Fostering Children In Georgia


About 60-80% of children in foster care that go up for adoption are adopted by their foster families. Fostering before adopting is most beneficial for you and the child. Most children in foster care have been traumatized, abused or neglected, and when the reunification plan cannot safely put them and their biological parents back together, a forever family is needed to adopt them. The foster family that has cared for the child in their home for months or years is the best solution since they have bonded with each other and the child will not have to undergo another traumatic disruption.

With an average of 7000* disruptions in adoptions throughout the country each year, there is a great need to be careful about moving children during foster care to ensure that the children will regain the sense of security that they may have missed out on due to their previous situations. With proper training and support in place for foster families and caseworkers as the two work as partners in their counties and agencies, reunification can be smoother and more successful. It’s great when the biological families work hard to follow their case plan to regain custody of their children.

When a family enters into fostering with the positive outlook of helping children and families taking out the “what I want” and putting in the persona of helping and giving where needed, it is most beneficial. When a permanent home needs to be found for the child when reunification is found not to be a viable and safe solution, the foster family can choose to adopt. When that happens the child does not have to undergo another trauma by being uprooted again to be placed in yet another home. In years past foster families were not allowed to adopt their foster children and the children became traumatized as they grew into adulthood with issues of abandonment. This practice caused many adult problems later on. Each time a child is moved, it is a harder to bond or to trust that they will ever be able to feel secure and stay in the same family forever.

Many may not realize that children come into foster care every day. They are placed in a foster home while caseworkers create a reunification case-plan for the biological family in order to safely regain custody of their child. Reunification with their biological home or a relative’s home is the first option for a child in hopes that they can strengthen their situation and be reunited with their parents. While the child is safely cared for by a foster family, he/she bonds and begins a healing process ultimately becoming comfortable and feeling safe again. With the knowledge that their parents are working on fixing their situation so they may safely return home, they can go on with normal activities, heal from the trauma while making friends and just being kids. Siblings should be kept together if at all possible but it is difficult to find homes that will take multiple children at one time if there are more than 2 siblings.

It is almost impossible to structure a foster care system solely on foster parents that have no interest in adopting. For years families hoping to enlarge their families have made the realization that caring for abused and neglected children is an avenue at which they can provide their love for parenting with children that desperately need parenting in hopes that one day, they can eventually adopt. Many have adopted children they’ve cared for, and often more than ever expected. Fostering as a resource family to adopt, when available, is the most logical method to supply the demand for caring and loving homes without making the huge mistake of repeating the past when children were not allowed to be adopted by the foster family, causing many to foster for income rather than for love of children. This former practice made it traumatic for thousands of foster parents and children when the children were removed from the foster home and moved to a stranger for adoption.

Georgia set the precedent years ago to allow families to enter fostering as resource families (formerly called Foster to Adopt) who will foster and help reunify with birth families but also wish to adopt the child they are caring for if not successfully able to safely reunify them with their birth parents and families.

Thousands of resource families are continuously recruited and needed to replace the ones that adopt their foster child and therefore discontinue fostering to raise their newly adopted child. As new resource families are approved, they continue to accept children that are daily coming into foster care needing a safe loving place to live both temporarily and eventually, permanently.

They say that history often repeats itself, but we hope that for the sake of our children we have learned this lesson well and don't ever again make the mistake to search for “foster only” homes as a sole place for kids in trauma.

So, if this captures your interest, become a resource foster family for your county’s Division of Family and Children's Services (DFCS) and foster a child or two (or more) while they try to reunify them with their birth family. If reunification is successful, say a thankful prayer that you are strong enough to love children unconditionally and know that what you have given of your time and effort, including emotions, will help a child grow into a stronger and independently self-assured adult who can one day successfully love and care for a family of their own.

When a child leaves your home, continue by helping another child that needs you desperately. For each child you help, there are 100 more that need a caring home. Loving and caring for the next child will help you heal from the loss of that had to say goodbye. If you are not interested in adopting, there are many families that will step in and give your foster child a permanent loving home when and if the time comes.

Always congratulate yourself on helping a family heal and regain custody of their child. Just so you know, I have never known a resource foster family that wanted to adopt and did not. Sometimes the road of giving is the best, most beneficial and rewarding path. The past is never forgotten, but shapes a child for the future to become their best, as the experiences that a child had before knowing you, including the time spent with you, will follow them. Please help them learn what it’s like to love unconditionally even though you know you may not be able to stay with them.

- Rachel Ewald

From an archived article in Fostering Families Today

You can get involved and learn how to help strengthen our foster care system and give a helping hand to caseworkers in your county and throughout the state. The Georgia Care Partnership, formerly called the North Georgia Coalition, is a partnership between Georgia's Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) and community organizations to provide resources to assist and/or care for Georgia's foster children. Community organizations include all faith-based, business, civic, school, service and neighborhood organizations.

Why

There are usually an average of 8,000 to 9,000 foster children in Georgia who need a good, safe and loving home. Thousands of families are needed to help abused and neglected children. More are needed to volunteer to provide respite care, transportation, mentoring, and other services.

Benefits:
  • Partnership with your community and friends
  • Help from your community base for support and retention of the foster homes
  • Less cost to our tax base since outsourcing to house children in private agencies cost more from our tax dollars and for our state
  • Teamwork between DFCS caseworkers, foster parents and biological families so that successful reunification of healing families or adoptions can take place
  • No cost to our community partners that help, just good ol' mission work and community volunteerism/team building corporate partnerships, etc.
How

Each participating faith-based, school, neighborhood, business or service organization has the goal to provide one or more of the following:

  • 3 to 5 foster families
  • 3 to 5 respite families
  • A classroom for training (1 for each geographic area)

Support resources are already in place at FCSF for clothing, basic care essentials and training. Items can be shipped to county DFCS offices when driving distance is to long, or impractical.

