I get asked a lot of questions about being an international foster parent, and so I thought it would be good to explain the process here, from start to finish. This is just a basic outline of what a typical placement would look like, but it gives a general idea of how this system works.
- A child, usually a teen, but sometimes older or younger (although never older than 18 because they don’t qualify for the program after their 18th birthday) is referred to for placement by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the ORR, or another federal agency. Sometimes, these children have been identified as refugees, meaning their homes are not safe to return to for various reasons. Or, the children have families in the states that cannot care for the child for a variety of reasons, or they need a place to live while their immigration cases or family situation here in the States is sorted out. There are other reasons for placement, but these are the most common.
- My agency receives information about the children needing placement, and they try to submit a family that they feel would be a suitable match for that child. As a foster parent, this means we have plenty of notice and time to prepare for the child’s arrival, usually 2-3 weeks. Obviously, if the youth is already here and needs to be moved from another home for whatever reason, this time frame would be shorter. And just life in traditional domestic foster care, there is a serious shortage of homes.
- The child arrives, a staff member from my agency and a translator pick the child up from the airport, and brings them to the foster home. At our agency, someone from the child’s home culture will be there at the time of placement to make a hot meal indigenous to the child’s home of origin. I love this part!
- A team goes to work making an educational, vocational, physical/mental health, and life skills plan for the child and their foster parents. Our agency is very involved in this process, and it is very much a team effort to get the youth on track for being able to live independently as soon as they are able.
- In a perfect world, the child and foster family work the plan, the child gets an education, citizenship, and is ready to live independently as a functional adult in our society. This can take years, and these kids very much become part of the fabric of the host family. Sometimes, placements fail and kids need to be moved. Sometimes, there are moves based on educational or vocational needs as well. Sometimes, teenagers are teenagers, and make poor choices and difficulties arise, some even run away. From what I’ve seen, most of these kids are polite, motivated young adults who want to make the best of their opportunities in a new country.
In a nutshell, that’s it. International Foster Care finds suitable homes for youth and helps get them set up to have a good life in their new country. It is a lot like domestic care in that the rules and procedures are similar. It differs in that there are no court dates (except perhaps immigration court), no lawyers, no CPS workers, and the birth families of the children in care are usually happy they are in the program and very willing to work alongside the foster families for success. In our area, the reimbursement rate is double traditional foster care, which allows foster parents to provide the kids with many more opportunities and all the extras teens seem to need.
After Flower moves in this afternoon, I will be updating my blog so that my readers can see us move through the process. She is coming from a foster home that isn’t a good fit, personality-wise or for the other situations that are in her life, like her birth mom living much closer to me than the previous home. The goal at this point is to be able to reunite Flower with her mother and siblings by Christmas, but the immediate goals are getting her in school, set up with tutors, and letting her just be a kid for a while. We are all looking forward to having her, and I’m looking forward to sharing the process and what it entails with all of you.