When Fostering Family Members Changes Your Life –
For Better or Worse

Fostering Family Members

We often talk about the hardships children face while in foster care, and they are important to address. But what about what the resource parents have to endure – specifically kinship caregivers? What do you do when fostering family members changes your life – for better or worse?

We love our families and, no doubt, want to see them succeed and be the best they can be. But let’s face it – life happens, and sometimes our family makes decisions that leave us to pick up the pieces. In terms of foster care, relatives are considered first when it comes to placing abused and neglected children in safe and loving homes. It’s believed that children flourish when they are raised by those closest to them.

Relatives have been providing kinship care way before the term even existed. Long before the child welfare system began to reach out to relatives to provide foster care, grandparents have been taking care of grandchildren, aunts and uncles have been taking caring of nieces and nephews and so on. It’s our natural reaction to protect our loved ones from pain.

Fostering Family Members: “What About Me?”

What happens, though, when you come to the rescue over and over again for your family? How much can — or should — you endure while your relative continues to make decisions that change the course of your life? Who wouldn’t feel frustration if a sister or daughter, for example, that struggles with addiction continues to have children she is unable to care for?

You may not see your relative for a lengthy period of time only to receive a call that she is giving birth to another child addicted to drugs. You already have some of her children in your home, and you now have to prepare for another. It’s not uncommon to feel like you’re being used. If unchecked, however, that feeling can develop into a bitterness that will negatively affect your life as well as those closest to you.

The good news is that admitting the frustration that comes along with caring for your family member’s children does not in any way diminish the love you have for your family. It simply acknowledges you want more – for them and you – and that’s OK. Frustration is normal as long as it doesn’t cause harm to your relationship with your relatives in care and change the way you provide for them.

“What about me?” is a question you are allowed to ask. It doesn’t make you selfish but self-aware. If you don’t take care of yourself, how will you be able to take care of others? You are just as important. Make sure to make time for yourself and seek out help when needed.

Kinship licensed resource parents across the U.S. can access services through the National Foster Parent Association; in New Jersey, services are available through embrella. For all kinship caregivers who are not licensed, you can contact your state’s Department of Human Services for assistance. If you are a kinship caregiver in New Jersey that is not licensed, there are services available to you via the Kinship Navigator program.

FAFS offers a course to kinship licensed resource parents in New Jersey called Issues in Kinship Care. In addition to helping you help your relative in care and providing advice on possibly dealing with angry biological parents, it has great tips like, “Give yourself permission to need something.” Remember, there is help out there for every situation. More than anything, it’s important you know that you are not alone.

Fostering Family Members: Your New Normal

The life you are experiencing now may not be what you anticipated. No matter how difficult the situation can be, there is great reward in providing a better life for your relatives. Your nights have changed from quiet and peaceful dinners to the sounds of children dropping spoons or teens texting – it’s your new normal. The choice you made to break the cycle of abuse and neglect within your family will be well worth it; the legacy of your love will impact your family for generations to come.

Author: Salendria Mabrey, FAFS Communication & Development Associate

Salendria Mabrey is a Communication and Development Associate at Foster and Adoptive Family Services.

7 thoughts on “When Fostering Family Members Changes Your Life –
For Better or Worse

  1. My nephew in LA has had his children taken from him an I have no idea on how to go about stepping in to help. I know it will cause friction in our family but don’t care. I simply cant sit here and do nothing. any suggestions on the first steps will be helpfull

    1. A family that is seeking to obtain custody of children that do not reside in their state can be challenging. NJ Division of Child Protection and Permanency and other state agencies will attempt to keep children with kin whenever possible. Usually kin is identified by the biological parents as kin placement of their children is discussed with them. Timelines for a child to enter your home whether kin or non-kin can vary greatly from case to case.

      Interstate Compact on the Placement Children (ICPC) is an agency based on the legal agreement between all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the US Virgin Islands and controls the placement of children from one state into another state. It ensures that children moving through state lines are safe, potential caregivers are suitable, and guarantees that the individuals or entities placing the child remain legally and financially responsible following placement. In order for an ICPC placement request to get started, the child’s caseworker in the state the child is located creates a packet that includes a child’s social, medical, and educational history and the current status of any court case involving the child. The packet will also include information about you as you are being considered for placement of the child in the receiving state so that the receiving state will know who they should be evaluating for possible placement.

      The sending ICPC office will send this packet to the receiving ICPC office which will then be shared with that state’s Child Protection Agency and a caseworker will begin to assess you and your home for placement. When this assessment is complete the Child Protection Agency will then send the packet back to the sending ICPC office which will then be shared with that state’s Child Protection Agency. You can also reach out to sending and receiving ICPC offices to obtain status of this case. I have added the link to ICPC to further assist.

      You will want to remain in contact with the child’s caseworker and supervisor so that continued communication between you and them is established and maintained. If you cannot get ahold of the caseworker and supervisor continue to ask for another supervisor until you speak with someone. Also usually, starting the process of becoming a licensed resource (foster) parent in your state if you have not done so may assist with the child or children being placed with you quicker; however this is not guaranteed. I would recommend contacting your state Child Protection Agency to ensure that you are following the correct steps to become licensed as a kinship caregiver.

