Most people seem to know about the more traditional options that are frequently mentioned to single mothers dealing with an unexpected pregnancy, but temporary, voluntary foster care is one choice that does not seem to be talked about very much. It is not the same as adoption, and is not only the result of abuse or neglect. You can have a lot of control over where your child lives and guidelines for their lifestyle while they are away from you, or less control if you would prefer. You can have frequent, extended visitation with your child, or you could have minimal visitation with your child, depending on what you choose and what is best, given your current circumstances.
If you that you want to be able to raise your child, and you want to be his or her forever mom, but your current situation is not appropriate to raise a child in, temporary, voluntary foster care might be the best choice for you. You are still the legal parent of your child, and you still have input in on the day to day decisions of your child. It is simply a temporary change of guardianship, and your child will no longer be living with you in your home for a period of time.
Safe Families for Children
Safe Families for Children is an organization devoted to providing respite care for children whose families are experiencing emergency situations. The most common reasons for children to wind up in this type of program include:
3) Domestic violence
4) Drug dependency
Safe Families for Children can house children for as little as one day, or as long as a year, with the average time per child being approximately six weeks. The average age of a child in SFFC is four and a half years. The families that take the children must endure an extensive background check, similar to ones that a traditional foster family will. It is important for you to know, however, that this is not the foster care that the state runs. That means, that if you choose this program, you may find it easier to get your child back. Children that are victims of abuse or neglect are not eligible for this program, and instead must go into foster care that is run by the state. This might be a good choice for you if you need to spend some time away, in job training, in jail, or other situations where you woud not be able to bring your child with you. If you would like more information on SFFC, their website can be found here: http://www.safe-families.org/
State-run Foster Care
State run foster care is sometimes, but not always, a precursor to adoption. It is most common for the state to work with the Child Protective Services (or CPS) when there are allegations of abuse or neglect, but in most states you can also make arrangements to place your chidlren into foster care.
If you would like more information on the guidelines that apply to voluntary, state-run foster care in your area, you can contact the Social Services agency or the Child Protective Services in your area.
It is important for you to know that in some states, you may be asked to pay some or all of the expenses that your child will accumulate while in foster care. If you choose to use this type of help, you may also have to schedule an appointment to see your child. Additionally, you will not have as much input in on your child’s life as you would in other situations, and getting your child back from foster care can be a complicated process. Although foster care is a temporary situation, it is important for you to understand what you will have to do in order to get your child back. It is very rarely simply a matter of asking for them back, when your children are in the care of the state.
If you choose to do this, you should also be sure that you understand your child will be a ward of the state. That may mean that he or she will be eligible for other state benefits, like Medicaid or even child care assistance while they are in foster care. Those services may not necessarily still be available to you when you take your child back.
In years past, it was a common practice for children to spend time with extended family members, such as aunts, uncles, and cousins, if the parents were not able to provide an adequate home for them for a period of time. Although at that time, it may not have been necessary to have legal paperwork in place, now it is incredibly important to do so. That paperwork can be completed for a nominal cost, but if you have questions about finding affordable legal help, I’ve also got some information here on this blog about legal resources for free or a very low cost.
However, some states will allow you to temporarily place your child with family members with only a written piece of paper that would allow them to seek medical care for your child, and to enroll him or her in school or child care. If you think you might need to do this, a simple call to your local courthouse should tell you what you have to do to start the procedures in your state.
As a result, this is a common choice for some families experiencing a crisis, and if you are fortunate enough to have members of your family that are willing to take your child in, you are particularly lucky. This is probably the fastest way to place your child, as well as to get them back back when you are on your feet. You and your family members have sole discretion regarding the financial arrangements. That means that your costs for raising your child have the potential to be minimal during the time he or she is away from you.
Regardless of what you decide, parenting, particularly single parenting, is probably the hardest thing you will ever do. Your ability to make the right choices for them, even when it’s hard to do, is what makes the difference between a good parent and a great parent. It is not my intention to give legal advice to anyone, this is just the result of my own experiences, what I have seen, and a little bit of internet research. For real advice that is pertinent for your own situation, consulting an attorney in your state is required. Some states may have other options that are unique to that area and will have different qualifications for foster care options that are not listed here. To locate your nearest Social Services or Child Protective Services office, you can call 211 or visit www.211.org.