Article from Foster Focus
Foster parents are more than twice as likely to be the subject of a child maltreatment investigation. Though most allegations of abuse and neglect by foster parents are found to be untrue, or unsubstantiated, these allegations are made, nonetheless. Foster parents have a higher chance of false accusations made against them than birth parents. These false accusations may stem from a variety of ways. Let’s look examine these from my book The Foster Parenting Manual (Jessica Kinglsey Publishers, 2013).
First of all, those foster children who have come from environments of abuse and neglect may not recognize that the home and environment you are providing is a safe and stable one. The abuse and neglect they felt, themselves, may be all that they know, and simply make an allegation against you unknowingly, or unwillingly, due to past experiences. Other foster children, coming from the same type of environment, may make an allegation against a foster parent in the hope of leaving your home and being able to return to their own biological family. Other children may make an allegation as an attempt at distancing
themselves emotionally from you, and setting up an emotional barrier or wall between themselves and foster families. Finally, some foster children may make an accusation of abuse or neglect in an attempt at gaining revenge on either the foster family or the biological family.
As a foster parent, you may also be at risk from birth parents or biological family members. False accusations of abuse, neglect, or other forms of maltreatment may be reported against you out of the resentment by the family, as the child is living with you instead of a biological parent or family member. Along with this, false allegations might also be made against you out of jealousy, or simply in an attempt to justify the birth parent’s own present, or even past, behavior.
The foster care system is commonly one that is misunderstood by society. Many in the public are not aware of the roles and responsibilities of foster parents, nor truly appreciate and understand why a child might be placed into foster care. Along with this, many people do not recognize the challenges that both foster children and foster parents face, with behavioral, emotional, and learning issues. As a result, some in your area may mistakenly file a report to your child’s welfare agency, or to law enforcement, doing so with good intentions, but false information.
Information prior to Arrival
Prior to your foster child’s arrival, there are several things you can do to protect yourself and family from the risk of false accusations and allegations. Before the foster child is ever placed in your home, insist on getting all the information about the child that is available. This should include any history of emotional and behavior issues, learning disabilities, medical needs, as well as any physical or sexual abuse the child might have been subjected to. Ask about the visitation schedule; who he will be visiting with and how often will the visits occur. If the child has been placed in previous foster homes, try to obtain information regarding any possible false allegations or unsubstantiated reports made by child, birth parents, or other biological family members. Find out why the child was moved from the previous foster home and placed into yours. Ask to speak to the previous foster parents in an attempt to find out more about the child, along with his needs and concerns. Whenever possible, attempt to get all of this information in writing, whether from the caseworker, court system, or schools.
Throughout the placement of your foster child in your house, it will be necessary to keep written records, a journal, or some sort of documentation. This written account will help you keep an accurate account of the time your foster child lives in your home. It is important that your writing is done in a manner which is observational, descriptive, and that it is a non biased account of your foster child. Furthermore, you will want to make certain that your written account does not include your opinions. If you wish to include your opinions and feelings about him, you might wish to start a personal journal for yourself about his time with you.
Begin a journal about your foster child, beginning with his arrival. Explain the state of dress, behavior, and emotional well being when he arrived. Describe his progress and daily events in your home. If he becomes sick, include this in your written records; the time he was sick, as well as how it was treated, including doctor visits and any medicine that you gave him. Document any changes in behavior he might exhibit, when he began behaving in this way, as well as the length of time he spent in this behavior. Detail how you addressed this change in behavior, and how he reacted to any rules and consequences you put into place as a result of misbehavior. Keep a notebook specifically for his school work, including grades and report cards, any behavioral problems or discipline, and any conversations held with teachers, school counselors, administrators, and other school employees.
Visitations are an important factor in both the life of your foster child as well as his biological family members. Keep an account of every time he has a visitation, including the date, times, and locations of each visit. If he has significant emotional or behavioral changes after these visits, do your best to describe these in full. Any contact you have with the birth parents and biological family members should also be documented. You should also document each conversation you have with his caseworker. If he should display any serious conflicts or unusual behavior towards his biological family or caseworker, or even towards himself, document this in detail, as well as report it to the caseworker immediately. If you suspect any kind of abuse while visiting his family, take before and after pictures of him as another form of evidence.
