building twenty years early, purchased new chairs and carpet, and replaced our phone system.  The same commissioners refuse to invest equitable resources in the very people who protect and serve the children of our community.  We are experiencing high turnover, defeated morale, and a general distrust between Caseworkers and Management. Simultaneously we have greatly expanded our responsibilities with minimal training to be competent in our new roles.  We could be doing anything else with our careers, but we choose Child Welfare because we love the work, we love the children, and we care about the stability of our crumbling community.  The lack of respect for the work that we do from our elected officials is discouraging …at minimum.

Are These Children Worth Fighting For?

We think so.  We love the children we serve.  Children’s Protective Service Caseworkers have been uniquely gifted to work with families in crisis, build relationships with resistant consumers, and maintain respect and dignity with the families we serve.  All children need stability and consistency.  The children we serve are already in an unstable environment or we wouldn’t be involved with the family in the first place.  Having seasoned, professional, well trained leaders as Child Protective Service Caseworkers is key to providing stability for the children we serve.

Worker Turnover

“Caseworker turnover affects permanency for children by leading to: multiple placements while in foster care, families receiving fewer services, failed reunification efforts, longer lengths of stay in foster care and lower rates of finding permanent homes (CDF & Children’s Rights, 2007).”

According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, worker turnover ranges from very little to as high as 90% in one year.  Agencies that invest in their workers through leadership development, equitable pay, and succession planning will be able to retain their workers, who in turn will invest their wisdom and experience in training new caseworkers.

Would you want your teachers, police officers, and fire fighters to be so burnt out they turnover staff every two years?  I sure wouldn’t.

Worker Safety

For this post I had to stop myself from doing too much research about Social Workers that have lost their lives in the line of duty, mostly out of self preservation and my own emotional well-being.  Being armed with a notepad and pen is not sufficient to ensure the safety of caseworkers who must deal with volatile consumers.

The community in which I serve as a Child Protective Service Caseworker, (Dayton, Ohio) has the distinction of being safer then a whopping 3% of all the other cities in the entire United States.  For the math challenged, this means 97% of this great country is safer then the community I live and work in.  Part of my job requirement is to assess the safety of children… wherever they are.  I am required to go into the underbelly of this community, and be present in the homes and neighborhoods of heroin dealers, gangs, domestically violent individuals, mentally ill people, and families struggling with abject poverty and substance abuse.  My coworkers and I have routinely been in neighborhoods where the police will only go with two or more officers and of course the ability to protect themselves in the event of a violent act.  We go because the children of our community need us to ensure their safety.

With the given demands, stresses, and safety risks of our job, it is not too much to ask for fair, equitable compensation and a supportive work environment to continue the work that we are trained to do.



Social Worker Safety Tips To Live By

Violent Crime and Social Worker Safety

Social Work Salaries  (Note: The median salary for a child welfare worker in the United States is $41,800, this includes those with Master’s Degrees.)

Average Starting Salary for Grads With Bachelor’s Degrees Rises 2.4 Percent  (Note, The average starting salary for college graduates was $45,327 in 2013.)

Worker Turnover

Children’s Defense Fund & Children’s Rights, Inc. (2007).  Promoting child welfare workforce improvements through federal policy changes. The Human Service Workforce Initiative. Cornerstones For Kids.


This is a heart wrenching incredible video. Absolutely worth watching. The creators did a stunning job.

Finicky Philly

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Tips for Foster Parents

Guest Post from Contributor Kellie Hamilton

This excerpt is taken from the book “This Is Mine: My Story, My Life”  If you would like to know more, you can order your copy of this powerful book here.

As a caseworker, I have heard time and time again from foster parents that “all they need is love.”  Until I started my own journey in this challenging career field, I probably thought the same thing myself.  However, I have since learned that this is just one of the biggest misconceptions about the needs of these special children.  Yes, all children do need love but love and love alone does not erase what some of these babies have experienced.  Here is some advice that I, as a caseworker, have for foster parents or anyone considering fostering.

1.  Always remember that these children have witnessed or been victims of various types of trauma and they are not “angels.”  You cannot expect these children to behave all the time or be shocked when behaviors that are considered to be unusual are displayed.  Give them time to adjust being in a new environment.  You cannot possibly expect children who have experienced abuse and/or neglect, have been ripped away from, most likely, the only home they have ever known, and then placed with total strangers to open up to you and reveal their innermost secrets or what they have been through.  Get to know them and let them get to know you.  As with any relationship, trust has to be built and that takes time.  Parents are the first people that children learn to trust and if that has been broken, it takes time to learn how to trust, if they can learn to trust at all.

2.  Treat children in care as you would your own child.  Seems like common sense huh? Yet it still bothers me that some foster parents do not do this…and it is not always subtle.  I have met foster parents that will not transport a child to any appointment if it is not required that they do so.  I think this is what bothers me the most and I often want to ask “what would you do if this was your biological child we were talking about?” And that is what you should ask yourselves…what if this were my child? Would I not take them or find a way to get them where they need to be? If you bring restaurant or fast food home for the family, then that foster child deserves to eat the same food that your own family is having.  If you allow your children to participate in extracurricular activities, then so should your foster children, if the interest is there.  Just remember… children removed from their homes are placed in foster care (or relative care) to allow them to remain in a home environment and be a part of a loving family.