Foster Families

Foster families provide care for foster children while DFCS caseworkers work to help biological parents repair their lives. Foster families receive children at their discretion from the county DFCS. Approval and licensing is free.

Requirements
  • Training provided by DFCS
  • Background checks provided by DFCS
  • Home inspection provided by DFCS

A non-taxable stipend of approximately $15 to $19 per day is provided to reimburse some of the costs. Additional assistance is provided by Foster Care Support in the form of free clothing, toys, books, infant care items, school supplies, bicycles, etc.

Respite Families

Respite families provide short-term care (babysitting) when a foster family needs help during emergencies, vacations, or a just a night out. Respite parents are required to have the same training, background checks and home approval as foster parents. The daily stipend is paid to respite parents when the child is kept overnight. Respite parents can become foster parents with a simple paperwork conversion.

Volunteers

Volunteers are always needed to help with the following (background checks and DFCS approvals are required):

  • Transportation - drive children to medical, DFCS office visits, court, outings, etc.
  • Visitations - provide trained supervision during child visits with their biological family
  • Specialized services - dental checkups or eyecare can be provided by local professionals

FCSF also has many opportunities for volunteers to help at our Distribution Center and our Fostering Hope Resale Store.

Coordinators

A coordinator from each partner, faith-based organization, neighborhood, or company works with a facilitator from Foster Care Support or the county DFCS office.
Coordinator's responsibilities:

  • Organize and distribute information for their group and coordinate with other groups, FCSF, and DFCS
  • Coordinate foster parent needs with the partnering facility and DFCS
  • Arrange transportation for children
  • Arrange respite for foster families
  • Orchestrate special events for foster children and families
  • Recruit and refer foster families, respite families and volunteers
Expected Results

This program can make a huge improvement in the quality of Georgia's foster care system:

  • Increase the number of high-quality foster families
  • Provide excellent support for foster families
  • Greatly reduce fees currently paid to child placement agencies
  • Provide direct communication between foster families and DFCS caseworkers
  • Create new families through adoption when reunification is not possible

Please download our Georgia Care Partnership presentation.

Information Session Dates and Times

Below are regional dates, locations, and contact information for those interested in learning about fostering or adopting. If you do not see the schedule for your county, please email or call your county's recruitment caseworker, or email info@fostercares.org and ask for your county's session dates.

North Fulton County

  South Fulton residents may also attend.
  Session Location:
  Foster Care Support Foundation
  Distribution Center
  115 Mansell Place
  Roswell, GA 30076

Session Time: 6PM to 8PM

Session Dates (1st Tuesday of each month):
  January 3, 2017 Click here to register.
  February 7, 2017
  March 7, 2017
  April 5, 2017
  May 2, 2017
  June 6, 2017
  July 6, 2017
  August 1, 2017
  September 7, 2017
  October 3, 2017
  November 7, 2017
  December 5, 2017

Contact:
  DFCS - Tasheen Roberts:
    Email: tasheen.roberts@dhs.ga.gov     Phone: 404-371-7462


Southwest Fulton County

Session Location:
  South West Service Center
  515 Fairburn Rd, SW
  Atlanta, GA 30331

Session Time: 6PM to 8PM

Session Dates:
  January 17, 2017
  February 21, 2017
  March 21, 2017
  April 18, 2017
  May 16, 2017
  June 20, 2017
  July 18, 2017
  August 15, 2017
  September 19, 2017
  October 17, 2017
  November 21, 2017
  December 12, 2017


South Fulton County

North Fulton and DeKalb residents may also attend.
Session Location:
  South Fulton Office
  5710 Stonewall Tell Rd
  College Park, GA 30349

Session Time: 6PM to 8PM

Session Dates:
To be determined

Contact:
  DFCS - Tasheen Roberts:
    Email: tasheen.roberts@dhs.ga.gov     Phone: 404-371-7462


Dekalb County

Dekalb County DFCS Location:
  178 Sam's Street
  Decatur, GA 30030

Session Time: 6PM to 8PM

Session Dates:
  January 10, 2017
  February 14, 2017
  March 14, 2017
  April 11, 2017
  May 9, 2017
  June 13, 2017
  July 11, 2017
  August 8, 2017
  September 12, 2017
  October 10, 2017
  November 14, 2017

Dekalb County DFCS Location:
  2910 Miller Road
  Decatur, GA 30035

Session Time: 11AM to 1PM

Session Dates:
  January 26, 2017
  February 23, 2017
  March 23, 2017
  April 27, 2017
  May 25, 2017
  June 22, 2017
  July 27, 2017
  August 24, 2017
  September 28, 2017
  October 24, 2017
  November 30, 2017
  December 28, 2017

Contact:
  DFCS - Tasheen Roberts:
    Email: tasheen.roberts@dhs.ga.gov     Phone: 404-371-7462


Cherokee County

Location:
  Cherokee County DFCS
  105 Lamar Haley Parkway
  Canton, GA 30114

Session Time: 6PM to 8PM

Session Dates:
  Every 2nd and 4th Monday, monthly

Contact:
  Sherry Carver:
    Email:sherry.carver@dhs.ga.gov
    Office: 706-632-2592     Cell: 706-621-2425


Gwinnet County

Location:
  Clayton Commerce Center
  33 S. Clayton Street, Suite 100
  Lawrenceville, GA 30046

Session Time: 6:30PM to 8:30PM

Session Dates:
  Please call contacts below.