As your foster child is under the custody of the state, you are liable for his safety and well being. It is important that your entire family knows this, including your own children. There will be times when he will not be able to join your own children in some activities, as some states have rules against trampolines, certain water activities, and other endeavors. Sit down with your family and discuss such safety issues such as medicines locked away in cabinets, seat belt fastening while in moving vehicles, electrical outlets, and other concerns. It will be important to not only your foster child, but for your entire family as well to routinely inspect your home for any problems that could bring harm or danger to those living in your home. Check fire alarms, electrical outlets, locks, windows, and other features on a consistent basis. Keep a fire extinguisher in your home for emergencies, and make sure your foster child knows what to do in case a fire should begin in your home.
Supervision of your foster child is a must at all times. You will be held responsible for his whereabouts and safety, and may be held accountable if he should come to harm. As indicated in Chapter 6, it is not only important that you know where your foster child is at all times, it is essential. If your foster child should wish to visit a friend’s house or another home, do a thorough check of who lives there, the environment he will be in, and the level of safety and supervision he will be under. Be sure to call the parents of the home he wishes to visit; not only to ensure that the environment is a safe one, but to express any concerns about your foster child you might have with them. If you feel that the friend’s home environment is not a safe one, do not be afraid to say no to the foster child. After all, you will also need to be certain that all after school functions he participates in are closely supervised, as well, before giving him permission before he takes part.
The supervision of your foster child is also necessary in your own home, as well. Like many children, it might be unwise to allow him to play unattended at any one time. If he is in his room playing or even napping, make sure that his door is open, if just a little bit. From time to time, check in on him, and make certain that he is okay and not doing anything that you would disapprove of. If he is in the back yard, make sure that he will come to no harm out there by stray animals, sharp objects, unwelcome visitors, or by simply wandering off by himself. Again, you will wish to periodically check in on him from time to time, while he is outside. If he is rather young, you will want an adult out there with him, at all times. Whether he is inside your home or outside, make certain that there are not too many places where he might hide himself. Some children might escape into a world of imagination and fun by hiding, while others might hide in an attempt to escape the harsh realities they have faced, or do so out of anger and resentment towards an adult. Make sure you know the locations of all the places your foster child might hide, and try to eliminate as many of these as possible.
Sexually active children
You may foster a child that has been sexually active in the past, due either to his own choices, or one that has been sexually abused by others. Perhaps the child is currently sexually active, or is one who has been exposed to sexual behavior prior to his placement within your own home. Whatever the scenario, you must take extra diligence in protecting yourself from false allegations and possible accusations from the child. Whenever you are in the same room with a foster child who has sexually related problems, it is imperative that you have another adult in the room with you, at all times, or at the very least, nearby and within listening distance. This will not only protect you as a foster parent, but it will protect your child from making any false accusations.
Disturbingly, those children who have been previously abused sexually are more likely to become a victim of sexual abuse again. If your foster child should make a new allegation that he was sexually abused, take these seriously, and report them to your caseworker immediately, and without hesitation. Even if he has a history of making false accusations, it is your duty and responsibility as a foster parent to protect him from harm. By reporting all accusations from him, you are also protecting yourself, as well.
As a parent, you have your own approach for disciplining your own biological children. These methods may have to be different, though, for your foster child. When disciplining your foster child, you may have to come up with different methods of discipline, in order to protect yourself. Quite simply, you are never allowed to use any form of corporal punishment on a foster child. You are not permitted to spank your child at any time. Do not threaten it as a form of discipline, either. Even the suggestion of it could place you at risk. Instead, find other alternatives for punishing your foster child. Discuss these with him, and explain to him what is and is not permissible, and all consequences he will face if your rules are broken. If possible, also discuss these with your caseworker, and even the birth parents, if they are receptive to you. If you find that your foster child is so out of control that he must be restrained in order to not only protect those around him, but to protect himself, as well, do so only if you have had proper training in restraint techniques, as you do not want to accidently harm him, or give him cause to falsely accuse you of doing so.
