Governor Deal recently signed a proclamation making May Foster Care Month!


What You Need to Know New Booster Seat Law Effective July 1, 2011   

Birth – 12 months Your child under age 1 should always ride in a rear-facing car seat. There are different types of rear-facing car seats: Infant- only seats can only be used rear-facing. Convertible and 3-in-1 car seats typically have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position, allowing you to keep your child rear-facing for a longer period of time. 

1–3 years Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. It’s the best way to keep him or her safe. Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, your child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness. 

4–7 years Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat with a harness, it’s time to travel in a booster seat, but still in the back seat.  

8 –12 years Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seat belt to fit properly the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. Remember: your child should still ride in the back seat because it’s safer there.

O.C.G.A. § 40-8-76 Safety belts required as equipment; safety restraints for children (a) No new private passenger automobile manufactured after January 1, 1964, shall be sold to the general public in this state unless such automobile shall be equipped with two sets of safety belts for the front seat thereof. The safety belts may be installed by the manufacturer prior to delivery to the dealer, or they may be installed by the dealer.

(b)     (1) Every driver who transports a child under eight years of age in a passenger automobile, van, or pickup truck, other than a taxicab as defined by Code Section 33-34-5.1 or a public transit vehicle as defined by Code Section 16-5-20, shall, while such motor vehicle is in motion and operated on a public road, street, or highway of this state, provide for the proper restraint of such child in a child passenger restraining system appropriate for such child's height and weight and approved by the United States Department of Transportation under provisions of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213 in effect on January 1, 1983, or at the time of manufacture, subject to the following specific requirements and exceptions:

                (A) Any such child weighing at least 40 pounds may be secured by a lap belt when:

                      (i) The vehicle is not equipped with both lap and shoulder belts; or

                      (ii) Not including the driver's seat, the vehicle is equipped with one or more lap and shoulder belts that are all being used to properly restrain other children;

                (B) Any such child shall be properly restrained in a rear seat of the motor vehicle consistent with the requirements of this paragraph. If the vehicle has no rear seating position appropriate for correctly restraining a child or all appropriate rear seating positions are occupied by other children, any such child may be properly restrained in a front seat consistent with the requirements of this paragraph;

                (C) A driver shall not be deemed to be complying with the provisions of this paragraph unless any child passenger restraining system required by this paragraph is installed and being used in accordance with the manufacturer's directions for such system; and

                (D) The provisions of this paragraph shall not apply when the child's parent or guardian either obtains a physician's written statement that a physical or medical condition of the child prevents placing or restraining him or her in the manner required by this paragraph. If the parent or guardian can show the child's height is over 4 feet and 9 inches, such child shall be restrained in a safety belt as required in Code Section 40-8-76.1.

           (2) Upon a first conviction of an offense under this subsection, the defendant shall be punished by a fine of not more than $50.00, except in the case of a child who is six or seven years of age, if the defendant shows to the court having jurisdiction of the case that a child passenger restraining system meeting the applicable requirements of this subsection has been purchased by him or her after the time of the offense and prior to the court appearance, the court may waive or suspend the fine for such first conviction. This exception shall apply until January 1, 2012. Upon a second or subsequent conviction of an offense under this subsection, the defendant shall be punished by a fine of not more than $100.00. No court shall impose any additional fees or surcharges to a fine for such a violation. The court imposing a fine for any violation of this Code section shall forward a record of the disposition of the cases to the Department of Driver Services for the sole purpose of data collection on a county by county basis.

(c) Violation of this Code section shall not constitute negligence per se nor contributory negligence per se. Violation of subsection (b) of this Code section shall not be the basis for cancellation of coverage or increase in insurance rates.

(d) The provisions of this Code section shall not apply to buses, as defined in paragraph (7) of Code Section 40-1-1, used in the transport of children over four years of age until July 1, 2012, provided that the bus is operated by a licensed or commissioned child care facility, has a current annual transportation safety inspection certificate as required by the appropriate licensing body, and has evidence of being inspected for use by a child care facility. If the bus is not a school bus, as defined in paragraph (55) of Code Section 40-1-1, or a multifunction school activities bus, as defined in 49 C.F.R. 571.3(B), each child over four years of age and under eight years of age shall be properly restrained by a child passenger restraining system. Multifunction school activities buses, as defined in 49 C.F.R. 571.3(B), shall not be required to transport children five years of age or older in a child passenger restraining system.

