allegations of maltreatment
or neglect in foster care provider,
kinship and adoptive homes?
Foster care providers, kinship caregivers and adoptive parents of older children are vulnerable to
charges from both the children they care for and the birth parents who have been
The first step to
prevent an allegations is
Before Placement | Document | Safety | DIscipline
High Risk Child | Prevent | Self Care of Provider
to placement of a
foster, adoptive or kinship child in your home:
- Get as much information about the child
as possible before your accept a placement, write it down or get it in
writing. Keep a separate notebook for each child, a colored 25 pocket
folder with a spiral notebook inserted in the pocket will do. A bound note
book is good because pages cannot be torn out without upsetting the sequence
of events. Dont use your computer because changes are too easy. Invest
the time to handwrite.
Medical attention needed (current doctors/previous specialists)
many prior foster homes and placements has child had?
to speak to previous foster family before child comes to your home
What respite is available? How are they related to the child?
- Understand normal child development.
Avoid questionable situations with children.
- Dont be afraid to say no to a placement
that will put you at risk or you are concerned if you are capable of
handling. Lay your pride down,
you dont have the skills to care for every type of child.
- Get all the information possible on details
of caring for a child with specific special needs. (For example Fetal
Alcohol Exposed children have difficulty with cause and effect, regulatory
issues, truth and stealing get as much information as you can www.betterendings.org
- Write the placing agency and ask for
any history of physical or sexual abuse of the child to be documented in
- Ask if the child has ever made false abuse
allegations and insist on a written response. If a child has a
history of false abuse allegations, ask the child's worker to write a letter
stating the allegations, circumstances, and how the allegations proved to be
unfounded. Keep this letter in a safe place in case you ever have to show
that the child has a pattern of disrupting placements through such
- Foster parents and kinship caregivers keep
(birth, custodial, guardian) parents and social workers informed of positive
progress their child is making and any interesting things they might
like to know about their child's activities. View yourself as a part of a
co-parenting team that is attempting to reunify a family, not as a
competitor for their children's loyalty.
- Seek outside resources and assistance
immediately if behaviors or issues arise beyond abilities or desires to
deal with. Avoid blaming others if possible, and actively seek a solution to
resolve the problem to the benefit of all concerned.
Don't trust your
Keep a journal of situations, reactions, behaviors.
- Keep logs/notebooks on each child to
document visitation, medical appointments, school progress/problems, medical
needs, behavioral patterns, or changes and efforts to teach acceptable
- Document any changes in behavior in
children including severity and length of these changes, especially
after visitation or any changes at school. Include any action taken to deal
with inappropriate behavior. Also document any unusual behavior the child
has regarding social workers, police or medical personnel. (See Chapter 14
in Families at Risk for complete details)
- Always document any serious conflicts
with parents, children, social workers, licensors, teachers, etc., and keep
these records in a file. Request copies of these to be kept with the
- Identify conflicts that arise with
parents, children, teachers, social workers, etc., because of value
differences. Be respectful of individual rights to their own point of view.
Negotiate and work toward a compromise.
- Have a visitor sign in page in the
notebook. Many times a biological parent will claim a foster parent
wont let them visit their child. A dated list with signature will do two
things protect you from false allegations of non-compliance and provide
support for reunification of family by proofing the child and parent have
been working on the relationship.
- Invest in a polaroid camera.
If you have a child that visits mom and dad on weekends to document
before and after pictures. Make sure camera has data function. This is also
handy for positive relations for child to have pictures of parents coming to
get them and visiting if things are progressing positively.
If you accept a special high
for placement in your home:
- Talk with the child about his or her
history of being abused, and of making false allegations.
- Tell the child that you plan to protect him
or her and yourself.
- Enlist the help of a competent professional
experienced with abuse survivors and foster or adoptive family therapy.
You and the child will need ongoing therapeutic support from a person
who knows you well.
- Pay careful attention to supervision and
safety issues, especially for younger children. Make sure family members
understand safety issues, not leaving curling irons unplugged, seat belts
fastened, medicine cabinets locked, and routinely do checks to assure the
well-being of ALL members of the household.
- Closely supervise children at all times.
It is unwise to allow children to play unattended at any time.
- Do not have too many places where children
- Leave nap room doors open and periodically
check on children during these times.