Abuse, Threats, and Injuries
Abuse can take different forms; physical, emotional, sexual, and verbal. If you suspect that your foster child has been abused in any way, contact your caseworker immediately, and file a report. An investigator will be assigned to investigate claim before taking any further action. If your home should fall under investigation, answer the questions as openly and honestly as you can, sharing as much information as you know with the investigators. If you should withhold any information, it will only make it more difficult for all involved.
Any time a child talks about suicide, it should be taken with the upmost seriousness by you, and reported to the caseworker immediately. Sometimes, foster children may threaten suicide as an attention seeking device, hoping to bring attention to themselves. Even if you should suspect that this is the case, you still must report it to the caseworker as soon as you are able to do so. As the child’s emotional state may be unstable, an attention seeking threat can quickly result in serious injury or death to the child. All letters and notes that indicate a suicide threat should be collected and given to the caseworker. Close and constant adult supervision needs to be provided to your foster child if he should threaten bodily harm or suicide.
If your foster child should sustain a serious injury or suffer from a severe illness in your house, at school, or anywhere else outside your home, report this to the caseworker, as well. As the child is not legally yours, but is instead in the custody of the state, your caseworker will be required to report any and all injuries and serious illnesses in their reports. You will need to report any injury or serious illness immediately to your caseworker.
By noting incidents such as injuries, illness, and abuse in written documentation, it will benefit not only your memory when recounting information to caseworkers and possible investigators, it will help to protect you and your family, as well. Regular reports to your caseworker will also help to protect your family. The foster parent that does not take the threat of possible harm to a family is only setting himself up for serious legal implications and possible endangerment to the entire family. (The Foster Parenting Manual, Jessica Kinglsey Publishers, 2013).
Terry Alves-Hunter, Foster Parent Advocate
Not in my womb, always in my heart
Learning & Emotional Assessment Program (LEAP) The Learning and Emotional Assessment Program (LEAP) at Massachusetts General Hospital assesses students and children ages 2 to 22 who have developmental difficulties and consults with their parents, teachers and care providers.
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Our clinical assessments are designed to be a comfortable and often fascinating experience, and we find that many children enjoy the warm, one-on-one attention they receive. In addition, our professionals excel at discussing the benefits of assessments with even the most skeptical of adolescents. Our Staff
Our experienced professional staff includes Child psychologists, Licensed clinical psychologists, Neuropsychologists, Certified school psychologists, clinical psychology interns and postgraduate fellows.
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LEAP treats a variety of conditions and disorders. With the trained resources of Mass General Hospital's Dept. of Psychiatry, we are able to evaluate and treat a variety of conditions and disorders.
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Boston Medical Center
Dr. Augustyn is the Director of the Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at Boston Medical Center (BMC) and is a Professor at Boston University School of Medicine. She went to medical school at Loyola Stritch School of Medicine, completed her pediatric residency at UCLA and her Developmental and Behavioral Pediatric Fellowship at Boston University-Boston City Hospital. Her clinical work at BMC primarily involves the evaluation of children with various developmental delays including autism,speech and language delays, global developmental delay, learning disabilities, ADHD to mention a few.
Her research work has varied across her career and includes work on the effects of both in utero cocaine exposure and violence on early childhood and parenting and recently she has been a leader in developing the Center for Family Navigation at BU, a national leader in promoting and developing the use of navigators to support families of children with developmental disabilities.
Dr. Augustyn is co-editor of The Zuckerman Parker Handbook of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics for Primary Care and the section co-editor for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics for the online journal UpToDate. She currently sits on the sub board of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at the American Board of Pediatrics and is on the Board of Directors of the Society of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. She is also on the American Academy of Pediatrics planning committee for Practical Pediatrics, their national CME Program.
