Frequently Asked Questions about Foster Care and Phoenix Homes
What is foster care?
Foster care is the temporary placement of children outside of their own homes. It occurs because of misbehavior, abuse, neglect, or other family problems. When a Juvenile Court Judge determines that a child cannot return to their home then placement is researched. The law requires that the Court use the “least restrictive placement” possible. Relatives are first investigated and then traditional foster care and then treatment foster care. The goal of most foster placements is to resolve problems and to return the child home. Phoenix Homes of Tennessee is a Treatment Foster Care Network.
What is Treatment Foster Care?
Treatment Foster care is a family-based treatment service for youth with complex emotional, behavioral, psychological, trauma based or medical needs. Foster families (or Primary Treatment Facilitators, as they are titled in Phoenix Homes) receive specialized training and support to assist them in meeting the needs of the child.
What kinds of children need foster homes the most?
Many kinds of children will need treatment foster homes. The children who currently need homes the most are:
•Teenage mothers and their babies
•Children with special medical needs
•Youth involved with Juvenile Court
•Brothers and sisters who need to stay together
•Babies born with the HIV (AIDS) virus or with cocaine in their system
•Developmentally Delayed Adolescents
Can we pick out the child we want?
You can express a preference on the age, race, and sex of the child that you think would best fit in with your family. The Phoenix Homes of Tennessee workers both during your application/licensing and training procedures, will inquire about you and your families strengths and weaknesses so that we can help you decide which foster child would be best for you. You do not have to accept a child you do not want or you feel would not fit into your family. You will be provided with a lot of information about the child before you make your decision about accepting the child. Phoenix Homes of Tennessee wants the placement to be as successful as you do.
Can single foster persons care for foster children?
Yes. It is important to remember though that being a treatment foster parent is a challenging job. If you are a single foster parent it is imperative that you have a strong support network behind you. Something as simple as picking up your sick youth at school can be a challenge if you work days.
How many foster children can we take?
That depends on factors such as your ability, your enthusiasm, how many children you have of your own, and how much room you have in your home and your experience. The maximum number, by Phoenix Homes of Tennessee standards is two, unless there is a sibling group or a waiver. Most of our homes have only one treatment foster care youth, especially while you are gaining experience.
Do all treatment foster children have problems?
All of them do, to some degree. Many are frightened and confused at the sudden separation from their parents. Some are very angry. Others may think they are being sent to a foster home as punishment. These problems gradually lessen, though, as a foster child comes to know that you care for him and the Phoenix Homes of TN staff offer their intensive support.
What kind of support will we receive?
Treatment Foster Parents receive a monthly reimbursement check to cover the child's food, housing, clothing, transportation and personal allowance. The amount of the check is greater then traditional foster care because of the intensive support required of Treatment Foster parents. Per day rates range from a low of $25-$30 to a normal high of $60-$70. Per day rates are based on the youths needs and the services you provide as opposed to their age.
Most foster children get a medical card from the referring agency, which guarantees payment for all necessary medical care and preventive medicine. You will be given a number to call to get help in selecting a physician for a child placed with you. The medical card is also accepted by many hospitals and for approved prescriptions and dental care. Complete physicals are provided at least annually. You should not pay any medical bill directly.
Foster children go to regular public schools, unless they need special education, for which the state can pay. Private or parochial school tuition cannot be paid by the referring agency. Foster children may attend private or parochial schools, but only if the tuition is paid by some other source.
Phoenix Homes of Tennessee and your supervising child’s referring agency caseworker are responsible for supporting your family on a daily basis. Each agency, including Phoenix homes, has developed internal supports, which include foster parent monthly support groups/training, newsletters, after hours telephone numbers, and community resources.
Support from Phoenix
Phoenix Homes of Tennessee provides overall support to our licensed treatment foster homes. You will be seen personally at least once weekly by your Phoenix Case Manager in the beginning and then as the youth settles into your home and begins working his/her treatment plan these visits will reduce to once every two weeks in the foster parent home. In addition Phoenix Homes will you make referrals to local community support and social agencies that your foster child might benefit from.
