1. GeorgiaB
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    GeorgiaB Member

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    Experience with the foster care system?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by GeorgiaB, Mar 27, 2012.

    Hi All,

    If any of you have experience with the foster care system in the U.S., I would love to ask you some questions. (Just basic questions, nothing personal, unless you are up for that. :))

    I'm writing a young adult book now, and my protagonist is in foster care. I'm trying to read up on the subject as much as possible, but I'm still left with more questions.

    Specifically, I want to know what would have to happen to take foster kids on a cruise vacation out of the country. I have searched Google, and I think I have an understanding of the rules, but if I could actually find someone with personal experience that would be great. Probably a huge long shot, though!

    Also, if anyone has recommendations of good books about this subject (fiction or nonfiction) I would love them!

    Thanks!

    Georgia
     
  2. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    We talk quite a bit about foster care in my clinical psychology program. Something to note: Physically and emotionally healthy white kids are always the first to be adopted. People say there are not enough foster children, but there are really not enough foster kids that fit that description. Minority children, emotionally difficult children, and children with disabilities are plentiful.

    In America, it's a far different group than you might have seen on "Madeline." If you want your to be true to American foster care, then your demographics and story elements should reflect this.
     
  3. GeorgiaB
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    GeorgiaB Member

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    Thanks for your response! I am actually an LPC myself, although my license is inactive at this time.... Staying home with my own kiddos. But it is my work experience that certainly sparked my interest in writing about this group. However, other than sitting through less than a handful of case management meetings (I worked mostly with adults), my understanding of the legal aspects is lacking. I've only been on the side of having a foster kid in therapy -- in a therapeutic school and in a detention center, and those weren't consistent settings. I'd have more confidence writing had I been a case manager or social worker. I'm sure we covered some of this in school, but I don't remember it and it was 12 years ago. (Holy crap.) I just want my book to present everything accurately, and I can't get over this idea that my main character must go on a cruise. I know, it sounds far-fetched. :)

    You do raise an important point about who, exactly, foster children are.... I think I have a good handle on the effects of abuse, mental health issues, and developmental disabilities. It is more challenging for me, however, to authentically present cultures other than my own. But that is another question!

    Thanks again.

    Good luck with your program. What are your plans when you graduate?

    Georgia
     
  4. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    I honestly know less than you do about all this, so this will by my gut opinion: I think if there are any legal liabilities, they can be waived by whatever service runs the particular foster program.

    Who is your audience? Does it consist mostly of foster care case managers? Or is it the general population, where only a fraction of a percent would know the answer to your concern?

    Also keep in mind that this is YOUR story. Author John Green wrote a book about a girl with cancer, and despite all the research he did, he changed around some facts to fit his story better. If you are vague which state it is in, perhaps the state's legislature is more lenient than other states on that kind of thing.

    Anyway, don't let one minor detail inhibit you from telling the story you want to write. If you want them to be on a cruise, make it happen.

    As far as writing cultures goes, that's a difficult thing to do. I'm also trying to delve deep into race and mental health in my books, and it's something I take seriously. You can read novels that take place around various cultures, and you can try to find people from these cultures and engage them in a conversation. Just stay away from stereotypes, which will create one-dimensional characters.
     
  5. erik martin
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    erik martin Contributing Member

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    I'm a social worker and have worked with foster programs in a couple of different states. Keep in mind that the foster parents often are not the legal guardians of the children in many respects (that is not absolute though, sometimes in long-term placements the foster parents have guardianship though the county or state will still be involved with services.) and to take a foster child on a trip out of the country, permission would have to be obtained. Generally permission would come through a social worker with the state or county who handles the case, or sometimes a GAL (guardian ad litem) could be appointed.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes, the legal guardian issue is an important one, since the child in question may well have a court-appointed one... also, one or both of his/her parents' legal rights may also come into play in such a scenario... and the rules will vary from state to state and may even differ from county to county, so take that into consideration, too...
     
  7. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    So far you've mentioned that your main character has to go on a cruise, but does he have to go with all the other foster kids? What if his guardian takes him and a few close friends (whose legal guardians approve)?
     