Deborah Frank, MD
Dr. Frank is the Director of the Grow Clinic for Children and a board-certified Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrician at Boston Medical Center (BMC). She is also a Professor of Pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine. Dr. Frank attended Harvard Medical School and completed her residency at Children's Hospital Seattle. After her residency, she went on to complete a fellowship in Child Development at Children's Hospital Boston. Dr. Frank specializes in issues of growth and nutrition and the impact of hunger on child development.
Dr. Frank has written numerous scientific articles and papers. Her work has focused on breastfeeding promotion, women and children affected by substance use, nutrition among homeless pregnant women and children, Failure to Thrive, food insecurity, and the “heat or eat” phenomenon, the dilemma that many low-income families face in the winter when they have to make the critical choice between heating their homes and feeding their children. She is especially proud of successfully mentoring many pre-professional and professional colleagues.
Cited as a respected authority in her fields, Dr. Frank has frequently given testimony to state and federal legislative committees on the growing problem of hunger and associated hardships in the United States and its effects on our youngest children. She has recently been nominated by Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi to the newly established National Commission on Hunger. She is also an invited member of the Aspen’s Dialogue on Food Insecurity and Health Care Costs.
L. Kari Hironaka MD, MPH
Dr. Hironaka is a board-certified Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrician at Boston Medical Center. She completed her fellowship at Boston Medical Center. Dr. Hironaka specializes in health services research, health literacy and ADHD, as well as residency training.
John Maypole, MD
Dr. Maypole completed Pediatric Residency in 1999, and Pediatric Chief Residency in 2000 following his training at Yale University School of Medicine. Dr. Maypole has consistently included primary care, medical education, and in participating in and developing innovative clinical programs for complex children and their families. Dr. Maypole served as Associate Director of the Pediatric Integrative Medicine Education Project and performing Holistic Medicine consults and medical education at Children’s Hospital from 2003-2005. In 2005, Dr. Maypole became Director of the Department of Pediatrics at the South End Community Health Center while serving as an attending physician for the Comprehensive Care Program (CCP) in the Department of Pediatrics at Boston Medical Center. CCP is a multi-disciplinary team of providers who provide enhanced and coordinated primary care to the most medically complex patients and higher risk families in the Pediatric Department, including ex-premature infants, children with special health needs and neurodevelopmental disabilities. In February of 2013, Dr. Maypole came to Boston University/Boston Medical Center to work full time to develop approaches and programs to address this fast-growing segment of the pediatric population. In September of 2014, Dr. Maypole received an award from the Center for Medicare Medicaid Innovation, supporting a 3 year effort for the Massachusetts Alliance for Complex Care/4C program--a consultative, multidisciplinary care support model of care for PCPs and families of medically complex children, of which he is co-principal investigator. He is an associate professor of Pediatrics at BUSM. Dr. Maypole writes child health-related articles for a lay audience, for mainstream media and online publications.
Jenny Radesky, MD
Dr. Radesky is a board-eligible Developmental Behavioral Pediatrician and a board-certified general pediatrician who recently joined the faculty at Boston Medical Center after completing her fellowship training here. She attended Harvard Medical School and completed her pediatrics training at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Dr. Radesky is a clinician-investigator whose clinical interests include early childhood adversity, attachment relationships, and child self-regulation, as well as teaching trainees methods of observing parent-child interaction. Her research examines mobile/interactive media use by parents and young children and how this effects parent-child interaction and child social-emotional development. She is an active member of the AAP Council on Communications and Media.
Arathi Reddy, DO
Dr. Reddy is a board-certified Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrician at Boston Medical Center. She attended medical school at Western University of Allied Health Sciences in Pomona, CA and completed her residency at Morristown Memorial Hospital/ University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Morristown, NJ. She completed her fellowship at Einstein Montefiore and worked in NYC prior to joining the faculty in March 2011.
Jodi Santosuosso, NP, MSN
Jodi is a certified nurse practitioner in the Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics Division at Boston Medical Center. She attended University of Massachusetts College of Nursing and Health Sciences and completed her residency at University of Massachusetts, Boston. She joined the Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine faculty in April 2007. Jodi has had extensive training in developmental and behavioral pediatrics, gastrointestinal (GI) diseases and ear, nose and throat (ENT) disorders.