Ga. L. 1963, p. 366, § 2; Ga. L. 1964, p. 168, § 1; Code 1933, § 68E-407, enacted by Ga. L. 1982, p. 165, § 4; Code 1981, § 40-8-76, enacted by Ga. L. 1982, p. 165, § 10; Ga. L. 1983, p. 1464, § 1; Ga. L. 1984, p. 22, § 40; Ga. L. 1985, p. 149, § 40; Ga. L. 1988, p. 480, § 1; Ga. L. 1996, p. 469, § 2; Ga. L. 2000, p. 1246, § 17; Ga. L. 2001, p. 740, § 1; Ga. L. 2004, p. 716, § 1; Ga. L. 2011, p. 253, § 1/SB 88.       

Monday April 25, 2011 Carrie Craft

Adoption / Foster Care Guide - Car
I know we  just finished up one Spring holiday, Easter, but I can't believe how quickly Mother's Day will be here.  I thought we'd start with one of my favorite pieces where we ask readers to finish the following sentence"You know you're a foster or adoptive mother when..."
So, how would you finish the following sentence? Perhaps you never know how many kids you will have from day to day or your family picture looks like a meeting of the United Nations. Whatever your answer, take a minute to share what being a foster or adoptive mother means to you. I look forward to reading fresh answers! Some are very amusing. Here are a few responses:
  • " hear how [are] your boys (or girls)? and you say "which ones"?
  • " hear how many children do you have? and you look at them with a bland stare and just say "lots"!"
  • " go to McDonald's and you need more than one table and none of your kids look like each other and people just can't figure out the whole thing."
10 Things You Can Do Now to Be Ready to Do Foster Care later foster Parenting in Your Future? Prepare Now!
By Carrie Craft, Guide

This article was prompted by the following e-mail:
"I am currently 19 years old and single, but I am one day hoping to be a foster parent. Could you give me some advice on how to prepare my life for such a thing? I am really interested in the idea of adoption and would love to hear any advice you can offer. Thanks for your time and I'm sorry if I am bothering you in any way. Thank you again,T."
My response:
  1. Get lots of experience with children of all ages.
    • Volunteer at group homes.
    • Baby-sit for foster families.
    • Ask your local agency if they need volunteers to baby-sit during meetings.
    This will give you experience working with children who may have been abused or neglected.
  2. Take trainings or college courses on children, child development, and parenting. Family Studies may be a helpful area of study as well.
  3. Obtain a job that will support yourself and your current family. You will need to be able to prove that you can support yourself without the help of any outside funds.
  4. Find out your state's age requirement on fostering. Do you need to be 21?
  5. If you are married find out if your state prefers that you be married for a certain amount of time. Some agencies require that a couple be together for about two years before fostering. Yes, singles can foster. Know that if you do marry after you become a foster parent your spouse will be required to take the foster parent training. Many states support gay/lesbian foster parents as well.
  6. Find an apartment or home that you can afford that is large enough for one or more foster child/ren. Find out your state's requirements on bedroom size so that you don't wind up with a home with rooms that are too small. Yes, you can rent.
  7. You might also want to find out about bunk beds and other bedroom furniture so that you can start looking at garage sales and sales at furniture stores when you are ready. Many states don't allow bunk beds or trundles.
  8. How is your yard? Find out from your state about the following:
    • Does your yard need to be fenced?
    • Do you have a pond or swimming pool? What regulations does the state have on bodies of water?
    • Is your play equipment in good repair? Does it need to be anchored?
    Fixing these issues a little at a time will save you money in the long run. Many families begin the foster care process to learn that they will have to sink several hundred dollars into a fence for their pool. Find out now and plan for such an expense.
  9. Do you have adequate transportation? You will need a valid driver's license. A reliable car that is large enough to transport the number of children you plan on fostering. Some foster care placements require a lot of driving to appointments and visits with family.
  10. Prepare your family and establish your support system. Foster care is not easy. Let your family and friends about your plans and listen to any concerns they may have. This will give you time to seek out answers and calm their fears before bringing home your first foster child. This will also let you know who your supporters are and who you can call on when you need a break or a listening ear.