Contact:
Cathy Chapman, LMSW, M.Ed. Resource Development Gwinnett County DFCS 446 W. Crogan St. 4th Floor Lawrenceville, GA 30046 (678) 367-8257   Cathy Chapman, LMSW, M.Ed.:
  Resource Development
  Gwinnett County DFCS
  446 W. Crogan St. 4th Floor
  Lawrenceville, GA 30046
    Email:cathy.chapman1@dhs.ga.gov
    Phone: 678-367-8257


Cobb County

Location:
  Cobb County DFCS
  325 S. Fairground St SE
  Marietta, GA 30060

Session Time: 5:30PM

Session Dates:
  2nd Thursday of each month

Contact:
  Cindy Teate:
    Email:cindy.teate@dhs.ga.gov
    Phone: 770-319-3712


Fannin County

Location:
  Fannin County DFCS
  990 East Main Street, Suite 10
  Blue Ridge, GA 30513

Contact:
  Amy Washuta:
    Email:amy.washuta@dhs.ga.gov
    Phone: 770-632-1171


Pickens County

Location:
  Pickens County DFCS
  255 Chambers Street
  Jasper, GA 30142

Contact:
  Angel Whittmann:
    Email:angel.whittmann@dhs.ga.gov
    Phone: 706-692-4701


Banks, Dawson, Forsyth, Franklin, Habersham, Hall, Hart, Lumpkin, Rabun, Stephens, Townes, Union, White

Contact:
  Rebecca Davidson:
    Email:rebecca.davidson@dhs.ga.gov
    Phone: 770-331-1024


All North Fulton County information session, Mentoring orientation, and continuing education training sessions are held at Roswell United Methodist Church, unless otherwise stated. Other counties that have provided us with their orientation dates are also listed below.

Roswell United Methodist Church
814 Mimosa Blvd.
Roswell, GA 30075

The sessions are held in the Malone Dodson Youth Building (Building D, "the Dod")
The Dod is the large yellow Victorian-style building. 95 Pratt Street beside the main campus, off Mimosa Blvd.
Room D-226 (Take the elevator or stairs to the 2nd floor, then left around the corner.)


Foster Parent Continuing Education Sessions For Credit Hours

Session Time: 6:30PM to 8:30PM

Session Dates:
No training sessions are currently scheduled.

HEALTHY CHILDREN : HEALTHY ADULTS

Published in Fostering Families Today Magazine, 2004
Author: Rachel M. Ewald

Many states have no procedure in place for transitioning foster children from stable foster homes to permanent homes. Although while most attachment research finds that moving children too quickly and in a traumatic way can harm the development of the healthy mind, some may argue that children are resilient and will adapt to most situations.

It should be the belief of most that if the latter is true, then, at what cost? Some also say how wonderful it is that the State now has therapy and counseling for children traumatized in such a way. Then too, one must agree that putting a band aid on a hurt does not prevent the hurt from existing, but prevention should be sought to eliminate the reason the 'hurt' is there in the first place.

One might also think thousands to millions of tax dollars spent on fixing the 'broken child' after the fact might have been better spent on a proper transition so that thousands of tax dollars in counseling and therapy may not have been needed in the end. The following is a simple guide and not a policy or procedure used in any department.

It is simply "common sense".

Transition can be defined as "movement of people from one stage of life to another or from one context to another". Change is a normal fact of life for everyone, but it is seldom easy and can be most difficult for children. The way a person leaves a situation affects the way he or she enters the next. Unfinished business often hinders the ability to start a new situation. In other words, troubles are not left behind; they are exported to a new and different environment. *

Effects from a sudden trauma such as a move for a child will eventually come out later on in life. This will most likely have a negative impact on her or his childhood and behavior. Many people think that children are resilient and will "over it" but many do not and most can be spared from having to go through the unpleasant and traumatic experience of loss and grief if guidelines and procedures are put into place and followed. Moreover, the closer a person is to leaving, the less likely he or she is to deal with conflicts. This is true for adults as well as children. In studies on transition, bringing a period of one’s life to a satisfactory conclusion is described as making "good closures". In the business of packing up and getting ready to go, the need to set things right is squeezed out by the shortage of time and procedures and the pressures of imminent departure.*

With closure acquired by a proper transition, the child will feel secure in his or her new surroundings which will give him the ability to more successfully make decisions and operate freely and with confidence; unlike the uncertainty of a quick unregulated move that turns his visible world upside down or in most foster children’s cases, invisible.

These guidelines for transitioning children out of foster homes and into permanent homes were created by comprising education material from successful transitions from other states and literature, from professionals in the attachment disorder fields and from experience in fostering successful transitions, and lack of, with foster children from foster homes.

Seasoned foster parent - "I have had many different types of transitions with my foster children, from no transition at all to some a bit too lengthy. Although the lengthy ones were time consuming and demanded much travel and time, they were the ones that caused the children to have the best results in the end with the new family having the most well adjusted child in the process. In my opinion, it is worth the time involved and caseworkers, foster parents , the courts and adoptive parents that shun from the process have not been doing so in the best interest of the child. Nothing comes fast and easy and a child’s mental state should always be dealt with carefully and without haste. Out of state moves are more difficult due to the cost of travel but still should be carefully planned in the best interest of the child and not cost, nor in the best of ease of the caretakers and caseworkers. We must see that the cost of this important part of the foster child’s life may save them from despair later on even far into adulthood.

STEP ONE: PREPARATION - Start on notification of an impending move

When preparing a child for a new placement or home, it is good to start weeks before the move. Infants two to 6 or 8 months old should sufficiently establish a comfort zone with touch, smell and sight with 4 to 6 visits of 1 to 2 hours each. 8 months to 15 months should have twice that many visits to get to know their new caretakers and not get the stranger anxiety from a move to someone they do not know. They should be held no more than one to two days apart. However, nearing 2 years and older, children can usually grasp that a change is about to occur. Explaining to the child that he is about to have a new home is important in preparing to accept that a move is about to occur. Positive enforcements by talking up the new family and all the new possibilities that may arise is a way to paint a picture of the new placement that will help the child feel good about what’s about to take place.

