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The protection and nurturance of children is a paramount concern of The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (TDFPS). As such, the recruitment, development, and maintenance of foster and adoptive homes for children in TDFPS managing conservatorship is an ongoing process. This is a brief overview of the TDFPS substitute placement programs commonly referred to as foster care and adoptive care.
TDFPS conducts recruitment on a statewide basis through the support of public service announcements, civic and community group meetings, and distribution of printed materials. All recruitment efforts involve the use of TDFPS staff, foster and adoptive parents and other volunteers who have recruitment experience. Each region supports recruitment of potential foster and adoptive parents through local activities, too.
TDFPS has established processes to identify and track those families and individuals interested in providing foster care and adoption services. The public through inquiries for additional information exhibits interest in fostering and adopting. Most inquiries come from two sources. The first is through telephone contact to the statewide 800-inquiry number (1-800-233-3405) or to local TDFPS offices. The second form of inquiries is through public information meetings or orientation sessions. Additional information is provided to prospective families and individuals who inquire about the foster care and adoption programs.
The general requirements to be a foster or adoptive parent are:
- Must be at least 21 years of age,
- Can be married or single,
- Be willing to attend pre-service training and participate in a home study, and
- Be willing to foster or adopt children with backgrounds of abuse and neglect.
Prospective parents must formally apply in order to foster or adopt children in TDFPS custody. This application is normally made after attending an orientation (public information meeting) and during the pre-service training process. All prospective foster and adoptive parents attend approximately ten weeks of pre-service training known as PRIDE (Parents Resource for Information Development Education). This training is normally done in a group setting using experienced foster and/or adoptive parents as co-trainers with TDFPS staff. The PRIDE curriculum covers topics, such as, attachment, loss, behavior problems and management, sexual abuse, and birth family connections. The training serves two purposes: to educate potential parents about foster care and adoption, and to mutually assess the applicants appropriateness to care for children in TDFPS custody.
TDFPS staff begins the process of checking backgrounds on applicants and all adult members of the home after the signing of appropriate releases. Background checks include criminal history reports from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and child abuse checks through TDFPS computer database known as CAPS. Background checks can also include criminal history and child abuse reports from local law enforcement, the FBI, and local CPS offices in Texas and throughout the nation.
Successful completion of pre-service training begins the home study process. The home study is an in-depth assessment of the family, which includes interviewing all adults and children in the home. The home study is also used in assessing the home for safety and available space. All homes must meet standards enumerated in the Minimum Standards and Guidelines for Child-Placing Agencies.
The home study is designed to elicit information on a variety of issues including: motivation for wanting to foster or adopt; health status; marital and family relationships; applicants feelings about their own childhood and parents including any history of abuse and/or neglect; opinions about discipline; sensitivity about abused and neglected children; sensitivity towards birth families; sensitivity about different socioeconomic, ethnic, and cultural groups in relation to their ability to maintain the ethnic identity of a child from a different background; feelings about maintaining sibling relationships; expectations of children in foster care; familys ability to work with specific kinds of behavior and backgrounds; and documentation on the number, age and sex for whom the home is approved. Applicants are informed by TDFPS staff whether or not their home was approved and the reasons for the decision.
Those families, which have successfully completed the TDFPS screening process and are able to meet the needs of the children in TDFPS custody, will be approved. Families wishing to provide adoption services will be approved to provide adoption services only. Families can also be approved to provide foster care only and/or foster care and adoption services. Foster care certifications are:
- Basic Foster Family- A private home that provides foster care to children in TDFPS conservatorship and is verified to care for no more than six children, including the children of the foster family and children for whom the family provides regular part-time day care. These homes can provide care for children up to and including a level of care II.
- Habilitative- A private home verified to provide specialized services to children who have mental retardation, developmental disabilities, or severe developmental delay. These homes can provide care for children up to and including a level of care IV.