      Corissa Kazar
      Support Services Manager

  2. My brother is fostering by deceased brothers 2 daughters 4&2 this is in Pa why is it that the rest of the family is told by the court that they have no right or involvement with what goes on with the girls ( after my brother died they were taken away from his wife ) I live in Md and my mother isn’t even allowed to bring them to visit can’t even ask anything about the girls it all has to go through with my brother who is fostering them the girls are and were living with my mother she was the one who was going to foster because they said there is no kinship care in pa but the case worker and my brother decided he would do it

    1. Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS) provides services and assistance to New Jersey licensed resource, kinship and adoptive families therefore we are unfortunately limited on how we can assist. However, it can be very challenging when a relative is in care no matter which state you reside in. Each state has their own policies and practices that they follow which can also make things challenging as well.

      However, for addressing your concerns the most appropriate plan of action is to voice your and your families concerns through the state’s Chain of Command. This would be the caseworker, caseworker’s supervisor and so on until your concerns are addressed. I would also recommend having some form of documentation such as email or a notebook to note who you spoke with, what was discussed and the day and time to further document your concerns and your attempts to address your concerns. It is appropriate to write letters of concern and send to all parties involved with the children case including the judge. I would also recommend researching support services for kin in your state to see if another agency may be able to further assist.

      Corissa Kazar
      Support Services Manager

  3. Hi, I’ve been caring for my nephew for a little over a year and a half and my husband just gave me an ultimatum, basically him or my nephew. I feel totally lost and hurt and angry and at the same time I can understand why.

    My nephew is now 6 years old. He’s my brothers kid and was one of four half siblings taken from his mother for serious neglect. He has a ton of issues and basically turns our house into a war zone and at least 2-3 this new a day because he can’t regulate his emotions, they just come out as huge huge tantrums. I’ve gotten a lot better at managing him but my husband just reacts and turns into a huge stress bomb and when I try to talk to him about it he freaks out and tells me he can’t do it.

    We’ve always been a huge part of my nephews life and our younger son honestly views him as a brother at this point so the thought of giving him up is breaking my heart. Plus we’ve just gotten him on medication this summer, he’s all set at school with an IEP and we’re just rekindling his relationships with his siblings. We’ve put in so much work, I even quit my job (which was an amazing job) to be more available for him, my son and my husband.

    My brother (his dad) is serving time in prison and won’t be released for 2 years. He’s shown a lot of commitment to building a relationship with his son and wants to take him when he’s released. He calls him on time every week, writes him stories and sends pictures, he’s taken parenting classes and is doing everything he can to be transferred closer so we can start visits.

    I honestly don’t think my husband can do this for about two years and I don’t know what life would be like if my husband left. The impact on me and my son would be huge. I also know me and my son would be devastated to lose my nephew, and I feel like my brother deserves a chance to raise his son which he may not get without our help.

    I don’t know how to make this choice, it feels like there’s just no right answer.

    I talked to my case worker and she told me that if we couldn’t do it she’d have to open up a search for adoptive parents nation wide and that there’s no guarantee on where he’d go and if we or anyone in our family would have any sort of accesss to him.

    Do you have any advice?

    1. Hi Kaleen,

      First, I want to start off by thanking you for reaching out to us at Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS). FAFS is a non-profit that is contracted to assist NJ licensed resource parents. If you are not a NJ licensed resource parent we may be limited on ways to assist; however we understand how this can seem like an impossible situation, and I am so sorry that you’re are going through this difficult time. Taking in a relative can be very challenging, however there are so many options available to you. When you have the opportunity, I definitely suggest that you contact FAFS directly to speak with a FAFS Family Advocate.

      One option available to you if you reside in NJ is for you to get in contact with Performcare and see what services are available for your nephew. The number for Performcare is 877.652.7624. You can contact them and a care coordinator will guide you through the information, referral, and needs assessment process. One service that I would inquire about is respite services, which provides you as a caregiver, a break by having someone come in to spend time and participate in activities with your nephew.

      Another option can be to enroll your nephew into extracurricular activities within your neighborhood. Possibly by getting your nephew more involved with activities outside of the house, that will reduce the amount of stress and tension that is within your house and that your husband is feeling at times. If there are other family members that can help with your nephew, I would definitely suggest leaning on them for support as well. Possibly having him stay over a few times a week or have him spend time with other relatives can be beneficial. It is currently the summertime, and with the kids being home from school, that can be a reason for all the added stress that your family is feeling, so finding activities for your nephew to participate in that enables him to leave the house for a bit can be extremely helpful.

      It is wonderful that your brother wants to care for your nephew when he is released, and it’s great that he is spending time building a relationship with him now. I understand how two years seems impossible, especially with the way that your husband is currently feeling. Family counseling can be another option to explore as well, especially with stressful situations such as this one. Another possibility would be to set aside time specifically for your husband so that you both can spend time with one another. It can be that with the presence of your nephew, your husband may feel a sense of neglect, so setting aside time where you can spend time with one another may help as well. If you are a NJ resident please contact us to further assist you through this difficult time. You can contact FAFS directly and ask to speak to a Family Advocate. You can reach us by dialing 609.520.1500 or 800.222.0047

      Heather Mills
      Family Advocate

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