Foster Care Basics

 

The process of becoming a foster parent can feel overwhelming.  The Foster Care Developer of Community Care works closely with the individuals pursuing their foster parent license throughout each step of the licensing process.  The Foster Care Developer meets with parent(s) in their home to provide hands on assistance in completing the application and conducting the required home study.

Once a foster home is licensed, the Foster Care Developer – whom the foster parent(s) comes to know well throughout the licensing process – will continue to provide support when the foster parent begins fostering.  Serving as a primary support person for the foster parent(s), the Foster Care Developer provides support in meeting licensing requirements including training hours, matching children to their home, problem solving around issues that may arise, and facilitating the annual licensure renewal.  Foster parents of Community Care have identified the support of the Foster Care Developer as being invaluable.

Testimonial - Alyson and James Kornsey

My husband Jim and I started fostering 9 years ago, at a time when our own sons were prospering and secure.  I had worked as a BHP and had recently chosen to switch paths in life from pursuing my MSW to an MBA, mainly because I couldn't walk away from kids in need, and taking them home with me was frowned on!  So, we went through the licensing process with Community Care, who helped us navigate the very long and involved mystery that licensing was at the time.  With my experience we were able to start as a therapeutic family and our placements were vetted by Community Care to help us accept kiddos that were 'good fits' for our family. 

Now, nine years later my husband and I are bruised and battered but still standing.  We have held those kids who hate the skin they wear, who eat and eat and are never full, who yell and scream and hit and spit to keep us at a distance, who break our things and tell us to give up. We are still standing, and so are every one of the kids we have had the honor to share our home with! 

And, when the kids need more help than we can give, Community Care has been there with supports: workers to focus on specific treatment goals, Case Managers to keep us on track with administrative tasks that expand when crisis becomes your norm, helping us recognize what we can and can't do, and of course finding respite even when it doesn't exist! We could never have done it without the Community Care Team at the other end of the foster parent emergency pager, giving us direction and advice when chaos erupts, and those trainings that bring our community of foster families and the Community Care Team together to realize none of us are alone in this work...

FAQs —Becoming a foster parent:

There are two levels of foster parenting licenses, family level and treatment level.  While there are no specific qualifications to be a family level foster parent, there are qualifications to be a treatment level foster parent.  The qualification to become a treatment level foster home is having one year of experience as a family level home or six months of paid, professional working experience with youth with mild to moderate disabilities (personal experience is not counted).  Examples of paid, professional experience could include, but is not limited to: group home staff, teacher, ED Tech, counselor, etc.

The Treatment Level Foster Care Program of Community Care supports individuals pursuing a treatment level license, meeting with individuals in their home to help them step by step through the process.  Individuals who do not yet meet the qualifications to be a treatment level foster parent are provided contact information to the Department of Health and Human Services who oversees family level foster homes.  Community Care stays in touch during their period of time and will be available to assist you in the transition to Community Care once the necessary experience is gained as a family level foster parent.

No.  It just needs to meet the fire and safety inspections.

No, being married is not a requirement.  We contract with great single parent homes as well as married couples.

No.  The only requirement is to demonstrate that you can sustain your home without the Daily Board and Care Subsidy.

No.  You just need to demonstrate stable housing, whether it is renting or owning.

Licensed foster homes are required to meet standardized fire and safety regulations as governed by the State of Maine. The costs associated with obtaining a foster home license are any repairs that need to be done to the home to meet these requirements, which will be identified following a fire and safety inspection. The other cost to obtaining a license is the cost for each foster parent to have finger printing performed in order to meet licensing requirements, which is a minimal expense of approximately $45.

Yes.  You would complete another application and have an addendum to your license completed.  Because of the need for the actual home to be licensed, another fire and safety inspection would need to be completed as well as any necessary work on the home to bring the home up to fire and safety standards.

The process to obtaining a foster parent license takes approximately three months.

No formal education is required.