  8. GeorgiaB
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    GeorgiaB Member

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    Erik, Thanks so much. That's what I googled pretty much, but hearing it from you is great help. One of my problems is that I don't really want all the foster kids in this particular family to go on this trip, so I did read that there are some trained foster parents simply available to watch foster kids when their families go on vacation. Have you heard of that? (Sounds a little traumatic, actually.) My MC's foster family is a great one, and the parents have spent years of their lives fostering kids. The cruise is a prize, and they decide they want to do it.

    My MC is also 17, about to phase out of the system. But her goal at 18 is to gain the parental rights for her brother (9 or 10). Were she financially secure, etc., do you think this is possible? Common? Would she need a lawyer? These questions might be too detailed to ask in a forum like this, I know. I need to find a local expert to interview, probably. :)

    But maybe this one is easier: I imagine most plans for kids are very individual, but would you be able to estimate how long a child is typically in foster care before a parent's rights are terminated, assuming that the parent is not complying and fails to meet his/her goals to get the child back?

    FunkyBass -- I read A Fault of Your Stars. I was amazed at the end when I realized John Green had made up the entire chemo drug part of the story. That whole thing was incredibly believable to me, and I thought he must have done a lot of research to get the medical aspects right. It's true, I may have to stretch reality a bit to fit the story I want to tell. But I hope to get 99% of it right. My audience is young adults -- my mc is 17. Stereotypes are really hard to stay away from when writing about this group -- whether it is the foster kids, the foster parents, or the people who work with them. But I am trying very hard to do so. If I don't think I am succeeding, no other eyes will ever see this thing! I want to do justice to my characters' experiences, and for the characters to be realistic to actual people in similar situations. (But isn't that what most of us writers want? :))

    Thanks so much!

    Georgia
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ...'possible' probably, depending on the circumstances and where it's taking place...

    ...'common' probably not, since it would be pretty hard to impossible for a teenager to have a job that pays enough to support the two of them...

    ...'a lawyer' definitely!... and they would each most likely already have a guardian ad litem, whose job it would be to protect the welfare of the minor child...

    ...yes!...

    again, that would depend on the system in force for that particular state/county and on the details of each individual case... so the answer to your question is 'no'...
     
  10. GeorgiaB
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    GeorgiaB Member

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    Thanks, Mamma! My MC has the goal of getting custody of her brother, and is working furiously towards it, but in the end she can't make it work. But I need to show that she is knowledgeable about what she needs to do to try and get him, that she is taking all of the necessary steps and talking to the right people. (I really like this girl.) I have research to do, obviously. One of my problems is that I wasn't planning to make the setting specific -- any East Coast U.S. suburb will do -- but if I have to research state/county legal regulations, I might have to change that, at least pick a state, I guess.


    Thanks again.

    Georgia

    P.S. Now looking at Department of Social Services website and manuals. Not the most exciting reading.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    there's a pretty good made-for-tv movie about a teenager who fought to get custody of her younger siblings that will give you a good look at the legal system and all she had to go through... sorry i can't recall the title, but if you do a search on imdb.com, you should be able to find it... good luck with this!

    hugs, m
     
  12. GeorgiaB
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    GeorgiaB Member

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    Thanks! I'll look into that for sure. Then I have to make my story not like that one. Ha ha.

    Georgia
     
  13. erik martin
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    erik martin Contributing Member

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    Foster care providers who do so on a temporary basis are called respite care providers, or just respite for short.
     
  14. GeorgiaB
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    GeorgiaB Member

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    Thanks, Erik!
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    where you are, but maybe not everywhere, erik... labels may differ from state to state and even county to county...
     
  16. erik martin
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    erik martin Contributing Member

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    True, but I've worked in NC, California, and Ohio; and while there are minor differences a great deal of the terminology is the same. But you're certainly correct that procedures will differ, maybe there will be area specific programs, agencies, etc. But, within the US at least, the basic social work jargon as it relates to the basic framework of the field tends to remain fairly consistent. What varies greatly are the many acronyms we love to use that relate to state specific policies, paperwork, regulations etc.
     
  17. harvimaxic
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    harvimaxic New Member

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    One of my friend shared his experience in foster care system, He is really very happy while doing as a foster care. He foster cared for the two children. Firstly, I didn't controlled him afterwards they feel very friendly and freely to talk and play with him. The experience is very nice and it will be useful also.
     

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