Attachments form at a young age.One to five year olds should take approximately 3 to 6 weeks. The idea is for the child to avoid attachment disorders due to feelings of abandonment and rejection or fear of such. He should be as comfortable with you as he was with his foster home. Forcing a quick move will not force the child into bonding with you, but could cause him/her not to bond at all.

If the child is used to calling you, as the foster parent, ‘Mom’, it is good to start incorporating your name when addressing, as in ‘mama Sandy’ or ‘NANA’ or Auntie, or something else so the child will not be totally confused when the adoptive couple takes over the Mama or mom roll.

STEP TWO: FIRST MEETING, 2 to 3 hours with the foster parent, adoptive family and child/children preferably in the foster home

The adoptive couple is to meet at a familiar place of the child’s (the foster home is usually the best place to start.) The child will be comfortable if he knows that it is ok to have this stranger in his own territory. The foster and adoptive parents should interact together with the child to make him comfortable. The foster parents should allow the adoptive parents’ time to speak and interact with the child. (See his bedroom; ask about his favorite toys or games. Talk about what he or she likes to eat and play with.) If more visits at the foster parent’s home are available, it is in the best interest to have at least 2 more.

STEP THREE: 2 or 3 three to four hour visits outside the foster home within 1 to 3 days of each other

Plan a meeting at a fast food restaurant or park to meet the child and spend time with him/her. 2 to 3 hours will be sufficient to introduce the adoptive parent in another setting.

STEP FOUR: Visiting the new home: A minimum of three day visits at the new home for a period of 4 to 6 hours each within a one week period with the first of these introduced by the foster parent

The foster parent should bring the child to their new home for them to stay from 4 to 6 hours. The foster parent should stay no more than 15 minutes unless the child is in distress. Make sure that you discuss with the foster child that the home he is about to visit will eventually become his new home. This allows the child to feel that he/she has permission from their foster parents to be comfortable in someone else’s home.

Remember that the child doesn’t really know the concept of ‘foster parent’ or ‘temporary parent’ until much older as in 5 or 6 yrs. Repeat the day visits at least twice more but let the adoptive couple pick the child up from the foster home after the first visit at the new home. This will get the child used to going with the new parents and still be assured that he will be back home and with whom he has been for so long. It will relieve tension about the uncertainty of leaving foster mom and foster dad if he/she has lived there for a time.

If the new family only sees the child once or twice per week, it will take him/her longer to get to know you. Multiple visits in a shorter time is better than the same number of visits spread over a longer period; for example, 4 visits each week for two weeks is better than 4 visits over a four week period.

STEP FIVE: 4 to 6 overnights in a period of two weeks

After the child has had at least 2 to 3 day visits with the new family, plan an overnight on a day when the adoptive parents will be home the next day to spend time with the child. Continue overnight visits until there have been at least 4 to 6 overnights in the new home alternating with overnights at the foster home. Eventually, the child will spend all of the nights at the new home and only days at the old home. The amount of time will depend on the comfort of the child. At this time, depending on the child's comfort, a three to four day stay is recommended.

As the visits progress, the time spent at the foster home will decrease until the child is more at the new home than the old. There may be a time when the child will probably not want to go with the new parents and want to stay at the foster home. This is normal; because the child has an attachment to the foster home and senses some loss and is not yet as comfortable in his new setting

REACTIONS: Abnormal is normal

Each child reacts differently to stress, loss and grief. Some children keep their fears of loss inside and there are no visible signs that the child is grieving his loved one. They will eventually come out, even if it is years later so transition is important to help this be a positive reaction. Others show anger and lash out at anyone they become acquainted with. The small child may also act as if he or she is angry at the foster parent and hits or displays anger toward them. This is often due to the child feeling that he/she is being rejected and forced to go with someone they consider strangers and that the foster parent is abandoning him/her. This is a normal reaction in the child’s behavior when changes in their normal routine occur. Familiarity is what a small child and infant needs and a move disturbs this.

POSITIVE RE-ENFORCEMENT

Throughout this process, it is very important that the foster family remains smiling and cheerful even though it may be bittersweet. It doesn’t mean that you have to make the child think you are happy they are leaving but you should keep a positive tone about the impending change and move. A child that sees the foster parents apprehensive and distressed will be apprehensive of going on the visits and undue stress will be caused. Do not let them see you unhappy about the new family regardless of your feelings. Talk to the child about how excited you are about his new family and how happy you are about the situation. Never speak in a negative tone to the child about the new family. That will raise doubts in the child’s mind and make it more difficult for him to make the adjustment to the new home. Even if you don’t like the new parents, do not let the child sense your feelings. A healthy minded child is your goal and the best interest of the child is not necessarily in his being with you. The child may have been with you for some time and you have become attached. That is a good thing for the child. Attachments are a developmental milestone that many foster children do not develop due to traumatic movements that are quick and abrupt. If you care about the child in your home, you too will have become attached. Remember that a positive attachment is something that this child would not have had in a group home or shelter. Feel confident that the love you gave this child will help him continue to develop at a healthy rate with his new family.

IS MY LIFE UPSIDE DOWN?

You and your new child will be feeling a mixture of emotions. The transition requires both patience and time with traveling to and from pick ups. You will probably want to quit about half way through thinking that the child is adjusting well and he’s going to have to get used to it anyway. Don’t let the feeling that you want to go on with your new life deter you from finishing a proper transition.

NAME CHANGE?

This takes a bit of serious thinking. You may not like the name that was chosen for the child entering your home for adoption. An infant of 2 to 3 months already can identify someone calling them by a particular name. It is in the best interest of the child that if you decide, and you do have that right, to change the baby’s name that you first incorporate it into the familiar name. For example, Hannah, should not be immediately changed to Keyonna. You should start by calling her Hannah-Keyonna so she can identify her old name and find an association to the new one. Eventually, as she gets used to having Keyonna as part of her name, you can drop the Hannah and she will be fine with the other since she’s gotten used to it. That can happen rather quickly with an infant up to one or 18 months.