- Therapeutic- A private home verified to provide specialized services to children with serious emotional disturbance and/or behavioral problems in a family setting. These homes can provide care for children up to and including a level of care IV.
- Primary Medical Needs - A private home verified to provide specialized services to children who are medically fragile. These homes can provide care for children up to and including a level of care IV.
- Group Foster Family - A private home that provides foster care to children in TDFPS conservatorship and is verified to care for no more than twelve children, including the children of the foster family and children for whom the family provides regular part-time day care. These homes can provide care for children up to and including a level of care IV.
The monthly reimbursement provided to foster families is a combination of federal, state, or county funds. It is for child care-related costs such as food, clothing, recreation, transportation, and housing cost. In extraordinary circumstances, special rates may be reimbursed to foster families who care for children with exceptional needs, as in the case of medical needs that require providing a child with specialized care, food, clothing, or equipment.
The Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) developed rates for the 24-hour residential child-care reimbursements (foster care) program operated by DFPS. HHSC authorized DFPS to implement these recommended payment rates effective September 1, 2009.
Minimum Standards and Guidelines for Child-Placing Agencies and CPS policy require verified basic foster family units to complete 20 hours of additional in-service training on a yearly basis. Non-group foster family units providing therapeutic care must complete at least 50 hours of annual in-service training. TDFPS also requires at least the primary caretaker in the foster family to be certified in infant/child CPR and first aid training prior to home certification and must be updated as required to maintain certification. Training requirements are similar for group foster homes with the following exception: Training requirements extend to all foster parents in-group homes.
Minimum Standards and Guidelines for Child-Placing Agencies or TDFPS policy do not require in-service training for approved adoptive parents. Approved adoptive parents can access additional training through post adoption services, the Council on Adoptable Children (COAC), and TDFPS.
Approved foster and adoptive families are assigned workers who help support the family. The foster home development workers support responsibilities include:
- Presentation of children for possible placement;
- Helping the family maintain minimum standard and policy requirements;
- Provide support and training based on the families strengths and needs;
- Maintain regular telephone contact and visiting families in their homes at least quarterly;
- Provide support to foster parents in the event of an investigation;
- Ensure foster families are members of the foster care team;
- Help foster parents obtain needed services;
- Be involved in supportive services such as leading support groups, working on statewide committees, attending foster parent association meetings, and implementing foster parent training; and
- provide support and training to foster families in the area of developing and maintaining a mentoring relationship with birth parents.
- Presenting all de-identified information regarding the child to the adoptive family if they are selected for a child and assisting the family in determining if the child should be placed with their family for purpose of adoption;
- Developing an adoption case plan with the family and child, if older than three years of age, to address the needs of the child and family in the placement;
- Meeting with the child and adoptive family on a monthly basis, at a minimum, for the first six months of placement to assess the attachment to each other, address issues which may arise, assist the family in obtaining and utilizing services, and assist the family in finalizing the adoption;
- Informing the adoptive family of their expectations, roles, and responsibilities;
- Informing adoptive families of training available through TDFPS or through other means;
- Providing a copy of the child's de-identified case record to the adoptive family at the time of consummation or within 30 days after the hearing;
- Informing the adoptive family of adoption assistance and post adoption services and assisting the adoptive parents in completing the application process prior to consummation of the adoption;
- Assisting the adoptive family in finalizing the adoption within 6 to 12 months after placement if there are no significant issues which would be contrary to this process;
- Providing information and clarification to the adoptive family of all documents and forms that are signed by the family.
TDFPS encourages and supports the formation of foster parent associations and local chapters of COAC. These independent organizations help provide additional support to foster and adoptive families by increasing the communitys awareness and responsibility toward children in care; improving services to children and foster/adoptive families; enhancing the public image of foster and adoptive parents; and providing encouragement, resources, and support for each other. TDFPS can provide financial support through contracts to these groups if they are incorporated as private, nonprofit organizations.