Special Needs Resource Directory

  • Foster Care

    The Complex Care Center at Cincinnati Children's offers resources and information to those interested in becoming a foster parent to a child with special healthcare needs.

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    What's Involved

    Being a foster parent to a child with special healthcare needs involves:

    • Providing care for children whose emotional or physical disorders, age, race, membership in a sibling group, a history of abuse, or other factors contribute to a lengthy stay in foster care.
    • Children have an increased likelihood of serious medical conditions, emotional and behavioral disorders, history of abuse of neglect, medical or genetic risk due to familial mental illness or parental substance abuse.
    • The amount of commitment needed to care for these children is much greater than that required for a healthy, typically developing child.
    • Foster parents must be emotionally strong and stable.
    • Foster parents need to be willing to advocate for the child's needs.
    • Available support system (significant other, relative, or other adults) is needed to provide an emotional support to the foster parent and child care.

    To become a foster parent for a special needs child, you must be willing to:

    • Attend frequent medical meetings and therapies
    • Learn about the child's medical problems and treatment
    • Become an advocate for the child's needs
    • Become a stay-at-home parent
    • Possibly have involvement with the child's biological family

    Ohio Requirements

    In Ohio, to be a foster parent you must:

    • Be at least 21 years of age
    • Have sufficient income to meet the basic needs of your household
    • Be in good physical, emotional and mental health and have no criminal record for violent crimes, sexual crimes or any crimes against children
    • Attend 33 hours of pre-service training and meet the continuing education requirements, 40 hours every two years
    • Can be single, married, separated, divorced or unmarried co-parents
    • Can rent or be a home owner
    • No religious affiliation is required

    As a potential foster parent, you should:

    • Be extremely aware of what your own family can handle. Because of the shortage of foster families, the system tends to overload existing families
    • Have an atmosphere of trust within your own family
    • Be aware of the child's needs: Are you able to adequately meet these needs?
    • Consider how the child fits into your family and your home
    • Make sure your house is compatible for the care of the child

    Types of Foster Care

    Types of foster care can vary from region to region. Contact your county for more information.

    For a complete listing of the types of foster care, along with a brief description of each, visit the Foster Parenting section of Adoption.com.

    Steps to Becoming a Foster Parent

    The steps to become a licensed foster parent include:

    1. Contacting a local agency for foster care
    2. Training. You will attend 33 hours of pre-service training. Additional medical or behavioral training may be needed for children with special needs.
    3. Application. You complete and sign a foster care application.
    4. Fingerprinting. You and any adult members of your household will be fingerprinted for a criminal background check.
    5. Home study. Includes interviews of all household members, fire inspection, home safety audit, reference checks, credit check and medical examination.
    6. Licensing. The state issues a foster parent license.
    7. Placement. The first foster child is placed in your home.

    Considerations and Transitions

    Here are the considerations for a child coming into placement. These children are likely to have:

    • Emotional and behavioral issues due to circumstances prior to placement and due to family separation
    • Few coping and social skills
    • Developmental issues

    Transitions for the Child

    All children go through a transitional / adjustment period regardless of underlying mental health problems

    Welcoming a Child: 

    • Age appropriate
    • Important that the child feels like part of the home
    • Do not try to compete with birth family as a "parent."  Consider alternative titles for foster children to address foster parents, such as "Mom + first name" or "Miss + first name."  It is important for the foster child to understand the role of a parent as protective and nurturing. 
    • Be aware of racial and cultural differences, and try to incorporate the child's culture into your own.
    • Children also need their own space and belongings
    • This could include giving the child their own blanket, a bed or putting their picture on the mantle
    • Lifebooks: a very valuable resource that foster parents can create for their foster children. It becomes very important to a child, and can include anything from medical records, to school pictures, to awards and photographs.
    • Visit FosterParenting.com for additional tips and information on preparing for a child.

    Saying Goodbye to a Child: 

    • Understand that foster care is often temporary, meaning that the child will return to the birth family or be put up for adoption
    • Talk about the court plans openly
    • Give the child time to adjust to the idea of leaving
    • Be prepared to give them something to take with them (a blanket, clothes, or a lifebook)
    • For additional tips on saying goodbye to a child, visit FosterParenting.com.

