I don't recall if I wrote about this or not, but about a month ago, I was contacted by my former supervisor at the newspaper. These days, she's running a clinic for a major medical company in this area, and they had an opening for a Medical Assistant that she thought I'd be perfect for. As you may recall, it's been about a year and a half since I graduated with my MA degree, and I didn't have any luck getting hired as an MA, which is why I had my year-long try with truck driving, and my current position at a major retailer. Now, I had high hopes for this interview, as you might understand, although after the interview, I learned that my strategy of replying to questions using more recent examples than older examples of how I dealt with things wasn't the best way to go. This same company had a job fair going on at another facility the following day, and I received an invitation for that as well. It wasn't long before I heard about the job fair results -- no dice there -- but it took about another week or two before I heard about the first job. As you may have guessed by now, I didn't get that job, either. As it turned out, they had an applicant with 13 years of experience and excellent references (I found it odd when my former supervisor told me that latter part, given that she's been one of my references in my job hunt, but whatever). I think this pretty much puts the final nail in the coffin so far as trying to ever get work in the MA field, although I've applied for one or two positions since then. As I see it, I have a couple of strikes going against me: 1) I'm a man, and there just aren't very many facilities comfortable with having a male MA on staff; 2) The length of time since I graduated, meaning that my skills and knowledge have been unused for a long time... saying they're "rusty" would be an exaggeration; 3) When people meet me for the first time, I often come across as intimidating, because let's face it, I'm a big guy! I'm 6 foot 6, and until someone gets to know me a little, it's easy to just assume that I'm a big scary guy.
The Foster Care System In Washington Needs An Overhaul
I mentioned last time around that we have a three year old foster son currently in our care. This poor guy has been in foster care for two and a half years, so he has no memory of never being in foster care. He was living with his biological mother when he was put in care, and she's now completely out of the picture. His bio dad, on the other hand, is in the picture, getting three visits with the boy every week, as well as every other Saturday. I have no idea if this man (who's 33 but acts like he's 23) was even aware this child existed until he was contacted by child services here, but I do know that he hasn't had a job in at least two years, and that honestly, he's not very bright. He has some source of money, because he's able to buy this child lunch during the visits (they're unsupervised), and he can afford to go out and party, as well as paying for a smartphone (I know the former because his Facebook page isn't private, and saw that at 1 am on Monday morning, he was partying and posted a picture on his Facebook, and then nine hours later he was picking up his son for a visit from the daycare). His interactions with his son are a far cry from parent and child -- he acts more like the fun older brother. He never tells his son "no" to anything, and when he has him on a visit, he doesn't have the kid take a nap (which means that more often than not, the boy is falling asleep in his car seat as I drive him home from daycare that evening). Sadly, having a job isn't a requirement for getting one's child back in your custody in this state... what's even worse is that the state is pretty much giving him everything he needs to get his kid, including paying for housing (his first attempt at getting a housing voucher from the state was rejected -- this after he needed help filling out the application form -- and he's appealed the rejection and is getting another chance later this week... again, I know this from his Facebook page). Now, don't get me wrong, the father appears to be a nice guy, but he seems to be completely clueless as to how to be a parent, and I don't really think that he's even remotely prepared to be a full-time dad. Our biggest concern is that he'll get housing, get his son back, and then about six month down the line, this kid will be back in foster care again. Want to know what's even worse? This child is delayed in multiple areas, plus he has medical needs that have to be handled (the dad hasn't come to a single doctor visit yet). I'm afraid if we don't get these taken care of soon, they won't be handled at all. I also suspect that the father doesn't know the first thing about preparing healthy meals for a child, given that the boy came back to the daycare from one visit with a bottle of Gatorade (at least that's better, marginally, than Sunny Delight, which too many people think is juice).
So, here's how I think the foster care system needs to be restructured, not just in this state, but in all states (this is the only other item in this post, so you can feel free to stop reading if you're not interested):
- When a child is put into foster care, the judge handling the case needs to set a clear-cut set of instructions for the parent or parents of that child, listing every single thing they need to get done in order to get their child back in their custody. This list of instructions also needs to include the dates for which each item needs to be completed. Blow three deadlines, the parent's rights are terminated and the child can be adopted by someone else.
- The period of time a child is supposed to be in foster care before the parents' rights are terminated or the child is returned is currently set at 12 out of 18 months. My proposal is that this timetable be reworked to be appropriate for the child's age. To wit: Any child placed in care age 3 and under shall be in foster care no more than nine months out of a one-year period. If the parents cannot get their act together in that time, their rights are terminated. Any child placed in care between the ages of 4 and 8 may be in foster care no more than 12 months out of 18. Children older than nine may be in foster care no more than 15 months out of 24. This timetable is based on how much time the child has had to bond with their birth parents, as younger children tend to develop attachment issues when they're moved around a lot. I've seen too many young children go into foster care with no ability to attach to other people, then the foster family works at fixing this, and when the child goes back to their birth parents, all that work is undone in a matter of months, and the child goes back to foster care with the attachment disorder not only returned, but made even worse.
- Parents who get their children for unsupervised visits need to report to the caseworker about their visit, telling them about everything that's they did during the visit. At random times, the caseworker or another employee of the state will accompany the parent on the visit to see that the child is being adequately taken care of.
- The number of services offered to birth parents needs to be reworked. At this time, the amount of resources used to help birth parents get their children back is much greater than the resources being offered to foster parents who need additional help taking care of their foster children (medical coverage is provided, and a small amount of money is given each month to the foster parents, but this amount in no way covers the extra expense involved with taking care of a child).
- The number of caseworkers needs to be increased, as does the budget for DSHS (I don't know if this is called the same thing in all other states) to accommodate the extra expense for new employees. Each caseworker needs to have a small enough workload that they are adequately able to monitor the birth parents' progress in getting their child (or children) back, as well as to provide adequate support to the foster parents. In addition, caseworkers need to be required to visit with the foster families at least once a month to properly assess how well the child is doing in care.
- Extra funds need to be set aside to cover unexpected costs that foster parents may find. For example, if a foster child breaks a piece of furniture in a foster home, the parents should be able to expect and receive in a timely manner proper recompensation for replacing said item.
- More needs to be done to provide additional support to foster parents that doesn't necessarily come directly from the state. Each county should have an organization in place that can collect new or slightly used clothing to be kept in a bank for foster parents to use for their foster children (this could even work as an exchange, so that when children outgrow clothing, it can be exchanged for clothing in the proper size). This same organization could also be used to collect other donations, such as school supplies, bedding, entertainment possibilities, gift cards, etc. This organization should be backed by the state as well as monitored by the state to ensure it doesn't get abused. There used to be an organization like this in the area, but it kind of disappeared, and nobody is really sure what happened, although suspicions are very high that the person who was the public face of this group continually used donations to benefit their birth children. Additional funding for this organization could be done via donations from area businesses.
That's just the bare bones of some of the things I think need to be done. I also think that the state should provide all foster parents with a complete list of all resources available to them, as there's nothing like this available now. My wife and I attend a foster parent support group each month, and there's rarely a meeting that goes by that someone in the group either learns about a resource they didn't know existed, or someone else informs the entire group about something they've discovered.