Who will I be working with?
- Family Resource (FR) Worker* - This social worker is your primary DCF contact. He or she completes your license, regularly visits your home, approves babysitters for your foster children and assists you in problem solving as a foster parent.
- Ongoing Social Worker* - This social worker is assigned to the foster child in your home. You will be in contact with them about the child’s history, treatment needs, medical/dental care, education (including Individualized Education Plans known as IEPs), parent visitation schedules, the ongoing court case, the Parents and Children Together (PACT) program, and out of town travel permission. The ongoing social worker will also visit the child in your home.
- Adoption Social Worker* - This social worker is assigned to the foster child in your home when the child’s goal changes to adoption. The adoption social worker will then be responsible for the child and is your contact person for anything related to the child. The ongoing social worker will remain working with their biological parents until parental rights are terminated. If the child’s biological parents’ rights are terminated by the court, the ongoing worker will no longer be assigned to the case and you will work solely with the adoption social worker until the child’s permanent plan is achieved.
*Every social worker has a supervisor and an area program manager. In every office there is an area director who oversees the office. Please ask your worker for their supervisor’s contact information.
- Child’s Attorney - All children in a foster care or pre-adoptive placement are assigned an attorney through the Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS). The attorney is required to meet with children they are working with , usually in their homes or at school.
Probation Officer – Probation officers are assigned to almost all families working with the Department to provide an update to the court. They may be in contact with you to schedule a time to visit the foster child in your home. During a visit, they will ask how things are going and may check out the home and where the child is sleeping. This information can be provided to the court, but usually only when they have concerns.
What other professionals may be working with the child in my home and with their families?
- Court Investigator - A court investigator can be assigned by a judge to learn more information to decide the outcome of a child’s care and protection case. They are independent from the Department and meet with all identified family members and collaterals. They will visit foster children in their foster home to gather information and write a report that will be submitted for court hearings about the status of the case.
- CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) – This advocate is appointed by a judge in some DCF cases to represent the best interests of a child in court.
GAL (Guardian Ad Litem) - A GAL is an independent person the court appoints to evaluate what would be in the “best interest of a child.” A GAL may visit children in their foster home to make sure the child’s education and medical needs are being met.
Who do I call if I have questions?
- You will have several workers and we know this may get confusing or overwhelming, but we always encourage you to reach out with any questions.
- You should first call your Family Resource (FR) social worker if you have questions about any changes or updates in your home. If your FR social worker is not available, you should feel free to then contact the FR supervisor, or the FR area program manager if necessary.
- If you need information specific to the child placed with you, contact the child’s ongoing social worker. If the social worker is not available, you should feel free to then contact their supervisor or the area program manager if necessary.
- During business hours, you can call the main area office number and ask to speak with either the child’s ongoing social worker/supervisor or FR social worker/supervisor.
- If the office is closed, you can call the Kids Net Helpline at (800) 486-3730. The Helpline, staffed by DCF supervisors, can mediate, problem solve and stabilize various situations with you as the foster parent. If the situation becomes more serious, the helpline supervisor will contact DCF’s 24- hour child-at-risk hotline to provide more extensive assistance to the foster parent.
The DCF Ombudsman is available Monday thru Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to respond to any concerns regarding agency programs, policies and services. The staff provides information regarding the appropriate steps you can take to address a problem you may be experiencing with DCF or direct you to additional sources of help or information. The Ombudsman line is 617-748-2444.
How will I know I am about to get a foster child in my home?
- You will get a call from a social worker from your office about a child (or children) that need/s a home. The worker will provide you with information that is known about their age, gender, length of stay needed and describe other characteristics that will help you get a sense of the child’s background and why they need a placement. If you agree, you will confirm a time they can bring the child to your home. The worker should arrive with information for you to review and sign, and answer any questions you have.
What will I be paid?
Daily Rate – Foster parents receive a reimbursement for providing care at the daily rates the Department establishes. The current daily rate is below and payment is provided on a bi-weekly basis.
- Ages 0-5: $23.21
- Ages 6-12: $26.24
- Ages 13+: $27.47
Clothing Allowance – Foster parents receive a clothing allowance for foster children in their care at the rates below. This payment is provided on a quarterly basis.
- Ages 0-5: $238.75
- Ages 6-12: $246.24
- Ages 13+: $296.25
What other reimbursements can I apply for?
