Seeking A Different Outcome

A woman lost her firstborn child to Child Protective Services when she was 17, after having been abandoned by her abusive father. Part of the reason for losing the child then was poverty – no crib or medical insurance. She also had untreated mental issues. She has been in therapy since she was 18 and her therapist will support her now – 6 years later. She is now 3 1/2 months pregnant with her second child and understandably afraid of losing this child as well or that they’ll bring up her mental health issues from the past. This child’s father is not the same one as her first child’s father and is supportive of her. She gets SSI income and her boyfriend is a line cook. Because they are on a tight budget, she is buying what she can in preparation for her baby, as she can. How can she avoid a repeat experience ?

A response came from a woman who works in primary care settings. She has seen cases where if the parent previously lost a child to the Div of Health Services, that parent comes under heightened scrutiny. Suggestions –  If you are going a regular OB clinic or community clinic, show up for every single prenatal appointment, stay on top of scheduling. Make them aware of the regularity/consistency of your therapy appointments. I personally would not meet with or trust their social or behavioral health person – keep them at arm’s length until you get a good read as to whether they seem genuinely interested in helping with you. It seems you have good support already, so don’t even go there. If you feel you have to appease them and must meet with one, just be prepared to say all the areas you have covered already. Don’t express vulnerability or what you don’t have. Better to go through trusted community organizations if you need physical items, housing resources, etc. Expect to have to do a Urine Analysis at some point. Avoid using any substances including marijuana that might get you flagged.

I am a big fan of midwives and so I liked this suggestion – seek out a birth center or better yet a home birth midwife.  You can meet them for a consultation (no pressure to pick that one). Wait until you find one you think you could have a trusting relationship with. They won’t have access to all your medical records. They are more focused on supporting you as an individual. The less contact with nosy/intervention happy medical people, the better in your case. If you end up needing to birth in a hospital, a good midwife ought to be a good advocate for you in that setting, even though it is also a high risk setting for Div of Health Services involvement/hospital staff scrutiny.

If she is in a conventional medical care setting, the woman suggests be one step ahead with all the baby item planning. Having the car seat well in advance, like by 30 weeks, and schedule a car seat installation safety check (you can find them by searching “car seat safety clinic” they are often done at fire departments). If she signs up for WIC (which pays for formula), she needs to be aware that they are another scrutinizing entity that could represent a threat.

The biggest poverty factor to control for is housing stability. If you rent, is your lease month to month or year long? Being on good terms with your landlord can smooth inspections. Best have a Plan B. Make certain savings could cover a move, if needed. Or have a support network, one that would allow you stay with a stable family that is considered “safe”.

Additional suggestions from another with behavioral health work within a primary healthcare setting – No one can report a thing until the child is born. Be careful about what releases you sign. No one can talk to anyone about you without your release – unless it becomes a mandated report. If you sign releases, you are at risk. Therefore, any releases need to be very specific. Don’t sign blanket things like “service coordination.” Instead say what services you want coordinated.

This woman disagreed with some of the previous advice – I don’t agree with universally declining behavioral health services, because those services can be helpful for connecting with community based programs for things like car seats, help with food insecurity, clothing, etc. If your ongoing therapist is well connected, and knows what programs are available within your community, they may be able to serve in that role. In that case, it is appropriate to explain that you are in regular behavioral health care already.

There will likely be complete screenings as a routine part of your care to look at maternal stress/perinatal mental health concerns. They may also be helpful in holding the balance of psychotropic medication/medication choices, while you are pregnant, if that is part of your typical mental health treatment plan. You can consider signing a very specific and narrow release with your therapist, but generally, I would limit it only to things like medication, pregnancy health, dates of service. I would not allow your therapist to release your progress notes, progress summaries, treatment plans unless there is a compelling reason to do so.

Is Foster Care Professional Employment ?

These days it seems anything goes.  Even a stay at home mom of 25 years managed to get a job running a movie theater with a staff of 15 people. She made her case by outlining her experience in scheduling and budgeting experiences related to running a household.

With foster care, the “payment or stipend” goes to the child’s expenses and so is not actual compensation for doing specific work.  It has been mentioned that if this a job that you would have to be bonded for, then yes you would list that experience of being a foster care parent on a resume.

If you are applying for a job where foster care experience is relevant, such as working with a youth program or something like that, it should definitely be listed but not as employment experience.   It may need to be disclosed as a potential conflict with some positions, for example – work in behavioral health for an agency that also does child welfare work.

And it is interesting that advertisements seeking foster parents are always listed in the “jobs” section of the classifieds.  Listing time spent fostering would make logical sense to explain a gap in work history. If you didn’t work for x number of years because you needed to be at home with foster children.

One foster parent shared – I might list foster parenting under community service/volunteer experience, depending upon the job I was applying for. I never have listed it in our 25+ years as a foster family. I feel that people are prone to look at me as a “savior” then, and I don’t feel comfortable with all that goes with that.

Another mom said – I did list foster parent and stay at home mom.  I was applying for a teaching job after 10+ years of no employment, and I listed it as experience rather than employment. I definitely wouldn’t put it on a resume, if I was applying for a job that didn’t involve  work with children.

A Human Resources Director noted – I would find it odd to see foster parenting on a job resume. Unless the job that they are applying for is in the foster field – like a volunteer, a house mom for a group home. Resumes are to get you the interview, not the job.   Any gap of employment should be explained in a cover letter and not the resume.  She also noted that HR professionals are not looking at gaps in employment as a big negative at this time. After the financial crisis, a lot of people lost jobs and it was hard to find other jobs and/or a good fit.

In fact, this professional admits there are employers out there that will not consider a person for a position because of familial obligations. She suggests the applicant remove any mention of foster care, stay-at-home, etc. Instead say something like “I was away from the workforce for x amount of time because of a personal obligation/matter. That obligation/matter has been addressed and is no longer a factor nor will it impact me in this position.