Laura Sices, MD, MSDr. Sices is a board-certified Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrician at Boston Medical Center (BMC). She attended medical school at University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA, completed her residency at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and completed her fellowship at University of Washington in Seattle, WA. Dr. Sices was on the faculty at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, OH before joining BMC in 2007. Dr. Sices’ clinical work focuses on assessment and management of children with a variety of different concerns, including developmental delays, speech and language delays and conditions, ADHD, learning disabilities and differences, and autism spectrum conditions. Her academic focus is on developmental screening and the early identification of developmental delays.
Naomi Steiner, MD
Dr. Steiner is the Director of Training at the Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. Dr. Steiner studies how computers train the brain, which is an area of great interest in overlapping fields of ADHD, psychology, neuroscience and education, and closely followed by many as a complimentary or alternative approach to the traditional psychopharmacological treatment of ADHD. She is specifically interested in implementing neurofeedback attention training in schools. She is also interested in teaching self-regulation skills and relaxation breathing in schools. Dr. Steiner is multicultural and multilingual. In 2030 more than 50% of children will be raised bilingual in the United States! Dr. Steiner has written a book on how to successfully raise children bilingual (7 Steps to Raising a Bilingual Child), and instructs medical professional, teachers and parents on how children learn two languages, and how English Language Learners can be successful at school.
Mary Ellen Stolecki, NP, MSN
Mary Ellen is a board certified pediatric nurse practitioner in the Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics Division at Boston Medical Center and an Instructor of Pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine.
She specializes in primary care of the Child with Special Health Care Needs (CSHCN) in the Comprehensive Care Program. She also practices in the Pediatric Gastroenterology Division providing specialty care for gastrointestinal (GI) conditions.
Her clinical interests are primary care for medically complex children (as well as GI issues) of CSHCN including: care of the premature infant, autism, cerebral palsy, seizures, Down syndrome, Williams syndrome, Turner syndrome,achrondroplasia,and multiple congenital anomalies.
Jodi Wenger, MD
Jodi Wenger, MD is a graduate of Dartmouth Medical School who completed her pediatric residency at Boston Medical Center. She spent several years on the Navajo Reservation in northeastern Arizona before transitioning back to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH. She served as a pediatric hospitalist, outpatient provider and educator at Dartmouth Medical School.
She has always had an interest in children with special health care needs. She worked in the Comprehensive Care Program at BMC as a resident and is thrilled to return. She was the general pediatrician at the multidisciplinary spina bifida clinic at Dartmouth Hitchcock and cared for children with neurologic challenges while on the Navajo Reservation.
Dr. Wenger has also had an interest in resident work hour reform and continues to support the software she and her husband created during her chief resident year. Amion, continues to allow one to make fair physician call schedules that can be easily accessed online.
Barry Zuckerman, MD
Dr. Zuckerman is Professor and Chair Emeritus of Pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine/Boston Medical Center. He is a national and international leader in child health and development. His research focuses on the interplay among biological, social and psychological factors as they contribute to children's health and development. Dr. Zuckerman and colleagues have developed four programs that transformed health care to better meet the needs of low income and minority children. The success of these efforts is that they are now all national programs; Reach Out and Read, Medical-Legal Partnership, Health Leads and Healthy Steps. In addition to more than 250 scientific publications, he has edited nine books, including three editions of Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrics: Handbook for Primary Care. He has served on prestigious national committees; National Commission on Children, Carnegie Commission on Young Children, Bright Futures, and has received numerous national and international awards including the C. Anderson Aldrich for Child Development and the Joseph St Geme Award for Leadership from AAP, and the Policy and Advocacy award and Health Care Delivery Award from the APA. He has consulted in Turkey, Bangladesh, and Thailand regarding child development.
- See more at: http://www.bmc.org/pediatrics-developmentalbehavioral/team.htm#sthash.UrLgPWRv.dpuf
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