In addition to the standard payments, the Department understands that every child is different and may have different needs. In order to best support you in caring for a child with exceptional needs, we offer additional reimbursements if/when needed. Please contact your FR or ongoing worker to discuss whether you are eligible and how to apply. *All requests for reimbursements must be pre-approved by office staff.
- PACT (Parents and Children Together) – Additional compensation for foster families who are providing planned, specialized services to address identified needs of a child, including medical, behavioral and emotional. Documentation is required and approval is needed.
- Mileage Reimbursement - Available for extraordinary transportation expenses which may include frequent and distant trips to the child’s doctor, therapist, etc.
- Property Damage and Theft Reimbursement - The Department provides compensation to foster/pre-adoptive parents for excessive damages to their personal property or theft caused by a foster/pre-adoptive child residing in their home. Excessive damage must be the result of deliberate action by the child. Foster parents must notify DCF immediately following the incident and complete written report and request.
What meetings do I need to know about?
- Initial Placement Meeting - When a child is placed in your home, the ongoing social worker will provide you with a copy of the child placement agreement, MassHealth number, action plan and medical passport.
- 6 Week Placement Review Meeting – This meeting occurs 6 weeks after a child enters placement from their home or hospital or returns to placement after a significant stay at home of 6 months or longer. The meeting includes the team working with the child and family and serves as a review of current information about the child and family, the current foster care placement and the child’s needs around safety, wellbeing, and permanency.
- You will be asked to provide the team with your weekly foster/pre-adoptive parent observation log, which you will begin using within three working days after the child is placed in your home.
- Foster Care Review - Foster care reviews are held every 6 months that a child is in placement. A team of social workers, managerial staff, and a community representative will review whether foster care placement remains necessary for the child; the progress being made toward the child’s goal of reunification with family or adoption; compliance with the action plan; and recommendations for the case.
- Foster parents are invited to participate in the foster care review meetings and give updates on how the child is doing. If you cannot attend in person, we encourage you to provide something in writing.
- Permanency Planning Conference (PPC) - An internal meeting held with DCF legal department, child’s social worker and supervisor to review a child’s goal. Your FR social worker will let you know when they are scheduled so you can provide updates and input to be shared at the meeting.
What resources are there for children?
- Wonderfund - Provides enrichment opportunities and access to emergency aid and transitional necessities for children receiving services from DCF. DCF staff will apply for services on behalf of the child. For more info, visit www.wonderfundma.org or talk to your FR or ongoing worker.
- Child Care - Depending on where you live, there are child care slots available. Talk with your ongoing social worker about this for more specific information for your area.
- Health Insurance – All children in foster care are eligible to receive MassHealth benefits. At the time of placement, you will be given the MassHealth number for every child that is placed. A MassHealth card will follow in the mail several days later.
- WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) – All foster families with children under the age of 5 are eligible to receive WIC benefits. Contact your local DTA office for more information.
- Free Lunch - All children in foster care are eligible for free lunch at their school as a part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Eligibility for this program has no connection to the income of the foster parent/s, but a form must be completed with the school for each foster child. Please ask your social worker for help with this process.
What supports are there for me?
- Foster Parent Ambassador - Ambassadors are experienced foster parents who are available to answer general questions about the process of becoming a foster parent and are available to talk one-on-one with potential foster parents.
- MSPCC/Kids Net Program - Provides services and supports to foster families, kinship families and pre-adoptive families. Helpline support is available for issues that arise in the evening or on weekends. Available services include access to overnight respite (up to ten paid days/year), short-term child care, foster parent support groups and a wide range of training opportunities, all of which are offered for every DCF office in the state. For more info, visit http://www.mspcc.org/kidsnet.
- Family Resource Liaison (FRL) - Family resource liaisons are experienced foster, pre- adoptive or kinship parents who provide support to other foster parents. They coordinate training, lead support groups and are available by phone to provide guidance on issues such as birth parent visitation, coping with emotions when foster children leave your home, foster and adoptive parents’ rights, and administrative matters. Please ask your FR social worker for their contact information.
- MAFF (Massachusetts Alliance for Families) - An association of foster, adoptive, kinship and guardianship parents. MAFF provides advocacy and support for children andfoster parents. All DCF foster parents are eligible and encouraged to join MAFF. You can ask your FR social worker for more information.
What can I do/not do as a foster parent?
- Out of State Travel - Prior approval from your FR social worker is needed before a foster child may travel out of state. If approved, you will be provided with documentation to carry with you. If you live in an area bordering another state, please talk to your FR social worker about any daily activities, such as shopping or eating out, that may involve traveling to another state.