Is it Time to Change Your Foster Care Agency or Adoption Agency?
Wednesday April 20, 2011

I noticed on a past blog comment a reader asked the following:
"My husband and I have been foster parents for one and half year. We are waiting for a fost to adopt, but the four kids we fostered have all returned to birth parents. We are with a foster family agency, but I wonder how long are we going to have to wait. We are not picky as we do want an older child boy or girl age 8-11 years old. I have heard there is a big need for adoptive parents for an older child. This does not seem to be the case with us. I wonder if we should change our agency since our agency is only foster and don't specialize with adoptions. Does that make a difference. Please we need some suggestions from people."
I felt the same way when we first became foster parents, heard there was a huge need, but then stood empty for a year. If hadn't been working in a children's home and saw the need first hand, we would have probably quit. Yes. There is a need, so don't quit yet. Fostering to adopt is often a long wait. It's also a difficult journey for those who take on the challenge as it requires that the foster parent be pro-family reunification, but then also choose to adopt the child if the family does not complete the reunification plan. Sounds like this particular foster family has done an awesome job maintaining boundaries and helping a family reunite.
I think it does make a difference if you're not with an foster agency that specializes in adoptions. What we have done in the past is work with our foster care agency for foster placements, but then we also submitted our adoption home study with another agency that specializes in adoptions and foster care.
It's a difficult question to answer when each State handles adoptions and foster care differently, but it may be worth asking your social worker for an opinion on the matter. It doesn't hurt for more than one agency to be looking for a child that fits in with your family.
New Adoption Preference Bill Signed in Arizona
Tuesday April 19, 2011

Married couples seeking to adopt in Arizona will be given preference over single parent adoptions for state adoptions due to a new bill signed by Gov. Jan Brewer yesterday. If all other criteria, when looking at the strengths of those interested in adopting a particular child or sibling set, are equal between a married couple and a single parent, then the married couple will be given preference and chosen to adopt.
According to reports, conservatives supported the bill and gay-rights advocates opposed it.
Building an Effective Partnership Between a Case Worker and a Foster Parent Ideas for Working with a Foster Care Case Worker By Carrie Craft, Guide
 As a foster parent I've had great relationships and not so great relationships with case workers. I've also been a listening ear to other foster parents and case workers as they attempt to develop partnerships. So, I decided to take a step back and really look at what worked for myself and my friends as we have tried to build working partnerships between foster parents and case workers.
  1. Respect is very important when working to build any effective partnership. The respect must be reciprocated both ways, respect for the case worker and the job they do as well as respect for the foster parent and the job they do. Often times communication problems between a foster parent and a social worker can be avoided if handled with respect and before a crisis occurs.
    • Foster parents - Do you know the size of the case load of a typical social worker in your area? If not. Ask.
    • Foster parents and Case workers - Do you know the amount of stress that goes into the day-to-day job of being a case worker or a foster parent?
    • Case worker - Do you as the case worker know all of the duties and responsibilities placed on a foster parent? Do you keep in mind the fact that many foster parents work outside the home and every time their foster child is suspended from school or sick, that foster parents has to leave work? Do you consider that they may have other children in the home and a foster child's behavior or actions may be adding stress to the family?
  2. Honesty is another important component to a working relationship. Be honest with your worker about any and all concerns about the foster child, the child's school, and the end goal for the child and the birth family - whether that be reunification or an adoption plan. However, keep in mind that just because you disagree with each other doesn't mean that the relationships is not working. Can you still work together and maintain the honesty and respect? You might find, as other foster parents and case workers have that once they have worked through a disagreement or two, the working partnership is stronger.
  3. Maintain a professional boundary. This is truly the case worker's responsibility, but sometimes they forget as well. At those times, it is up to you as the foster parent to help maintain that boundary. Nothing good comes from crossing it. It may seem great to create more of a friendship with a case worker at first, but in the long run, it's not in your or your family's best interest to be too friendly with a case worker or any member of your foster child's team of professionals.
  4. Be prepared and timely.Show up to meetings on time and prepared to share with the team about how the child is doing. Bring proper forms or other information regarding doctor appointments to all meetings. Make sure that you get your foster child to all visits with family on time. Also remember that case workers need your documentation and reports completed in a timely manner as well. All these pieces work together to make a case that the social worker must submit to the court.
  5. Remember the main goal and help the team reach that goal. Usually the first goal of any foster care situation is that of reunification with birth family. So, work that goal. If the goal changes to adoption and you are not the adoptive resource, then work the goal of adoption and be a team player. Help the child and the new family make a connection and integrate into a new family unit. That is what foster parents do, and sometimes, it's a tough job. If you ever decide that it is no longer a job you can handle, then take a break. Maybe a rest from the pressure of being a foster parent will help rejuvenate you. If not, then give up your foster care license and focus on other ways to help children in the foster care system.
  6. Advocate for the child, keeping main goals, professionalism and boundaries in mind. This point encompasses many of the above ideas. It's also an important point, and a difficult one too. It is tough to be an effective advocate, while maintaining boundaries and professionalism, but it is possible. If you remember to not take personal offense when someone on the team doesn't agree with you, then all should be well. Above all, remember - you don't have control. If you can't control the outcome, then don't bring more pain upon yourself worrying about something you ultimately can't change. Know that if you can say that you've done your best, said your peace and did so without tearing down other team members - you truly have been an effective advocate. Continue taking care of the child and looking for the little moments that make it all worth it. Sometimes it's the only thing that keeps foster parents going.