Treatment level foster parents must participate in an initial 18 hours of training to begin, and then on-going training of 36 hours over the period of two years to maintain the treatment level license.  Community Care provides quarterly training allowing foster parents to come together, creating the opportunity to connect with one another and be part of a strong foster parent community.  Childcare is provided by staff of Community Care during the training to allow foster parents to relax, enjoy time with other foster parents, and participate worry-free in the training.  Community Care also offers reimbursement for the required CPR/First-Aid training that is required to be a treatment level foster parent.

The training requirements for family level foster parents are fewer than that of treatment foster parents, and will be outlined by the Department of Health and Human Services throughout the family level licensing process. 

A treatment level foster home can have up to 4 children under the age of 16 in their home counting their own children, and only 2 of those children can be therapeutic level foster youth.  The foster family can obtain a license for 3, but the third slot is for respite only.  This is different than being a family level home as family level does not have any limits on the number of children a foster family can take.

Yes, you can work out of the home.  The Department of Health and Human Services required that each household not be dependent on foster parent reimbursement.  In the situation where both parents work, the department will pay for childcare.

No.  Children placed in foster homes are in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services and as such, they are covered by the state insurance, Mainecare.

The Community Care Foster Home Developer, the individual each foster parent comes to know well, assists in supporting the family to identify youth who are the best fit for their home.  When the Department of Health and Human Services is in need of placement for a child, they contact the Foster Home Developer who assists in matching the youth to their home, or deciding if the youth is not a good fit for their family.

Absolutely.  The Foster Home Developer's primary interest is in supporting you as a foster family.  If at any time you do not feel as though the youth being presented to you for placement is a good fit for your family, and/or your family is not able to take a new placement at any given time, you will be entirely supported in that decision.

Youth who are placed in treatment level foster homes have a mental health diagnosis or symptoms of a mental health diagnosis and have been victims of trauma.  Therefore, aside from the typical physical health appointments youth require, youth served in the treatment foster care program also have appointments to treat their mental health needs.  These appointments can include, but not be limited to, medication management, mental health counseling, and appointments with various mental health professionals for assessments and testing.  If the youth is on a reunification track with the birth family, the youth may also have regularly scheduled supervised visits.  The foster parents are responsible for bringing the youth to appointments/visits, with support from Community Care staff as needed if scheduling issues arise.

Yes.  A mileage reimbursement of .44 cents/mile is provided to treatment level foster parents for all therapeutic appointments and for training.

Each child is assigned a Case Manager through Community Care who visits the home twice a month, and more often if needed or requested by the foster parent.  In-home, one-to-one support depends on the needs of the family.

Youth are generally 3 years old up to age 20 with the average age being 10-12 years old.

The reimbursement rate is one of the primary differences between being a family level foster parent and a treatment level foster parent due to the higher qualifications of the treatment level foster parent(s).  Treatment level foster parents are provided room and care reimbursement in the amount of $45 - $75 per day, depending on the level of the child.  The Department of Health and Human Services has created 3 treatment levels that are based on the emotional and behavioral needs of the youth, and the corresponding support and skill level that will be needed to meet, the needs of the youth.  In addition to the room and care reimbursement, clothing allowance is provided for each youth up to $3.47 per day, depending on the age of the child.

Our Foster Home Developer, who assisted you throughout the licensing process, will be the person who contacts you for placements after you are licensed.

The Department of Health and Human Services determines the plan for the youth, and the court makes the final decision.

As a treatment level foster parent of Community Care, you will have an on-going relationship with the Foster Home Developer who assisted you in the licensing process from the very beginning. You will also have a Case Manager assigned to your home. Your Case Manager will be the person who supports you and your family throughout your journey of fostering with Community Care. Some of our Case Managers have been with the agency for over 20 years and have been supporting the same foster families over that same period of time. Foster parents of Community Care hold close relationships with their Case Managers and they come to know one another very well, resulting in a strong, supportive relationship to guide foster parents through challenging times as well as joining in on celebrating the good times. In addition to the support from the Case Manager, foster parents receive additional support from a Family Integration Specialist (FIS) who is assigned to provide one-to-one support for youth. Each foster family also receives support from the program’s Clinical Supervisor, who can offer in home clinical consultation, support, and guidance. Our foster parents are not in it alone!

