The strongest material you can have in advocating for your foster child is a well-documented daily journal. Keeping a daily journal assists you when reporting to the Child Welfare Department or advocating for your foster child at case conferences and at court hearings. When opinions are divided, your journal provides you with reasons and documentation for your views.
You can keep your journal on the Internet in a designated site or folder, in a simple inexpensive notebook, or even on scraps of paper to be typed into your Internet site or entered into your child’s notebook later when it is more convenient. Be sure to write the date and the child’s name at the start of each entry. This can be important should a dispute arise at a later time. It is best to keep a separate site or notebook for each child.
Judges can only make decisions about a child’s case plan based on the information presented in court. The information, as presented by the Child Welfare Department or the birth parents, is often incomplete, biased, or just plain wrong. Your foster child depends on you as the most informed person in the courtroom to give the judge accurate information about his or her needs. Your journal can provide critical written evidence which can correct misinformation and bolster your position for what is in the child’s best interests. Federal law states that you have the right to present both written and oral evidence to the court.
Include everything in your journal, the more information the better. You never know what problems may develop. Here are some situations where a daily journal is extremely helpful:
- You may need to defend yourself against a false allegation of abuse or neglect.
- You may feel that a proposed visitation with a particular person would be harmful to the child.
- You may be pursuing an adoption which one or both birth parents are contesting.
- You want to prepare a Life Book recording all that you know about your foster child’s past and present.
Write on a regular basis, daily or at least every few days. Set a regular time to write and stick to it. If you decide to write “when you get around to it,” the days will fly by and nothing will be recorded. Be sure to write when your foster child has had some special event in his or her life.
Do not use your journal to attack the birth parents, the Child Welfare Department or any other interested parties. Instead pretend you are a camera, and record what happened each day. Did the child cry, laugh, get angry, act out, appear sad? Describe any actions of the child which lead to your conclusion: failing to eat, unexplained sickness or vomiting; fighting with another child in the household; destructive behavior of any kind. Describe the good things as well: school successes, kindnesses, good interactions with peers. Remember....facts, not feelings.
Start today to keep a journal. Your foster child can benefit from your documentation.
Learn more at www.fosterparentjournal.org.