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DFCS Hit Hard by Budget Cuts

Foster care inspiring for both parents and kids
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
They say you rarely hear about the good that foster parents do, about how they inspire and often change the trajectory of thousands of children's lives.
Growing up, John Silvey saw his parents take in and nurture hundreds of other people’s children, and now he’s doing it himself.
Denise Kettles Wells adopted her daughter Jade after she was placed in her home 10 years ago.
And Heather Swanson says she and her sister Kayla Yearwood got lucky and were adopted by foster parents who loved them as their own. The 22-year-old is now returning the favor.
But Silvey, Wells and Swanson say their stories are too often overshadowed by tales of abuse and neglect that occur in Georgia’s foster care system.
“It’s not a perfect system. There are no perfect people, but there are more great stories out there than there are bad ones,” said Silvey, director of fundraising for theCobb CountyFoster Adoptive Parents Association.
According to Lisa Marie Shekell, spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Services, nearly 7,000 children are in foster care in Georgia, where parents generally are paid, depending on the age of the child, up to about  $18 per day. The rate is higher for children needing medical care or a higher level of supervision and or treatment.
Anyone interested in becoming a foster parent should call 1-877-210-KIDS (5437).
Silvey, 39, and his wife Beth decided to become foster parents two years ago. They wanted a school-aged boy who was available for adoption.
Soon after completing the impact class, however, Silvey said they got the call to care for three siblings and then several more children.
On Dec. 18, 2009, the Division of Family & Children Services called again. They had twin girls, Hannah and Haley, who needed a home.
“From the moment we picked them up, we knew,” Silvey said. “They were our
present and they’ve been that to us every day. They are our girls.”
The Marietta couple is set to complete the adoption process for the twins on March 21.
Silvey said foster care seemed natural for him. He grew up with a slew of foster children who’d been placed in his parents care. Some were special needs children. Some had been physically or sexually abused. Some simply had no one to care for them.
“When you’re a kid growing up in a family like that, you learn to have compassion and to be a friend,” said Silvey. “That’s what I was and it was a great experience.”
Denise Kettles Wells decided to enroll in the foster-adopt program after she divorced in 1996.
“I didn’t have children of my own but always wanted to,” said Wells, 47, of Powder Springs. “I thought maybe I could help someone who hadn’t had that great a start in life.”
So she did.
Since completing the course in 2000, Wells has cared for more than a dozen children, including Jade, the daughter she adopted at age 10.
Now 20, Jade is a sophomore at Georgia State University.
Heather Swanson was only 2 when she and her sister, Kayla, were placed in foster care.
In the beginning, she resented the social workers who took them away from their mother but soon grew to love her foster parents, Barry and Marsha Yearwood.
“I was very, very lucky,” said Swanson, 22, of Austell. “I only had one foster placement.”
That placement led to the siblings’ adoption.
To this day, Swanson said the Yearwoods treated her and Kayla like their own.
“There was no difference in the treatment between their natural child and us,” she said. “They loved us all the same.”
But Swanson, who married soon after graduating from high school, said she didn’t fully appreciate the love she had until her biological mother resurfaced in her life.
“She had a dead end job. She moved every four months or so,” Swanson said.
And the little brother that remained with her was a high school dropout.
“She never instilled anything in him,” said Swanson. “I remember sitting there thinking that could be me.” .
Today, thanks to the Yearwoods, both she and her sister, Kayla, are attending college.In addition, Swanson and her husband, Dustin, have become foster parents.
“It’s amazing what [the Yearwoods] were willing to do for me,” said Swanson. “I felt like it was important to pay that forward.”