How do we become foster parents?
The simplest way to get started is to complete our information request form. Once we received your information, a local Phoenix Homes of Tennessee representative will contact you about foster care. A representative will then make an appointment to come to your home. That person's job is to decide, with you, if foster care is a good plan for you and your family and, if so, how you can best help foster children. The representative will also give you an application and a medical form to have filled out for each member of your family. Because the law requires that a criminal background check be run on all applicants, you and all adults living in your home will be fingerprinted. In addition, references you provide will be contacted. While these checks are being run, you will attend thorough training classes to help prepare you for your future role.
What types of foster parents are there?
Most foster parents begin to care for children whose goal is to be reunited with their birth parents or other family members as soon as possible through a "regular" foster care program for abused or neglected children. Sometimes children need more intense services to be provided by a Treatment Foster Family who must possess additional skills to meet the individual needs of that child. These are the kind of homes, which Phoenix Homes of Tennessee trains and supports. Phoenix Homes believes the secret to a successful foster home placement is “matching” the foster child’s needs with the Treatment Foster Homes strengths. Therefore we hope to have as many different kinds of Treatment Foster Parents as there are Treatment Foster Care children!
How long does it take to get a foster child?
The licensing and training process takes from two to four months. After that process and your training are completed, children can then be placed with you through a matching process. Obviously if you tell us that you only want blonde-haired, blue-eyed identical twins under two years old, you will probably have a long wait before we get a match, therefore the more open you are to the types of youth you will work with the quicker a placement is made.
How will our children react to foster children?
If you've prepared them well for the coming of a foster child and they understand the temporary nature of foster care, there should be few problems. It's not unusual for your children to be a bit jealous at first -- just as they might be jealous of a new baby in the family. But with the support of the Phoenix Homes of Tennessee staff and answering their questions honestly and forthrightly these potential jealousies diminish quickly and your child may find a new “ friend”.
Do foster children need individual bedrooms?
No. A foster child can share a room with your children or other foster children of the same sex. The child must have a bed of his or her own. A foster child may not share a bedroom with an adult -- except for brief periods due to the child's illness or another need for attention. Foster youth must have their own dresser and closet space within the room. Your Phoenix licensing specialist will help you determine this during the application/homestudy process.
Can we take our foster child on vacation with us?
In most cases, yes. But if it involves out-of-state travel, you must call your child's Phoenix caseworker in advance for approval and the proper paperwork.
Can our foster children go to church with us?
Yes. Phoenix Homes of Tennessee will try placing children with you whose religious background is similar to your own. But if a foster child is of a different faith, he or she must be allowed to attend worship in that faith.
Does a child's birth parents visit him or her?
In most cases, yes. In fact, visits between parents and children are an essential part of the efforts to reunite families. The child's caseworker has the primary responsibility for planning visits and arranging supervision, if required. The caseworker will talk with you and the child's parents to work out the time and location of the visits that is workable.
Can we ever adopt a foster child?
In most cases, the first goal is to return foster children to their families when that is possible. Most of the children we place through Phoenix Homes of Tennessee are older and have a voice in being adopted. If a foster child who has been in your home for some time becomes available for adoption, you can discuss your interest in adopting him or her with the caseworker. At that time, you would have to meet all of the regular requirements for becoming an adoptive parent. Phoenix Homes of Tennessee will support you throughout this process.
Won't it be hard on us when the foster child returns home or is adopted?
Yes. That is, in fact, the hardest part of being a foster parent. You will certainly feel sad for a time. It's only natural -- just as it's natural for your foster daughter or son to want a family of their own. But there will always be new foster children who will need your care and affection. We suggest foster parents view treatment foster parenting like taking in a foreign exchange student. You know they are going to return home after a period of time but during the time they are in your home you will support them and show them the example of an appropriate parent and family.