Foster Care

Social Media Tips, Rules and Considerations for Foster Parents

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Foster parents often have many concerns about internet safety. You are probably wondering what programs are out there to help monitor social media and if you should set up house rules. We’ve found some resources for you and we hope you find them helpful. If you as a foster parent have any advice to share with other families, please send it to us.

It is important to work with the child(ren) in your care to set up rules and discuss how social media accounts will be monitored.  AdoptUSKids has a good article about teen social media use and what you can do to help them use social media. This article provides a list of questions to ask yourself about where you stand in regard to social media and has some conversation points for talking with teens. Here is the article: https://www.adoptuskids.org/about-us/news-and-announcements/story?k=social-media-teens

You might wonder, how do you set up social media rules and how to you monitor their account closely? Common Sense Media has created a useful worksheet for setting up family media agreements based on the age of the child(ren). This worksheet has the goals of staying safe, thinking first and staying balanced. Examples of a family media plan include agreeing to not give out private information, not setting up an account without permission, only sharing passwords with family and not filling out forms with personal information. Reminding kids to “think first” is an important part of this plan – kids needs to remember to be kind when they communicate online and to remember that the internet is public and information can spread fast and far.  To view this family plan to either use or create one of your own, visit the following link: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/imce/educatefamilies_fma_all.pdf

Facebook offers advice on how to “Play it Safe.” Review the child’s privacy settings with them and show them the Activity Log feature that lets them review and manage what they’ve shared on Facebook. The Facebook advice page can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/safety/groups/parents/ Parents should also keep a close eye on the child(ren)’s friend list to see who they are friending and if they are appropriate. An article published by Missouri University states “if adolescents have few friends on Facebook, foster parents need to find out whether they have other, hidden online profiles or if they’re having problems making friends.”

Here are some more resources as you navigate social media and how it can work for your family and the kids in your care.

WV DHHR Policy on Social Media and the lives of foster/adoptive children:

Page 76 section 3, link.

3. It is the policy of the DHHR/BCF to encourage normalcy in the lives of foster/adoptive children. As such, it is acceptable to post photos of a foster/adoptive child(ren) in family or group setting (school, sports, sleepovers, parties, etc.) on social media. However, in any social media posting,(photographic or print) foster/adoptive parents are prohibited from releasing any information regarding: the fact that the children are in a foster/adoptive circumstance, the foster adoptive child(ren)’s previous custodians, geographic or demographic information that could jeopardize the foster child(ren)’s safety, or any other information that would breach the confidentiality provisions of West Virginia Code Section §49-5-101. These prohibitions continue even after any placement has ended. Furthermore, for the safety of the children, it is strongly advised that all such postings be made on private settings, to be seen by the foster/adoptive parent’s friend groups only and not posted publicly.

If you have any questions about social media use, we encourage you to have a conversation with your worker.   

I have completed foster care certification, what’s next?

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You’ve done all of the paperwork and training, you have your home ready for a placement, now what?  

The agency that certified your family will put you on a list of available families to call whenever there is a need for a home. This will also include information such as number of open beds and the ages of the children you are able to care for. 

While you are waiting for that first call, you could get clothes and toys together for different age ranges. We’ve put together a list of items to have on hand that you can view HERE.

When you do get a call, your family will then be able to accept or decline the placement. Why would you decline a placement? One example is that you might get a call for a sibling group when you were thinking you’d start slow with one child or maybe the child in need has some kind of special need that you don’t think you are equipped to handle. Whatever the case, it is up to you to decide if you want to accept a placement. We do encourage you to have an open mind and consider these options when they arise; you might be more capable than you realize. Some calls may come in the middle of the night for a child who needs a placement immediately while other calls may occur a few days before a placement is needed. 

If you have decided to accept the placement, the child’s worker will bring the child and their belongings to your home.  If this is the child’s first placement, you will receive a store voucher to buy some of the necessary items you need for the kid(s) placed in your care.  The social worker will also supply a placement agreement and medical card.  They will let you know “what’s next” in terms of the child’s case, any appointments they may have and any services that they need to receive. 

Most important in the first few days is helping the child feel comfortable in their new environment.  Being welcoming, showing them the ins and outs of your home and helping them learn the basic routine can go far to help ease their fear and anxiety. 

Some placements could be as short as a few days or weeks while others can last for many months or even over a year.  You are entitled to receive information about the child’s case and to attend team meetings. You are providing an important service for these children and should be treated as a valued member of the child’s team.

Foster Care in WV and the Basic Certification Requirements

Foster care is a temporary living situation for children whose parents cannot safely care for them.  When a child is abused and/or neglected by their guardian, it is brought to the attention (usually by a report of child abuse or neglect) to the Department of Health and Human Resources. Social workers will then investigate and if the report is found to be true, the child(ren) is then removed from the unsafe situation and placed into the state’s foster care system.

Foster mom and kids

These children range in age from babies to teens and are most often placed in foster care through no fault of their own. While in foster care, children might live with a relative, a certified foster family or in a residential facility. In a residential facility, a group of children in foster care live together with staff members who work in shifts. In West Virginia, there are more than 6,000 kids in foster care so there is a great need for more foster families to provide a caring and loving home.

The ultimate goal of foster care is for children to return to their home, this is also called reunification. In the best situation, the child or children’s parents can make the changes that are needed to safely parent. The amount of time children stay in foster care depends on their family’s situation. This could mean a short stay in foster care or could be a longer amount of time depending on what changes or program the court has required the parents to complete.

If the child’s birth parents are unable to safely parent their child(ren) and make the changes that are necessary, the parent(s) can voluntarily give up their parental rights OR the court can terminate the parents’ rights. The child(ren) is/are then legally eligible for adoption, which can be finalized in a court of law. The adoptive parent then becomes the child’s legal parent and has the same formal and legal responsibility for the child as if they were the biological parent.

The criteria to be a foster parent and/or to adopt from foster care are the same.  They include the following: 

  • You must be between the ages of 21 and 65 (they have not changed this yet)
  • Have a stable & secure income.
  • Be in good physical/mental health.
  • Pass a home safety inspection.
  • Free of any substantiated child abuse reports and free of a criminal background.
  • Have a stable family relationship.

*Requirements may vary depending on the agency you are working with.