In the wide scope of Adult and Child, at times it can seem that the Therapeutic Foster Care team exists its own bubble. The team has a separate brand and a separate website and answers to an outside entity (DCS). But in reality, foster care is deeply intertwined with several other service lines, from home-based services working with biological families to primary care looking after children’s medical needs. Housed on the seventh floor of 603 E Washington St, the TFC team is fortunate to have such easy access to various other A&C service lines. In Indianapolis, there are around eight foster care agencies, but Adult & Child is the most comprehensive. “Most agencies have to refer out for services, but A&C can literally take care of all that under the same roof,” said Alicia Harding, a TFC team leader. This type of open communication is often a resource for getting quick answers to questions or being able to streamline care for children with trauma and/or other health problems.
The integrated care aspect and novelty of child therapy can be a draw for prospective foster parents looking for a support system when embracing such a challenging role. TFC is always working to keep its foster parents afloat in uncertain waters. “As an agency we really are striving to support and work with foster parents in an ongoing process, to work hand in hand for the benefit of the child,” said Amanda Vipperman, licensing specialist and team leader. Amanda also keeps track of much of the data on how many foster parents are coming into the agency. Currently, there is an average of 10 new inquiries a month from prospective foster parents and an average of two certifications per month. Alicia Harding commented on the disparity of these numbers: “It is a long process and it feels very invasive at times… You do feel vulnerable throughout the process and I don’t think a lot of people like to feel vulnerable.” In this process, foster parents must go through background checks and be prepared to discuss in great detail: their finances, their home life, their relationship, etc. It also takes a lot of effort and time to become a licensed foster parent. The entire paperwork and interviewing process alone takes roughly 20 hours. But at its heart, all these hurdles are in place to make absolutely sure that the home is a stable and safe environment for children. Through the process, the TFC team tries very hard to make sure prospective foster parents feel comfortable and supported in an attempt to keep them moving toward their goal. “There is a huge, huge need for foster parents right now for kids in our community,” said team leader Jodi Kelley, referencing the fact that there are currently more foster kids than there are homes to put them in. There has been a push from the agency to spread this message and to encourage people in the community to reach out for more information if they have ever considered fostering.
Being a foster parent can be a wonderful and life-enriching experience for many, but there are darker realities that prospective parents should prepare for when looking into the process. Many people come to fostering with the desire to give back and help a child, “but what they don’t realize is that it takes a lot of working with what feels like a broken system,” said Alicia. “And it’s never going to be a perfect system when you take a child and traumatize them further by removing them from the only home they know.” She noted that to make the best of it and stay positive, foster parents must also practice self-care and to not take themselves too seriously. She notes that foster care looks different for everyone and it’s so important to be adaptable. “It’s hitting a moving target always, but it can definitely be done.”