Foster Parent Training

July 20th, 2021

I just finished watching the last of six online training modules that the State of Wisconsin requires me to view in order to become certified as a foster parent. CPS is adamant that new foster parents complete this minimum numbers of lessons before certification. I would like to say that these training modules were all useful to me. That, unfortunately, would be a lie.

Timing is important. The six modules are listed on the WCWPDS Caregivers website under the title of “Foster Parent Pre-Placement Training”. The key word here is “Pre-Placement”. The implication is that the prospective foster parent will watch these videos prior to receiving a child into their home. For my wife, Karin, and myself, that has not been the case. We took charge of our grandson, Asher, on February 2nd of this year. We found out about this training requirement on April 7th. I finally found the time to start watching these modules last week. It would have been helpful for us have been able to study these online lessons a bit earlier. However, Asher became our responsibility in an emergency situation, and we are still catching up on the training.

Asher is seven months old. He can be high maintenance. Since this is the case, Karin and I have struggled to find time to do the necessary online training to become certified. We have already raised three kids of our own, but that apparently does not count as training in the eyes of the state. Wisconsin, like the other 49 states, has certain rules that are peculiar to itself. The modules point these out, and give links to the pertinent laws and regulations. These regs are mostly to be found in the Wisconsin Administrative Code, Ch. DCF 56, a truly daunting document. Much of what is in the DCF 56 and the training lessons has little to do with raising the foster children. The material has everything to do with satisfying the state bureaucracy.

I think that these Pre-Placement lessons are designed for people who are seriously considering becoming foster parents, but have not made a firm decision about it. The modules give them things to ponder before they turn pro.

Karin and I did not wake up one morning and decide to spend the rest of our retirement years as foster parents. That was never our desire. The role of foster parent is being thrust upon us. It’s true that we could refuse this duty, but then who would care for Asher? Events caught us off guard and we are still trying to get our bearings. We are committed to caring for Asher as long as he needs us. For us, being a foster parent is not a career, it is a calling.

The first module is a course introduction. Most of it is innocuous, but there was one slide presentation that disturbed me. A veteran foster parent spoke about being “a working professional of 22 years in this business”. His use of the term “business” bothers me. “Business” is generally about profit, about making money. So, are Karin and I going to be part of this “business”? Is profit what this is all about? That seems to be the implication of the foster parent’s poor choice of words.

Module 2 is about what is expected of foster parents. I think foster parents are expected to possess superhuman powers. That’s what I got out of it. Module 3 is about how to care for foster children. Basically, you care for foster kids like you would care for own your kids. Most of material presented is just common sense.

Module 4 is about developing and maintaining family connections. This is an interesting section. The relationship between a foster parent and the biological parents is complicated. It is especially complicated if the foster parent and the biological parent are related by blood. Karin and I are in that particular situation with Asher’s mother. We have to be sensitive to the mom’s needs and feelings. There is often tension. There is a common history with its attendant emotional baggage. We all are walking through a minefield.

Module 5 is about foster family selfcare. That part made me laugh. There is all this emphasis about the foster parents keeping themselves healthy. When are we supposed to do that? We are busy with the baby 24/7. When are we going to do all this selfcare stuff? This module is full of advice, no doubt well-meant. I got to know about a lot of support groups that I will never contact. I learned about great websites that I will never visit. It’s kind of a pathetic joke.

There was information in the training that I did find valuable. There were a few “aha” moments. So, maybe it was worth the six hours of my life.

All I know for sure is that it was mandatory.

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