3.  Do insist on an informal meeting, or just a phone conversation, with a child before agreeing to accept them as a placement.  This is barring an agency is not seeking an emergency placement, in which case, there is no time for this.  This is my own “peering through rose colored glasses” coming out.  However, it does make perfect sense and is the ideal if caseworkers are looking at best practice.  On paper, you never know if a child will fit into your home and do well.  It would make a child more comfortable and you, as a foster parent, if you can meet that child and have a conversation with them before placement.  Children going into placement often just want to know a few simple things; if there are other kids in the home, whether you have pets, is the family nice, and if they will have to change schools.  As a caseworker, it is heartbreaking not to be able to answer these simple questions for a scared child going into the unknown.

4.  Be willing to work with a child and their behaviors.  It takes time…a lot of time…to work things out when there are behavior issues involved.  Sometimes it is a child’s way of testing you, especially if there are abandonment issues/or a lot of changes in placements.  In their own way, they are asking you if you are going to give up on them the way everyone else in their life has.  It is up to you as to what your answer is going to be.

If a change in placement is necessary, explain to that child the reason…if you honestly love that child, let them know that and offer to be a support to them no matter where they are.  Sometimes, circumstances prevent the maintenance of a placement and it is nobody’s fault.  Children take on more responsibility for things than they should and often blame themselves.  Let them know they are not to blame.

5. Be open to developing a working relationship with the biological parents.  I realize that this sounds very difficult for some and it is not for everyone.  Certainly discuss with the child’s caseworker to ensure that there are no safety issues involved (believe it or not, more often there is not a safety issue significant enough to prevent a viable relationship between biological and foster parents).  Not everyone makes the best decisions as parents.  Biological parents get involved with the child welfare system for a number of reasons.  Mothers (or fathers) are in unsafe relationships and there is no way to protect the child(ren) so they have to be placed for their own safety.  In this uncertain economy, parents may be having a difficult time and are just not able to provide for their children and do not have other family support to help them.  Some struggle with alcohol/or drug addiction issues and it is an unsafe environment for the children.  Some struggle with mental health or are very cognitively limited and cannot care for their kids.  And yes, there are those that abuse (physically, mentally, sexually) their children or allow others to do so.  After working in this system, I have learned that not all parents are “bad” or “evil” monsters.  They are normal people just like you or me who may not have the coping skills or supports to handle the situations they find themselves in.  Just remember…we are all just a paycheck away from finding ourselves in some of the same situations.

You can be a support to some of these parents.  It can be very comforting for a parent to know who is caring for their child.  Parents are a great source of information about that child…any routines they may have had at home, their favorite foods, their favorite toys, etc.  The saying “it takes a village to raise a child” has never been truer than it is for those involved in the child welfare system.  Remember… everything we try to do is for the best interest of children.  Bonus… it stops any attempts to triangulate parents, foster parents and caseworkers if children know that everyone is on the same page!

If you are not ready or do not believe you are able to do this, then, at a minimum, send notes to parents for visits.  Let them know how their child is doing, what you may be struggling with and ask questions.  This also lets the parents know that you acknowledge their role as parents and that you look to them as the experts on their child.

6.  Do not speak badly of parents to the children or in front of them.  No matter what they have experienced, children are going to love their parents.  You are not there to judge what anyone has done and children do not need to hear negative comments about their parents from strangers.  Which leads me to the next point…

7.  Do not sabotage reunification with a biological parent.  Reunification with biological parents has to be the primary goal and this is what caseworkers are required to help parents do.  If an agency feels that it is time for reunification, caregivers should not be trying to sabotage this.  We all understand that it is difficult to care for a child and then have to let that child go.  After all, you are the one who is there for them day to day, feeding them, bathing them, doing homework with them, taking them to appointments, caring for them when they are sick and emotions can get the best of anyone.  However, if a biological parent has made the necessary changes to make their environment a safe one for their child, that is where that child belongs.

8.  Remember, fostering is not for everyone.  It takes a special person to take in a stranger’s child(ren), care for them as if they are your own, and then let them go or to take the next step and adopt if they cannot return home.  Caseworkers understand and acknowledge the hard work that goes into fostering.  However, if you find that you are not able to treat these children like your own or hate the thought of giving a child up then fostering may not be for you.  If you look at fostering as a road leading to adoption be prepared for disappointments.  If adoption is your only goal, fostering may not be the avenue for you.  It may be better to be an adoption only home rather than a foster to adopt.  If you are not willing or able to give a child all that is needed then fostering may not be for you.  THIS IS OKAY!!!!  Like I said, it is not for everyone! You just have to know in your heart what you are willing and able to do and let the agency know up front!

I have worked with many foster parents over the course of the last eight years.  I believe the majority of the ones I have had are doing it for the right reasons and are absolutely wonderful.  I have also worked with those who probably should not be fostering.  All in all, I value my foster parents.  I look to them for information about “my” babies, I trust them to be honest with me and to take care of my babies and in turn I give them all the support and guidance that I can.