Friday, November 11, 2011

Foster Parent Friday - How does daycare work?

I received this question from a sweet friend.

Q:  Do the kids come to you already having a daycare situation and you have to keep that up? Or do you plan their daycare? Or can they stay home with you if they are younger than kindergarten age? And what are your thoughts on having them home with you if you were a stay at home mom?

A: This is really 2 different questions, but I can answer them both in one post I believe.

  1. How does daycare work within CPS - who qualifies, how does it get paid, etc.
  2. What are your thoughts on being SAHM with foster children.

First - My response to this has to come with a caveat that my answer is based on rules in my area and though I'm guessing it all works similarly in other states/counties and with different agencies, I just don't know how it works elsewhere.

In our area, daycare is provided by the state (kind of) for foster children in homes with either a single foster parent who works full-time or in a dual-parent home when both parents work full time.  The parents can be self-employed or employed by another employer and daycare will be provided as long as it is full-time employment for each parent.  School does not count as full-time employment.  Recently due to the budget cuts and presumably known fraud/waste, foster parents in our area are required to prove their employment.  This doesn't bother mie - it should be easy to prove that you're working if you are indeed actually working.

If you qualify with this rule then daycare is provided.  Of course, children who are school-age do not need daycare, so daycare is only provided for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.  Daycare is NOT provided for school-aged children in the summer - foster parents are on their own with that.  (This doesn't affect us, we aren't accepting school-aged children).   After-school care is also not provided for school-aged children. 

So, if you have parents that work full-time and you have children that are younger than school-aged, daycare is provided.  When I say daycare is provided, that means that it is long as there are funds available.  Daycare eligibility and funds are managed by the county department that manages the welfare-style daycare programs that are available to low-income families and those who are in workforce programs (in other words, they are unemployed and are looking for work and may be attending a work-training program).  Foster children are automatically qualified (according to the rules above), so your family income is not considered in the eligibility process.  Supposedly, in our are anyway, the daycares have an agreement with the daycare providers that says they will accept the payment agreement as dictated by the workforce management group (in our area it's called CCMS or CCS, let's just call it that).  When you sign-up at the daycare then, they get a notice on how much they will get paid and how much the parent co-pays.  I have never had a copay.  I think foster parents are not supposed to have a copay.  That being said, I would venture to guess not all foster parents are aware of this rule and that some daycares get away with charging a copay to foster parents.

Daycares don't get paid much for foster children through CCS.  My first daycare was a home daycare and she said that she got paid $70 per week per child.  I don't know if that's true, but if it is, that's $280 per month per child - about 1/3 of the going rate of childcare around here.  I don't think she was doing it right for a lot of reasons, but I do believe they end up getting paid less than they would for a regularly paying parent.  Keep that in mind.  I ended up leaving that daycare at least in part because I was told on more than one occasion that they could be having full-paying children instead of mine and there were certain favoritism-type things happening because of it (like, my children weren't napping or visits interrupted naps and she couldn't have her full-paying children or parents upset by that).  We found a new daycare.

Speaking of finding daycares - CCS only pays for people who are approved by CCS.  With the low-income eligible parents they could choose pretty much anyone who wanted to be set up with CCS to receive payment, including relatives who were willing to care for their children.  With foster children, the daycare provider must be a licensed facility (could be a home daycare) that is setup to receive CCS payments.  Oh, and not only that, it has to accept the CCS payments from your county.  I live on the border of two counties.  We are licensed in one county and our home is located in the other.  Our first has was in the county we are licensed in.  Our daycare is in the county our new home is located in.  Oh my was this frustrating.  Bottom line - you are limited to what daycare you can choose and hopefully you can find a good one.  The school my son and daughter go to doesn't accept CCS, so when I get a new placement the foster children go to a different school.  That's not by choice, per se, but I like the school my kids go to and am not going to make them leave to move them to a facility that takes CCS.  Therefore, our schedule sucks regarding daycare drop off and pick-up and frankly my foster children attend a school that is not nearly as good as the one our permanent kiddos attend.  I don't like it.  It is what it is.  I could send my foster kids to the same school as Logan and Summer, but then I'd have to pay for it - about $180 per child per week.  I suppose I could make it work, but it would definitely limit the number of kiddos we could take.  So we deal with it as is.

The foster parents are solely responsible for setting up daycare as long as they follow all the rules I set out above.  You set it up then you tell the caseworker where the child will be.  That's pretty much all their involvement in daycare selection.

OHHHHH, it takes 2 weeks to setup daycare payment after placement.  That's an average, it could take more or less depending on how competent certain people are in the process.  So, in the meantime the foster parents are responsible for paying for daycare out of their pocket (or, better said, out of the foster care payments, which haven't come yet, so really it's out of the foster parents pocket).  We set aside money for this each time or, if we don't have it at the moment we figure out childcare between the two of us for the first few weeks.