As a child gets older such as 2 and older, it may take a bit longer. If the child is 4 or older, she or he has his identity in his or her name. Make sure that you discuss this with the child and give the child some input in what name he may be choosing to be called. Her makeup is in her name such as yours is in yours and you need to be careful not to give the impression that you are in a hurry to erase her past. It is part of her and her name may need to remain the same for her sake.

WHERE DO I BELONG?

Make sure that the child ages 4 and up are incorporated into the family as a "member" and not as a guest. They should be given their place at the table, if there is such, from the first visit and given chores that are appropriate to his age likewise to the other children in the house, if any exist. Make him feel a part of the family with decision making but do not give him the final decision. He needs to understand that your word if the final say so that he knows where the boundaries lie. Everything has its purpose and patience in the transition process will, in the long run, make your child a happier and better adjusted child. It will also help the child bond successfully and since the goal is for permanency and success, worth the time involved.

If the child is grieving for the foster parents and seems distressed, it may be that the transition time was ended too quickly and could have lifelong effects on the child. Many times, the new parents think it is too confusing for a child to go between two homes and cut the transition short but this is harmful for the child in the long run. You may want to re-instate some visits, maybe once per week, so that the child gets to feel more secure and not feel abandoned. If a child does not have proper closure, it could affect the rest of his life in personal relationships with you and others.

Your child has most likely experienced a traumatic separation when he was taken from his biological family and put into foster care. He may have fears that it could continue to happen in the future with this placement and be afraid to get too close to anyone. Always speak positively about the fostering experience no matter what your opinion is. Remember that this child has been in that home longer than you have known the child and it could be the only place the child remembers that cared about him or his needs. He may not want to be with you simply because you think your home will be wonderful and you will love him. He doesn’t know that and bonding takes time.

AFTER THE MOVE

Ideally, the best would be that you and the adoptive family stay in touch for some time but many do not care to commit to such.

Adoptive parents should be very careful to keep the child’s belongings and toys that he has had in the foster home. These can help them bond more successfully. Too often the new parents want the child to forget the past family and only love them, discarding anything containing memories about who the child was before they came to live with them. They must keep in mind that the past is part of the child’s makeup and trying to erase it can cause damage to the child emotionally. Be careful to include pictures of the child’s biological or foster family or both if possible and discuss these with the child in a positive manner so the child can understand that he was chosen by you and not have a feeling of guilt or confusion about where he came from or if he was thrown away. We want healthy adults and these important steps can help that occur with you being responsible to do your part.

TO END OR TO CONTINUE

A healthy relationship may form with the foster and the new family and could be a lifetime friendship. Be realistic that this may not occur and the child may go on with his new life.

This last visit or "End visit", if ending the relationship with the foster family is what has been decided, tells the child that no one vanished from his life, but that he is still loved. If the adoptive parent wants to keep in touch but you don’t necessarily agree, please do so on a light base so not to confuse the child.

OUT-OF-STATE MOVES

Out of state moves are more difficult due to the cost of travel. However, they should be carefully planned in the best interest of the child and not in the best of ease of the caretakers and caseworkers. Plan on getting videos of the new family ahead of the move to show the child and get the child familiarized with a new face or family of faces. Pictures and phone calls are important and easy in this day of technology and should be utilized frequently with all ages. At least 4 to 8 visits either to or from the permanent family should be attempted, if not mandatory. Even out-of-country adoptions such as Russia and China require a month long stay from the adoptive family to get to know the child before they relinquish it into their care. All of these steps will aid in lessening the attachment problems that could arise after the placement.

FOSTER PARENTS

Go on with your new foster children and remember that a good foster parent gets attached because that is what the children need. Don’t be afraid of it, and don’t let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t get too close, even though it can be emotionally stressful, as in "to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all". The children in your care will benefit because of your love for the rest of his/her life.

Finally, congratulate yourself on a job well done and be proud of what you did to help an abused and neglected child have a better chance at a successful life.

CASEWORKERS

This child’s success will reflect the many long hours of hard work and dedication on your part. Without a competent case manager behind the scenes, many of the children will end up with unpleasant circumstances such as disruptions and/or rejection. Working as a team with the foster parents means allowing them to do their job. Good caseworkers and supervisor of adoptions insist on a proper transition. It will not only help a child become more emotionally stable but also in making sure that in the future, disruption of the placement does not happen and attachment dysfunction does not occur. All good things take effort. You have the power to guide this child into a successful and confident adult.

ADOPTIVE PARENT

The journey that this child had taken before entering your life, including this transition, will come with him.

*Parent Life Magazine "5 Steps to Transition?"

Transition Guidelines

04 HB 1580/CA/AP

House Bill 1580 (AS PASSED HOUSE AND SENATE)
By: Representatives Cooper of the 30th, Sinkfield of the 50th, Oliver of the 56th, Post 2, Campbell of the 39th, Lunsford of the 85th, Post 2, and Rogers of the 15th

A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
AN ACT

To amend Chapter 5 of Title 49 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to programs and protection for children and youth, so as to enact the "Foster Parents Bill of Rights"; to provide for a short title; to set out a list of rights for foster parents; to provide that such rights be taken into consideration in policies of the Division of Family and Children Services of the Department of Human Resources; to provide for the establishment of grievance procedures for violation of the bill of rights; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF GEORGIA:

SECTION 1.

Chapter 5 of Title 49 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to programs and protection for children and youth, is amended by adding a new article to read as follows:

"ARTICLE 14"

49-5-280.
This article shall be known and may be cited as the 'Foster Parents Bill of Rights.'

