Keeping It All Together: Gathering, Organizing, & Sharing Important Information
for Children & Youth In Care
In order to become a Bridge resource family, you went through a detailed assessment and training to prepare you to provide care for the children and youth placed in your home. During this process you provided lots of information about you, your family, your financial situation, your medical history, and more. This was only the beginning of the great information exchange. The focus of this issue is all about information and organization.
Guiding Principle #5
Guiding Principle #5, found on page 1-4 of your Bridge Resource Family Handbook, says “We effectively communicate through teamwork, which yields the best result for children and families.” This is further explained in the OKDHS Practice Model which states “We are engaged in the process of teamwork, information sharing, and decision making. We honor the confidentiality of the information about the child’s family.”
You Are the Gatekeeper of Important Information
As a Bridge resource caregiver you are the gatekeeper for all kinds of important information regarding children and youth in care. When a child or youth is placed, you receive information that educates you about him/her and his/her family. While a child or youth lives with you, you gather information that helps the child or youth’s team make decisions about their care. When a child or youth moves on, you share information that will continue to tell their story. So exactly what kind of information are we talking about and how should you organize it? Sharon Davis wrote an article titled “Sticky Notes” on www.fosterparenting.com that helps answer both questions.
She suggests gathering and organizing information such as “medication forms, medication side-effect charts, eating/sleeping schedule charts, safety check lists, therapist, medical doctor, hospital name and phone numbers, child’s social security number, placement papers, medical history, allergies, abnormal tendencies, monthly reports, etc.” She continues, saying,
these are items you might need at a moment’s notice…or when going to court, or even when [children in care] are ready to move. All the documentation you provide will help those who parent this child next. It is your responsibility to give them as much information as possible in order for the child to progress, rather than digress. We suggest a 3-ring binder for each child with all the information and charts listed above, and then the individual ones tailored to your individual situation. Use dividers to categorize each subject for easy location. Label front and side of binder with child’s name. Document all medical events, or events which you consider pertinent to decision making related to this child’s health. Include your monthly reports and evaluations. Include a current picture of the child which can be used by the police if the child is a runaway.
In addition to the information that Ms. Davis suggests, a Bridge resource parent should also add information related to visits with a child or youth’s family or caseworker. What happens during these visits can help Bridge resource parents respond appropriately to the young person’s needs.
By creating a notebook or file for each child and youth in your care, you are doing two things for them. First you are sending a message that what happens in their life while they are in your care is important. Second you are modeling an important life skill for them…the life skill of being organized and keeping track of your stuff. Be sure to click on the Life Skills for All Ages section for some specific, age appropriate organizational ideas.
Sharon Davis offers encouragement and inspiration by recognizing the effort it takes to put a notebook with important information together and how it can impact the life of a young person and those who care for him/her.
This is a portable filing system on the child and will move along with the life book as the child moves. Chances are, that each child you foster will not arrive with this book, so it is your responsibility to create it. In doing so, you will help not only the next parent, should there be one, but you will help the child and their progress towards healing and being whole. Sure, it’s a lot of work. Sure, it’s an extra expense. But, if you help just one foster parent, who in turn helps just one child, who in turn receives the help they need because of you, isn’t it worth it?
Now you may be wondering how this notebook differs from a Life Book? A Life Book is a place where children and youth can record important milestones and highlight special moments during their time in care so they can share it with their family at visits or when they return home. For more information about Lifebooks and what to keep in them look on pages 3-12 and 3-13 of the Bridge Resource Family Handbook. If you don’t have a hard copy of this resource, there’s a link to the electronic version in the Resources and Training section of this newsletter.