Tips for foster parents who are dealing with allegations from a foster child.
Any experienced foster parent can tell you that eventually you, or someone you know, will receive an abuse or neglect allegation against your foster home. You are not alone. Sometimes the allegations are made by an angry child or parent, or are simply a misunderstanding. Try not to displace your anger on DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services) or the counselor sent out to investigate. Realize that every report must be investigated to ensure that the child is safe. Remember the tips listed below when faced with allegations on your home:
- Get the facts. Make sure the investigator reads the report entirely to you and explains how they will be investigating the allegations (i.e. talking to the children at school, making collateral contacts, referring the child for an evaluation).
- Remain calm and clearly state your response to the allegations. Do not become hostile or so distressed that you cannot give clear answers.
- Document everything. You should be keeping a journal on every child as this could be a great asset during the interview. Be sure to add to your journal everything that happened during the interview and any information the investigator shares with you. (Remember, these journals should cover everything from bumps and bruises to shouting matches.)
- Talk to the children. For many children, an investigator coming to the home can be a traumatic experience, not unlike the first time they were removed from their biological home. Reassure the children, but do not interfere with the investigation.
- Be cooperative. Try to help, not hinder, the investigation. Do not refuse to speak to the investigator and do not deny the investigator access in interviewing the children.
- Turn to your supports. Talk to your mentor or a close foster parent friend, but do not advertise the investigation. Keep it off the “grapevine.”
- Do not concern yourself with the origin of the report. It does not matter who made the allegations. If by some mistake you find out who the reporter is, leave it alone– do not conduct your own interrogation.
- Do not view DCFS as the bad guys. Try to remember that if you knew a child was being abused and you called in a report, you would not want the abuse registry to overlook your concerns simply because it is a foster home.
- Learn from experience. Everything on this journey is a lesson in life. You may be the mentor or support system for another foster home in the same situation some day.
- Know when to ask for help. Sometimes the allegations are true and you may be faced with knowing when to seek help for your home. Do not be ashamed and make sure the safety of your family comes before your pride.