- Social Media Postings – Confidentiality of foster children is required by federal and Massachusetts state law. Additionally, the Foster Parent agreement states that a foster/preadoptive parent must maintain confidentiality. Based upon the law and the agreement, foster children’s photos or any information that identifies or could lead to the identification of foster children or their families cannot be posted on any social media site.
- Babysitters – If you plan to use a babysitter, you must inform your FR social worker and provide information for a required background records check for any new caretaker for the child.
- Playdates and/or Sleepovers - In collaboration with DCF, you can make the decision to allow a foster child to participate in normal childhood activities.
- Respite Care - Every foster parent is entitled to 10 respite days per year. Talk to your FR social worker when you know you will be needing respite, so you can plan in advance.
- Transition Planning - When there are any updates and/or changes related to a child placed in your home, such as a goal change, the child’s ongoing social worker will inform you of the changes and what that means for you as the foster parent.
- Cell Phone/Computer Use - All cell phone and computer use of foster children must be supervised.
- Contact with Extended/Biological Family - Contact for foster children with biological family members is encouraged when appropriate. The decision is thoughtfully determined by the child’s ongoing social worker/supervisor and will be shared with you.
- Request for Removal - Foster parents are required to give 14-day written notice to the child’s ongoing social worker if they need to request a child be moved to another placement. In the event of an emergency, arrangements can be made.
What information do I need to know about my child’s school?
The child’s ongoing worker is available to help you with any questions you have about school, registration and meetings.
- School Registration - The child’s Ongoing Social Worker will provide documentation needed to register a child for school.
- Early Intervention (EI) - All children under the age of 3 who are involved with the Department of Children and Families are referred for EI Services. Cooperation with EI referalls and recommendations on the part of foster parents are important for the child to receive all necessary services to reach developmental milestones.
- IEP Meetings - Foster parents should attend IEP meetings for children in the home. Foster parents cannot sign an IEP unless they are assigned as the educational surrogate parent.
- Permission Slips – Foster parents can sign for field trips or other school related activities.
What do I need to know about my foster child’s medical needs?
The child’s ongoing worker should be available to help you with any questions about medical needs, appointments and forms. If you need additional help, you can ask to speak to the Medical Social Worker in the office.
- Medical Social Workers – Each DCF office has a medical social worker to help schedule appointments, collect important health information such as immunizations and past medical history, provide care coordination, work with MassHealth and other insurers, and ensure that youth receive their prescribed medications. They are available to consult with foster parents regarding medical questions.
- 7 and 30 Day Medical Policy - When a child enters foster care they are required to have a medical screening within 7 days and a comprehensive medical exam within 30 days. You will need to provide all documentation forms from the physician’s office to the child’s ongoing social worker.
- Authorization for Treatment & Medication - Foster parents can authorize routine medical and dental care. Foster parent are required to inform the child’s ongoing social worker/supervisor of all medical and dental care.
What forms will I get and for what?
- Foster Parent General Agreement - This is reviewed and signed by foster parents at the time the license study is approved.
- Child Placement Agreement - This is reviewed with the ongoing social worker and signed by the foster parent at the time of placement. Foster parents sign and receive a copy for every child placed in their home.
- Child Observation Logs – Logs given to foster parents at the time a child is placed. Foster parents should complete these logs and provide them at the Six Week Placement Review Meeting.
- Action Plan – This outlines the goals and actions for all parents, children and family members involved with the case. This is provided to foster parents at the time of placement.
- Travel Forms – Required form for all foster parents to submit when planning any out- of-state travel for a foster child.
- MassHealth Card – At the time of placement, you will be given the MassHealth number for every child that is placed. A MassHealth card will follow in the mail several days later.
- Encounter Forms - Forms that are completed to document every medical and dental appointment for a foster child. Foster parents need to submit these to the child’s ongoing social worker.
When is it time for reassessment/license renewal?
- The purpose of Annual Reassessments (every 12 months) and License Renewal Studies (every other year) are to review and assess your home for any updates or changes and to make sure you still meet our licensing standards. Some of the things we review are any changes of layout and safety of your home, new family members in the home, current background record check and updated references. If there are issues that can be resolved, DCF will work with you to find a solution.
How will I be notified of results/decisions?
- You will receive written notification of the status of every Annual Reassessment and License Renewal Study related to your home. Should there be a change in the status of your license, these letters will also include information about your rights to a Fair Hearing or filing a grievance if you disagree with the decision.