    Advocating

    As a foster parent for a child with special needs, you will be become his or her advocate. Advocating for a child with special needs includes:

    • Locating a healthcare provider who takes the Medicaid card
    • Choosing a primary care provider who is available and willing to advocate
    • Developing a close relationship with the caseworker and knowing their supervisor. Make sure that they protect you from the burden of policing the birth family.
    • Knowing your child's court appointed guardian ad litem
    • Attending and participating in medical appointments, which may include primary medical care, medical subspecialties, dental, mental health and therapies – occupational, physical and speech
    • Carrying the placement packet and keeping records organized. Obtain as much information as possible on medical, dental, developmental, immunization and mental health records, as well as the child's former foster homes

    Understanding Roles

    During the process of becoming a foster parent, you'll interact with a variety of child care professionals:

    The county worker, or case worker, is responsible for:

    • Placing the child
    • Monthly visits with the child in the foster home
    • Arranging family visitation and transportation
    • Developing a case plan for approval by the court detailing family requirements
    • Assuming primary responsibility to properly investigate and communicate all medical and psychosocial issues to the prospective family in a timely manner

    The county supervisor is the immediate supervisor of the county worker. If you cannot contact or do not feel comfortable with the county worker, they will become an important resource. The county supervisor also provides medical consent for routine procedures and medical care.

    The county supervisor's supervisor, who provides consent for nonroutine or major medical procedures.

    A GAL (guardian ad litum) is a person who represents the sole interest of the child in court. Some are volunteers, public defenders or private attorneys.

    A magistrate is a judge who ultimately makes the legal decisions related to custody, visitation issues and other safety issues.

    The case aide transports the child to and from visits with their biological family. The case aide also supervises family visits.  Transportation to and from, as well as supervision of the visits are the county's responsibility.

    The medical doctor's office helps to:

    • Obtain and deal with the child's medical history
    • Provide consistency in the child's life, which may be unstable due to changing environments between homes
    • Make recommendations to the Department of Job and Family Services and the court about medical and safety issues

    Tools and Resources

    Information for Foster Youth

    • FosterClub is a national network for youth in foster care. This site has excellent resources for youth in foster care, including:
      • Entering Foster Care  
      • Message Board  
      • Topical information about things like foster families, court, your caseworker and the agency, school, friends and relationships, health, and leaving foster care.
    • Healthy Foster Care America, supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, provides resources written specifically for children and teens in foster care.

    Information for Foster Parents

    • Child Trends Data Bank has information and resources on foster care.
    • Healthy Foster Care America, supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, provides resources, tools, facts and figures on health issues and needs of children and teens in foster care.
    • FosterParenting.com provides information about:
      • Types of foster care
      • Foster parent concerns
      • Foster child concerns
      • Money considerations
      • Tools and resources
      • Support and more
    • National Foster Parent Association (NFPA) is a national organization which strives to support foster parents and to be a strong voice on behalf of all children. This site contains information on:
      • Foster Parent Rights
      • Training and Education
      • Frequently Asked Questions
    • Ohio Department of Job and Family Services has a fact sheet on foster care.
    • Ohio Family Care Association (OFCA) is an organization of families who adopt children, provide foster care or give kinship care. The purpose of OFCA is to support these families through programs of education, support, advocacy and leadership.

    Support Groups

    Throughout the country, there are many helpful support groups for foster parents. These are affiliated with religious groups, schools or local organizations.

    Financial Reimbursement

    In Ohio, reimbursement for foster parents can range from $9/day to $60/day, based on the child's needs and type of foster parenting offered.  Depending of the child's needs some foster families incur additional out-of-pocket expenses related to the child's care. Medically related items that are not covered by Medicaid are the financial responsibility of the county.

    Training and Education

    Foster parents must have annual training and licensing, some of which is available online and through the licensing agency.

    Local Foster Care Agencies

    There are many foster care agencies in Southwest Ohio. These include: