Top 5 Questions to Ask When Interviewing an Agency
It’s so important to ask questions when deciding on what agency to choose. There can be big differences from agency to agency so here are a few key questions for you to ask:
1. How big is the agency?
We've worked with both small and large agencies, and I have found that there are pros and cons with each. In a smaller agency it can feel more personal, and communication is a bit easier. In a larger agency there are usually more support services offered. Asking how many families each case worker serves helps to identify if their case workers are stretched too thin. It's important that your case worker has the time to answer your questions, and assist with getting the needed services for your foster child. Choosing an agency that fits your needs can make your journey with foster care and adoption a much smoother process.
2. What support services are offered?
It was really hard to watch other foster families we knew struggle, because their agency didn't offer good support services. We were so thankful we did our research ahead of time and chose an agency that did. You should look for agency that offers services such as support groups, mentoring for new foster/adoptive families, a resource library, and monthly or quarterly events with childcare. Some agencies also provide additional services in the home for the first few weeks following placement to help trouble shoot any challenges. These types of services can make life easier as you transition to a new normal with your foster child.
3. What does training entail?
Curriculums vary, and some are better than others, so it's important to ask which one they use, and how much training is done in the classroom verses independently (online, video, etc.). Because we worked with two different agencies in two different states, we were able to see how different this can be first hand. One agency used the Pressley Ridge Treatment Parent training that required 36 hours in the classroom and was lecture based, but covered an extensive amount of information we found quite valuable. The other agency used Trust-Based Relational Intervention training through a mix of online, video and in classroom training that totaled 24 hours. This was also an excellent training, but I can tell you that neither training, nor both combined, taught me everything I needed to know as a foster parent. It did provide a good base of what we needed though, and it gave us tools to learn more. It's so important to find an agency that provides the best training possible that fits in your schedule.
4. Do they have case aids to transport children when needed?
The reason this is a separate question, and not just lumped into support services, is because it really can be a lifesaver. Some agencies will provide transportation to and from parent visits. All agencies will prefer that you transport, but some will require you to do all transportation while others have hired case aids that will provide this service when it's needed. My husband and I both work, and when our foster daughters came to us from another foster home their visit schedule was already set. They had visits during the day with both parents, and there was no way we could take off work to take them. The case aid would pick them up from day care, take them to their visit and drop them off at our home. It was amazing! If you find an agency that offers this service consider it extremely valuable.
5. Do they provide respite care?
Respite care is when another foster parent provides temporary care for your foster child, usually for up to two weeks. It can be for many reasons including a business trip, mission trip, vacation, illness or self care. Most agencies will provide this service to their foster parents; however, it can be a challenge to get depending on your agency. Asking upfront how many respite providers the agency has, and how much notice is needed to get care may give you some insight into how accessible this service is. As a new foster parent I did not think we would need this service, especially with family willing to help. As time went on though, I realized my family wasn't up to caring for four children at one time! We did end up using respite when we had to travel out of state for a few days for a business trip. I was so thankful we had the option! An agency that values their foster families will make respite care easily accessible.
I hope this gives you a good idea of what to ask when you're exploring agency options. If you have additional questions feel free to comment or message me.