- Develop family policies and follow them
concerning: discipline, children's developing sexuality, toileting, napping
routines, and how substitutes will be hired. File a copy of these with
licensing agency. (See Chapter 14)
- Conduct daily safety checks and make
sure all hazardous materials are put away. Safety guidelines cannot be
- Never use, or threaten to use, corporal
punishment as a means of discipline. This form of discipline cannot be
delegated to non-parent guardians, and is prohibited by licensing
regulations. Do not use discipline prohibited by licensing. (See chapter 13)
A foster parent is a model of appropriate behavior and a teacher of
problem-solving and communication skills to the children they care for. If
methods of discipline vary between birth children and foster children,
discuss the variances with the social worker. With
older adoptive children, we also recommend using foster care principles in
- Carefully screen all helpers/substitutes
including relatives and friends; make sure they understand licensing
regulations, house rules, and any specific restrictions about individual
children because of court orders, etc.
reactive and provocative children
- Do not be alone with a child is who
sexually reactive, acts out sexually, or has provocative behavior. Advise
adults and older children in the household to have another adult nearby or
in the same room for the protection of the parent and the child.
- Sexually abused can be more likely to
become victims again. Even if a child has a history of making false
allegations, always take new allegations seriously. The child
may become a victim of sexual abuse again. It is the duty of the foster or
adoptive parent, working with professionals, to protect the child and give
her or him functional boundaries and self-protective strategies.
- Never use physical punishment.
- Get help as soon as you can and only
restrain a child until he or she regains some control.
- Do not restrain a child if you haven't been
trained in proper restraint techniques. At least one adopted child has
been killed while his much larger and stronger adoptive parent restrained
a licensed provider family
can take to prevent maltreatment:
- Understand and follow all licensing
regulations. When a provider is accused of neglect or abuse and has not
been in compliance with regulations, the likelihood of a negative licensing
action is increased.
- Know and follow all state and agency
regulations as they apply to foster care providers. A foster care
provider needs to have and understand current regulation.
- Maintain a positive relationship with the
licensing and childs case worker. Make sure any predetermined
variance from regulation is approved IN WRITING beforehand. Call the
licensing worker and childs worker when positive things happen with the
child. Dont make all your calls to the agency sound like problems or
complaints. Let them enjoy the good days you have along with you, they also
need a smile is their days.
- Be a team member. Work for the best
interest of the child in your care. Build a support system. Foster
parenting cannot be done in isolation.
- Get involved with the child's
professional support team -- therapist, counselor, teachers, and
- Get all the education and training you
can. Share the information with the support team.
- Always report suspected child abuse
to local child protection authorities or the social worker assigned to
the case, especially after parental visits. (See Chapter 4 in Families
at Risk for more information)
and become an active member in your local, state, or national care
provider association. Read the information they send you.
- Call your local, state, or national
care provider association if you have a question you do not dare ask
your worker. Even if you are not a member of the organization it is
more important to get help than to worry about non-membership. Once you
have made contact with the association, you can decide to join and
become active. The association is available to help you!
KEEP YOURSELF HEALTHY
one can be a perfect parent every day and under every circumstance.
There is no way to completely avoid allegations. Understanding your own personal
needs and the needs of family members is crucial in being able to develop a
supportive and strong foster family.
- Be the best parent you can be.
- Avoid being stretched. Know and respect
limits. Don't overload your home. Establish appropriate boundaries.
If the child is not a good family fit, ask for help before any
negative situation can develop.
- Take breaks from the children and the
situation. Make sure to get away alone with your support team or significant
- Say no to an inappropriate placement.
Children need as much continuity of care as possible, and saying yes to a
potentially unhealthy placement could damage your family and harm the child.
- Don't use kids to meet your own needs for
affection. Foster kids usually can't give affection for a long time or
Because of the complex, isolated, and personal nature of foster care, it is
important that providers develop strong communication and documentation skills
to protect themselves, their families, and the children for whom they are
caring. There is no guarantee your family will NOT face allegations. No one is
protected from this reality in the high risk profession of caring for other
peoples children. Take the time
to minimize your risk. Be the best you can be. Think of your own family first.
Protect and keep your core family (spouse, bio and adopted children) healthy.
Then you can bless other families and children by extending your hearts and
hands in healing hurt and brokenness.
Kulp is author of Families at Risk. This section has been excerpted and
developed from Chapter 3, pages 72-74 of Families at Risk
by Jodee Kulp. Books are available through your state Foster Care organization.