I really enjoy hearing the differences among fostering experiences, so I'm going to keep going with acronyms that I know may not be universal, but the ideas at the root of them may be, which makes it a good way to get us talking about foster care. And I hope the discussions give those who are not fostering something to think about.
Today I bring you FTM: family team meeting.
I chose this one in part because B always gets it wrong. He always says "full team meeting," which is the same idea. Basically, it's a meeting that is intended to bring together all parties involved in a case. At the very least, it would include the child's parents, foster parents, and caseworker, but can include many more people. In my experience, I have also seen relatives, parenting mentors, significant other of a parent, caseworker supervisors, and adoption caseworkers. I have also heard of therapists, GALs and CASAs attending. We have only fostered young children who are not a part of the meeting, but older children may be. Plus, foster parents can include many people, as often siblings of one case are in separate homes and each have their own foster parent(s). Sometimes foster parents are not included or caseworkers just don't think to include them. It's good to ask your agency what the standard should be and then advocate that you would be involved in them unless there's a specific reason you shouldn't be.
What are family team meetings for? Looking at the documents from my state, the words "collaborative" and "strengths-based" kept coming out, and that has been my experience. It's a chance for everyone to hear the same things from in the same room. Transitions can be decided and concerns voiced for everyone to hear. For strengths-based, in my experience the meeting always involves talking about the strengths of the child or children and the strengths within relationships.
When do family team meetings happen? Each location will have its own guidelines and agencies may have different guidelines. I'm honestly still not sure of ours, but I know they usually revolve around placement changes and changes in goals for the case. For example, if a child is moving from a foster home to a relative home or a different foster home, family team meetings are common to discuss and plan the transition. For a goal changing from reunification to adoption, there should be a family team meeting. But there can also be a requested family team meeting for other reasons, including by the parents of the child. I have also experienced transitions that had no family team meeting, and I know now that I'd want to request them every time in the future.
In the best meetings I've been a part of, I have seen a different side of parents and understood more from their own mouths where they're coming from. I've been able to help plan a thoughtful transition for a child. In the least helpful meetings, there were too many missing people to make it effective. And then there were the meetings I was not invited or not made aware. I couldn't learn and I couldn't have a voice. Certainly the most frustrating.
We have one coming up that looks like it will be a room packed full of people. I'm glad so many are committed to Crocodile and his sisters. I pray we will be on the same page and be able to help them heal, help them have the best plan for them to grow and flourish.
What meetings do you have in your fostering experience that are similar?