49-5-281.
(a) The General Assembly finds that foster parents who are volunteers providing care for children who are in the custody of the Department of Human Resources play an integral, indispensable, and vital role in the state´s effort to care for dependent children displaced from their homes. The General Assembly further finds that it is in the best interest of Georgia´s child welfare system to acknowledge foster parents as active and participating members of this system and to support them through the following bill of rights:

(1) The right to be treated by the Division of Family and Children Services of the Department of Human Resources and other partners in the care of abused children with dignity, respect, and trust as a primary provider of foster care and a member of the professional team caring for foster children;

(2) The right not to be discriminated against on the basis of religion, race, color, creed, gender, marital status, national origin, age, or physical handicap;

(3) The right to continue with his or her own family values and beliefs, so long as the values and beliefs of the foster child and the birth family are not infringed upon and consideration is given to the special needs of children who have experienced trauma and separation from their families. This shall include the right to exercise parental authority within the limits of policies, procedures, and other directions of the Division of Family and Children Services and within the limits of the laws of the State of Georgia;

(4) The right to receive both standardized pre-service training, including training in Division of Family and Children Services policies and procedures and appropriate ongoing training, by the Division of Family and Children Services or the placing agency at appropriate intervals to meet mutually assessed needs of the child and to improve foster parents´ skills and to apprise foster parents of any changes in policies and procedures of the Division of Family and Children Services and any changes in applicable law;

(5) The right to be apprised of information, laws, and guidelines on the obligations, responsibilities, and opportunities of foster parenting and to be kept informed of any changes in laws, policies, and procedures regarding foster parenting by the Division of Family and Children Services in a timely manner and at least annually;

(6) The right to receive timely financial reimbursement according to the agreement between the foster parents and the Department of Human Resources from funds appropriated by the General Assembly and to be notified of any costs or expenses for which the foster parent may be eligible for reimbursement;

(7) The right to receive information from the Division of Family and Children Services on how to receive services and reach personnel 24 hours per day, seven days per week;

(8) The right prior to the placement of a child to be notified of any issues relative to the child that may jeopardize the health and safety of the foster family or the child or alter the manner in which foster care should be administered;

(9) The right to discuss information regarding the child prior to placement. The Division of Family and Children Services will provide such information as it becomes available as allowable under state and federal laws;

(10) The right to refuse placement of a child in the foster home or to request, upon reasonable notice, the removal of a child from the foster home without fear of reprisal or any adverse affect on being assigned any future foster or adoptive placements;

(11) The right to receive any information through the Division of Family and Children Services regarding the number of times a foster child has been moved and the reasons therefor; and to receive the names and phone numbers of the previous foster parents if the previous foster parents have authorized such release and as allowable under state and federal law;

(12) The right, at any time during which a child is placed with the foster parent, to receive from the Division of Family and Children Services any and all additional pertinent information relevant to the care of the child;

(13) The right to be provided with a written copy of the individual treatment and service plan concerning the child in the foster parent´s home and to discuss such plan with the case manager, as well as reasonable notification of any changes to that plan;

(14) The right to participate in the planning of visitation with the child and the child´s biological family with the foster parents recognizing that visitation with his or her biological family is important to the child;

(15) The right to participate in the case planning and decision-making process with the Division of Family and Children Services regarding the child as provided in Code Section 15-11-58;

(16) The right to provide input concerning the plan of services for the child and to have that input considered by the department;

(17) The right to communicate for the purpose of participating in the case of the foster child with other professionals who work with such child within the context of the professional team, including, but not limited to, therapists, physicians, and teachers, as allowable under state and federal law;

(18) The right to be notified in advance, in writing, by the Division of Family and Children Services or the court of any hearing or review where the case plan or permanency of the child is an issue, including periodic reviews held by the court or by the Judicial Citizen Review Panel, hearings following revocation of the license of an agency which has permanent custody of a child, permanency hearings, and motions to extend custody, in accordance with Code Section 15-11-58;

(19) The right to be considered, where appropriate, as a preferential placement option when a child who was formerly placed with the foster parents has reentered the foster care system;

(20) The right to be considered, where appropriate, as the first choice as a permanent parent or parents for a child who, after 12 months of placement in the foster home, is released for adoption or permanent foster care;

(21) The right to be provided a fair and timely investigation of complaints concerning the operation of a foster home;

(22) The right to an explanation of a corrective action plan or policy violation relating to foster parents; and

(23) The right, to the extent allowed under state and federal law, to have an advocate present at all portions of investigations of abuse and neglect at which an accused foster parent is present. Child abuse and neglect investigations shall be investigated pursuant to Division of Family and Children Services policies and procedures, and any removal of a foster child shall be conducted pursuant to those policies and procedures. The Division of Family and Children Services will permit volunteers with the Adoptive and Foster Parent Association of Georgia to be educated concerning the procedures relevant to investigations of alleged abuse and neglect and the rights of accused foster parents. After such training, a volunteer will be permitted to serve as an advocate for an accused foster parent. All communication received by the advocate in this capacity shall be strictly confidential.

(b) This bill of rights shall be given full consideration when Division of Family and Children Services policies regarding foster care and adoptive placement are developed.

(c) Foster parents shall have the right to file a grievance in response to any violation of this article, which shall be such foster parents´ exclusive remedy for any violation of this article. The Division of Family and Children Services and the Office of the Child Advocate for the Protection of Children, along with an advisory committee comprised in part of representatives from the Adoptive and Foster Parent Association of Georgia, will develop a grievance procedure, including a mediation procedure, to be published in departmental policy manuals and the Foster Parent Handbook within one year of the effective date of the article."

SECTION 2.

All laws and parts of laws in conflict with this Act are repealed.

Download a copy of The GA Foster Parent Bill of Rights (PDF)

The following link will give you The Georgia Department of Family and Children's Services Foster Care Manual.