Children are encouraged to participate in as many extracurricular activities as they would like. These activities are essential in normalizing the youth’s childhood experiences and promote self-esteem, healthy peer relationships, and an overall healthy sense of well-being.

No. However, you can if the team decides it is best for the birth family and if the foster parent is interested in doing so. In those situations, the visit can occur in the community, office, foster home, or birth home – depending on the needs of the child and comfort level of the foster and birth parents. Otherwise, Community Care staff members provide the supervised visits.

Community Care’s Treatment Foster Care Program supports foster parents within a 1-hour radius of Skowhegan and Bangor, as well as the Machias area. The physical location of the Skowhegan office is 98 North Avenue and the Bangor office is located at 40 Summer Street. Our foster care program is rapidly expanding – call to inquire if we are in your area!

Treatment level foster parents have a greater degree of training and parenting skill set in order to respond to the complex needs of youth who are in need of treatment level care. The youth placed in treatment foster homes have experienced a significant degree of trauma, have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, and/or are demonstrating behaviors that are symptomatic of a mental health disorder. Therefore, skilled parenting is needed in order to effectively respond to these behaviors in a manner that is trauma-informed, supportive, nurturing, and effective. Treatment level foster parent(s) are able to respond to the higher needs of these youth in a skilled, professional manner.

In order to develop and maintain strong skills in parenting treatment level youth, treatment level foster parents participate in a greater amount of training hours both initially and on-going. Therefore, there is the requirement of treatment level foster parents to commit to professional development to aid them in their ongoing development as a professional parent.

Often times, family level foster parents find that they have already been caring for youth who are technically treatment level – however, they have been doing so as a family level foster parent without the support of a treatment agency. We have heard frequently from foster parents who transition from family level to treatment level that their stress level has been significantly reduced as a result of the transition, as they are parenting youth with the same level of need but now with a greater level of support from their team of providers at Community Care.

Community Care provides a wide range of support to foster families and youth placed in their homes, which are customized to the needs of the family and youth. The services set up for one family/child may look different from family to family, as each family and youth are unique in their needs, skills, and preferences.

Case Management: Each family has an assigned Case Manager that works with the family and each child placed in their home that provides the case management services for the youth. The Case Manager becomes the foster parents primary support person, as it is the person who meets all of the case management needs for each youth placed in their home. We have Case Managers who have worked with the same foster parents for decades. The relationship between the foster parent and Case Manager is strong, and the Case Manager is often the first person the foster parent calls when they need support. The Case Manager works with the youth, the youth’s service providers, birth family, foster family, teachers, and other providers supporting the youth to create a treatment team. This treatment team works closely together to meet the needs of the youth, and to support the foster parents in their care of the child. The Case Manager’s duties include, but are not limited to: scheduling team meetings, assisting in scheduling appointments, making referrals on behalf of the youth/family, advocating for the youth’s educational needs through attending school meetings, monitoring the youth’s progress towards their treatment goals, lending a supportive ear to the foster parent family, and connecting the foster family with needed resources.

One-to-one support for the youth: Community Care assigns a one-to-one worker to each youth, depending on the needs of the youth. This staff member provides one-to-one support for the youth in-home or in the community to assist the youth in learning skills to advance towards their goals.

Clinical Supervision: A licensed clinician provides clinical supervision and consultation for foster parents. This allows the foster parent to seek support from the clinician regarding concerns they may have for the child, their family, challenges in managing behaviors, or other challenges they are experiencing within their home. The clinical supervisor offers strategies, behavior management tools, education, and support to assist foster parents in meeting the complex needs of youth in their care.

24/7 Support: Community Care maintains a 24/7 support line for foster parents. Day or night, when foster parents are experiencing a crisis, there is someone they can call to assist them through that difficult time.

Foster parent expertise: Community Care has been specializing in foster care since being established in 1995 – with the Treatment Foster Care Program being the first and only program offered by the agency at the beginning. Many of the same staff within the program at the start remain with us to this day - with some being  foster or adoptive parents themselves - resulting in decades of experience supporting foster parents in the unique challenges they may experience along their journey of fostering.