Second Now that you know how to qualify, setup, etc., daycare as a foster parent you have a bit of insight into what happens when you are a SAHM.  Plainly, if you aren't employed full-time (or your spouse isn't) you don't qualify for daycare payments and if you decided to put children in daycare then you'd have to pay for it yourself. 

This is a different question of course than whether or not you should be a SAHM when you're
This is a different question of course than whether or not you should be a SAHM when you're a foster parent. I think the conversation is exactly the same as the one you'd have with biological children. You weigh all the same factors. If you believe you should be a SAHM to your biological children you'd probably believe the same with your foster children. There are a few more complicating factors that I'd argue most of the time indicate SAHM is preferred over working for foster parents. First are all the appointments and visits and such. If you work the county provides transportation to visits, but the rest is on you and you already know how many visits and stuff are required. I think its more rare than not to find a job that allows you to be flexible in this way. I'm blessed in that I have that flexibility. If you have a normal 9-5 kind of job - maybe a teacher or retail job or something like that - it may be more difficult to manage all the appointments especially if they track your "butt-in-seat" time. As a human performance person I could go on and on about that, but its a topic for another day.

The other complicating factor is in existance with biological kiddos but is probably more intense with the trauma foster children have experienced and their reactions to that trauma. Many SAHMs find themselves struggling with certain behaviors with their kiddos and they wonder if they should work to get a break. Many working moms have found that they're better parents when they get a break to work outside the home. It's the same discussion with foster children. Sometimes foster children benefit from being in an environment like preschool where they can be with peers and have a different authority figure during the day than mom or dad. Sometimes that's better than being home all day with mom. Sometimes, that's a really bad thing. Some foster children (just like biological children, but more intense) have behaviors that get them kicked out of daycares.

So my answer here is that SAHM vs. WOHM discussions with foster care are similar to those with biological or adopted children. I probably lean toward valuing SAHM in most situations vs. WOHM with foster children as I would with biological or adopted children. That being said if you're a 2-parent or single parent home where every adult works full-time, that doesn't exclude you from being a great foster parent and in some cases that might be a better situation for some kids than a 2parent home where mom is a SAHM. It just depends. Depends on the kids. Depends on the parents. You as the foster parent do have the option to do either, pending you follow the rules above and your budget allows for it. It's really up to you and your family.


Tee said...

In our area, daycare is covered until school age at a set rate that is a subsidy that only SOME daycares choose to accept. So we are very limited in our choices of daycares. Only a few take the subsidy as payment in full, so we pay extra to make up the difference so our little guy can go to a quality place instead of one of the less than ideal places that take it as payment in full. Although both parents are supposed to be working full-time (or full-time students), they only do employment verification for one parent (the "primary parent" on the CPS paperwork (the one who the board check is sent to) - So they really have no idea how much I'm working, if at all. We are not required to put children in daycare but the law guardians often think it's in the best interest of a child to be in daycare so they will push for it. There's certainly no expectation to be a SAHM. In addition, after-school programs and some kind of (low-cost, city rec program) summer camp is covered for school-aged kids. Just wanted to share my experience in my state.

Mie said...

Tee - thank you so much for sharing! I know it's different by area so it's helpful to know how things are done elsewhere.

Penelope {Foster2Forever} said...

$70/week is what they pay for our kids. Only 1 daycare in our area takes the payment in full.

Anonymous said...

What if u didn't know your foster mom was putting your child in daycare

Mie said...

Hi Anonymous - thanks for the comment. I'm not sure exactly what you're referring to. I'm guessing you're asking "what if the biological parent doesn't know their child is going to be put in daycare". If that's not what you're asking, please let me know.

I've had a relatively good experience with CPS and birth parents so trying to imagine a situation where the birth parents didn't know their children were in childcare is a bit difficult. I met every parent of my foster children within the first couple weeks with one exception and that's because his parent was in jail during his month-long stay at my home. I was able to meet all the others at court or visits, where I introduced myself and offered to answer any questions they had of me. Daycare almost always came up but if it didn't it came up when they had a transporter bringing the child to visits instead of me. That being said, I know people have grievances with CPS (as do I) and parents may feel CPS isn't as open as they need to be regarding their children. This shouldn't be the case, except I'd argue adamently against birth parents (in most cases) knowing exactly where their children are (which daycare) for safety reasons (just as I wouldn't support the foster parents address being shared).

Very practically, the only situations I can honestly imagine where the birth parents don't know the child is in daycare are those where the birth parent is for some reason unavailable (not returning calls, in the hospital without ability to communicate, in jail though even that is questionable, etc). Again, I don't think CPS is flawless and there are probably situations where it's happened because of the state.

Now, if the question is more about whether the birth parent gets the chance to choose whether their baby is in childcare, I can understand the heartache on that. It's probably a good post sometime.

Thanks for the question.