GA DHR-DFCS Foster Parent Manual

On any given day the state of Georgia has legal custody of 7,500 to 8,500 child victims of abuse and neglect. For these children, the state has stepped into the role of parent and has the statutory obligation to provide them with food, clothing, shelter, education, and medical care. Details about how the state must fulfill its responsibility to these children are enumerated in a complex combination of state and federal statutes, court decisions, state regulations, agency policies, and local practice.

The manual briefly traces the development of child welfare policy in the United States and uses that as a context to examine Georgia laws and Department of Human Resources rules, regulations, and policies related to foster care. It concludes with potential remedies available when the state fails to live up to its responsibilities toward children in state custody. it integrates information from all these sources into one reference document that provides a clear approach to examining foster care requirements and an opportunity to examine gaps in practice.

The manual is written for everyone who makes decisions about children in foster care, from elected officials determining funding allocations to foster parents establishing bedtimes. Every such decision, no matter how broad or narrow it may appear, impacts the life of a child in Georgia. Decisions affecting children in foster care must be made in compliance with and in furtherance of federal and state rules, regulations, and policies. Therefore, decision-makers must know the parameters within which they must operate. The manual is also written for the children in foster care so that they better understand the state's responsibilities toward them once the state has stepped in to protect them.

Before a child is placed in foster care, a judge must first determine that the child is deprived. This decision includes findings that reasonable efforts were made by the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) to prevent the child from coming into care and that leaving the child in the home would be contrary to the child's welfare. In all stages of the court process related to the abuse, the child is to be represented by a trained guardian ad litem. As a party to the case, the child has enumerated rights including the right to representation and to appeal decisions.

The health and safety of children must be the paramount concern when the state intervenes in the lives of abused children. The federal Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) requires this, and the ASFA regulations require courts to ensure that the mental and physical health needs of deprived children are met. The manual explains how Georgia must protect children in foster care from harm, provide them with food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education, and appropriate opportunities to play and engage in recreational activities.

Once in foster care the state has responsibilities to the child and to the child's caregivers. Foster homes and other types of temporary placements for children must undergo a rigorous screening, training, and approval process and are subject to limits regarding the number and needs of children who can be housed together and the types of discipline caregivers can use. DFCS must see that comprehensive assessments of the child's needs are conducted within thirty days of when the child enters care and the needs should then guide placement decisions. Children are to be placed in the least restrictive, most family-like setting possible and children of the same family are to be kept together whenever possible. Information that might impact the way that care is provided must be shared with caregivers, such as the child's history in her home and in state custody, and any risk factors that would impact the health and safety of the child or others in the household.

When children come into foster care, they are to participate in the development of an individualized case plan. This is the blueprint for what everyone involved must do to remedy the problems resulting in the child being placed in foster care. The case plan and activities related to it are to be reviewed at least every six months and should result in the child reaching a permanent placement in a timely manner. The permanent placement may be with the child's family or it may be elsewhere, but a permanency hearing must be held within twelve months of a child entering foster care. While there may be exceptions, in most cases a child should not spend more than fifteen out of twenty-two months in foster care without DFCS filing a petition to terminate the child's parents' rights and developing a plan for the identification of a permanent placement for the child. If DFCS petitions to terminate parental rights, the children are to be represented by counsel in proceedings related to the termination.

Children who are in foster care are to have monthly contact with a case manager and regular meaningful visits with their parents, siblings, and other important adult figures in their lives. Visitation with parents and siblings is so important to the well-being of children in state custody that the first visit with their parents is to occur within the first week of placement if at all possible. Other contact such as phone calls and letters should be encouraged, particularly if the goal is to reunite the family.

The individual needs of each child in foster care are to be met by the state. For example, to the extent possible, children should attend their regular place of worship. In addition, if children have particular dental, medical, vision, or mental health needs, those should be addressed as soon as possible. Children in foster care are almost always entitled to Medicaid benefits, which under federal law cover all medically necessary services for children. Furthermore, children who are in special education should continue receiving services required through their individualized education plans, and DFCS is to cooperate with the juvenile court and state and local school systems to ensure that children receive educational services that are appropriate for their needs.

Very young children and teenagers in foster care have particular needs. All children under the age of three who have a substantiated case of child abuse or neglect are to be referred to early intervention services funded under Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. In Georgia, this means that all children with substantiated deprivation cases, even if they are not in DFCS custody, must be referred to the Babies Can't Wait program in the state Division of Public Health. A broad range of services are provided to eligible children through Babies Can't Wait, and services can be provided for the child's caregivers, not just the child herself.

Beginning at age fourteen, all children in foster care are to be referred to the independent living program (ILP). Through the ILP they develop a written transitional living plan (WTLP) that specifies what services will be provided to prepare them for a self-sufficient adulthood. Children age fourteen and older are also specifically required to receive formal notice of proceedings involving them. Starting at age sixteen, youth in foster care are to be informed about the possibility of remaining in foster care voluntarily until age twenty-one, to accomplish the goals of the child's WTLP. Youth remaining in care until age twenty-one and those who do not remain in care but need to continue receiving supportive services, can receive financial assistance for secondary education and for transition from foster care to self-sufficiency. However, their medical coverage does not extend beyond age nineteen.

In addition to explaining the details of Georgia's responsibilities toward children in foster care, the manual delineates the federal child welfare laws that guide Georgia policy and practice, discusses the funding streams through which federal money flows to Georgia for the care of abused children and their families, and discusses ways that compliance with laws and policies is monitored. In order to receive federal funding through Title IV-B and IV-E of the Social Security Act, along with other sources of federal funding, Georgia must have a comprehensive state plan detailing how the child welfare system will work.

