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2000 Jordan Institute
for Families

Vol. 2, No. 3
June 1997

Foster Parents Who Succeed with Children with Medical Needs

Foster parents are at the center of things when it comes to taking care of children in foster care. Caring for a child with special medical needs is a complex, demanding task. In most cases, the child is not likely to be cured. Progress, when it comes, is slow, hard to achieve, and hard to recognize.

In addition to their roles as caregivers, these foster parents must be case managers and advocates for their children. It also falls to these parents to counsel their foster children, to help them cope with the fall-out of their physical conditions--body image problems and low self-esteem--which can be manifested in family, peer, and school problems.

Recently, we talked with several North Carolina foster parents who care for children with significant medical needs. We asked them what they found to be essential to success with their children, and what they would like to change. Their replies have implications for best practice not only with those who foster children with medical needs, but for practice with all foster parents.

The individuals we talked to felt that to truly succeed with children with medical needs, foster parents need to have a higher level of participation than they do as members of a review team. "As team members, our input needs to be considered with the same weight as social workers' input," one said. They felt this was especially important when it came to getting medical information. "After we talk to a doctor we need to be able to talk directly to the team so that we avoid multiple translations of critical details," one parent said.

The biggest mistake one parent felt she made was not advocating more strongly with her county DSS for regular respite care. Without it, she feels she can't do her work as a foster parent properly. "When I'm tired, nothing helps," she says.

1997 Jordan Institute for Families