The federal Administration of Children and Families (ACF) periodically reviews the operations of each state's child welfare system. The most recent comprehensive Federal Child and Family Services Review occurred in 2001. Georgia was not in compliance with any of the seven federal outcomes related to safety, permanency, and child and family well-being, but Georgia was in compliance with four of the seven systemic factors related to the successful operation of systems for monitoring cases, training staff, providing appropriate and high quality services, and recruiting and licensing foster and adoptive parents. Since October 2002, Georgia has been implementing an ACF-approved Program Improvement Plan designed to bring Georgia into substantial compliance with the federal outcomes and systemic factors.

The manual concludes with an overview of remedies that are available to children in foster care when the state does not protect them from harm or provide appropriate care and services to meet their individual needs. Available remedies include working with individuals and agencies designated to help these children such as their child advocate attorneys and the Georgia Office of the Child Advocate, and bringing legal actions such as Section 1983 civil rights claims, tort actions, and contract claims.

Children who spend time in foster care face greater challenges than other children and need special attention to overcome those challenges. The growing body of research on the outcomes of children who spend time in foster care illustrates the need for sound policy and practice for child protection. Children who age out of foster care have great difficulty becoming healthy, self-supporting adults. During their early adulthood they are likely to be homeless, unemployed, uneducated, struggling with mental and physical health problems, and in trouble with the law. Georgia can improve outcomes for abused children by fulfilling the responsibilities it has to them when the state takes the dramatic step of intervening into families to protect children.

Foster Smiles is a voluntary pro-bono service program from our community medical professionals. These caring professionals have agreed to give their time and talents to help our foster children when they come in as new intakes into your foster care placement home. If you have a new foster child in your home and have not yet located a Medicaid provider, you may contact one from this list for an initial check up or cleaning to get the child into school. Once you have an appointment, please have your caseworker email smiles@fostercares.org for a referral form that will be sent through the Foster Care Support office to your allocated place of appointment. Each professional has a limited number of donations and is not obligated to donate, in addition to, if he/she has already met their designated quota for the month. If you call and they are no longer taking appointment for Foster Smiles, please be courteous and thank them for their generosity and try another provider that may have open slots.

This program's purpose if for the foster child and not for the adoptive or biological child and is provided with the same rules and regulations of verification as service from the Foster Care Support Foundation. These services are provided to you free of any charge. You are not obligated to continue with this office after your free initial visit but if they are a Medicaid provider, you can choose to continue with the provider for future needs for the child using Medicaid as the dental provider.

This donation is provided freely and generously in order to help get your foster child situated in his/her new environment quickly while giving you time to locate a Medicaid provider. Since these are most generous donations, we ask that you treat them with respect and professionalism. Appointments not kept/ cancelled with less than 4 days notice, with the exception of the child leaving foster care within 3 days of your appointment date, will result in elimination of your foster home from the ability to use this service. With this donation, the provider would be otherwise taking paying customers for their service, so we ask that you keep all appointments made and be on time and with all due respect. We reserve the right to deny treatment if these rules are not followed.

If you are a professional interested in being added to this list: pediatrics, eye, ear, throat or dental, please email smiles@fostercares.org for the registration form and information. We thank you for your part in making foster children smile.

Dentistry
Joshua Burton, D.M.D.
1513 Johnson Ferry Rd. Ste. 190
Marietta, GA 30062
770-973-4034
4 Check ups/Month 1 Cleaning/Month

Cristi Cheek, D.D.S.
2872 Johnson Ferry Rd., Ste.100
Marietta, GA 30062
770-993-3775
15 Check ups/Month 15 Cleanings/Month

Ruth Clemans, D.D.S.
3052 Shallowford Rd., Ste. 100
Marietta, GA 30062
770-587-5655
2 Check ups/Month 2 Cleanings/Month

Eric A. Johnson, D.D.S.
11550 Webb Bridge Way, Suite 1
Alpharetta, GA 30005
770-663-3436
4 Check ups/Month 4 Cleanings/Month

Mathias Kill, D.D.S.
1505 Johnson Ferry Rd., Ste. 100
Marietta, GA 30062
770-973-9765
2 Check ups/Month 2 Cleanings/Month

Drs. Kligman and Rautenstrauch
113 Towne Lake Pkwy Ste. 110
Woodstock, GA 30188
770-928-3055
5 Check ups/Month 5 Cleanings/Month

Cheria O’Neal D.M.D. M.H.S
1225 Johnson Ferry Road, Suite 760
Marietta, GA 30068
770-971-5375
1 Check up/Month 1 Cleaning/Month

Michael Seligson, D.D.S
2856 Johnson Ferry Rd., Ste 150
Marietta, GA 30062
770-993-4565
2 Check ups/Month 2 Cleanings/Month

Dr. Andy Suresh D.M.D., M.S.D.
2852 Johnson Ferry Road, Suite 150
Marietta, GA 30062
770-643-8302
Unlimited Check ups

Dr. Julie Tanner, D.M.D.
1121 Johnson Ferry Rd., Ste. 450
Marietta, GA 30068
770-973-8911
1 Check ups/Month 1 Cleanings/Month

Thomas L. Dodson, D.M.D.
1405 Old Alabama Rd
Roswell, GA 30076
770-992-5779
10 Check ups/Month 10 Cleanings/Month

Eye and Vision Centers
Lens Crafters Gift of Sight program

If your foster child needs an eye check up and/or glasses, have your doctor give you a referral and we will send an FCSF referral to your local Lens Crafters office for your foster child


America's Best Contacts and Eyeglasses

Free eye check ups and glasses. Check with FCSF for free check up and glasses coupons or for glasses only to use at the America's Best closest to you- Compliments of National Vision


One Eye

Check up and pair of glasses for your foster child Requires a coupon from FCSF Center - Call FCSF 770-641-9591 with questions about coupon pick up.


Pediatric Care

Beverly Paladinetti, PHR
Practice Manager
La Clinica Del Nino, PC
International Pediatrics/La Clinica Del Nino
3780 Holcomb Bridge Rd, Suite C
Norcross, GA 30092
770-263-9101


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