How to Help Children Transition from Parent to Guardian Care
By Haven Evans 

As a mom, I know that raising children is the toughest job that you can have. Children are fully dependent on parents for clothing, food, shelter, healthcare, education, and toys—and those are just a few of the physical needs they require. Children also need their emotional, psychological, mental, and spiritual needs met—they really need love and to grow up in a safe environment.

As parents, we are called to be our children’s protectors and providers. I know that parenting is hard enough in the best of times, but when life’s tough challenges – incarceration, substance abuse disorder, separation/divorce, domestic violence, mental health needs – add to the stress, parenting can seem overwhelming.

So, what happens when the parent(s) isn’t the best person to raise their children? If a situation is deemed unsafe—whether due to abuse, neglect, or other reason—and children are removed from the home, how can foster parents, grandparents, kinship caregivers, and care providers help children transition from living with their parent(s) to being cared for by someone else?

Below are a few tips that our organization has put together to help you navigate the unique challenges of caring for a child that is now in your care:

• First, let the child know that they were removed from their parent(s) care by no fault of their own. Don’t speak negatively about the child’s parent(s), however explain that at this time, your home is the safest place for them to stay.
• Second, let the child know that they are safe and will be protected in your care. Stability and protection are incredibly important for children, so keep reassuring the child you are caring for. Consistency, nurturing, and acceptance will go a long way in helping the child feel secure and loved.
• Third, know that while children are resilient, they need time to process what has happened to them, especially if they were removed from their parent’s home and placed in your care. Children are born loving their parents, and regardless of what their parents may or may not have done, the child-parent relationship is complicated and nuanced. If the children you are now caring for are old enough to talk and carry on a conversation, give them time and the space they need to open up to you. Every child is unique and while some children may want to talk about what happened or what is happening right away, others may need weeks, months or even years. Don’t pressure them but reassure them that you are always willing and able to listen.
• And finally, cooperate with any professionals who may be involved with your situation (caseworkers, county child welfare agencies, and similar entities). Ask what kinds of resources are available for yourself and the children you are caring for. It’s crucial that everyone involved has the resources that they need. Neither books, brochures, instruction manuals can solve all of the issues you are now dealing with as a new caregiver. I’d encourage you to seek professional help whenever it’s warranted. Remember, that no websites or support from friends, family, and coworkers can take the place of a doctor, therapist, attorney, or other professional. There is nothing wrong with asking for help.

Haven Evans has served as the Director of Training at the Pa Family Support Alliance since 2016. She has more than eight years of experience in the child welfare field, as a caseworker, ChildLine supervisor and most recently, ChildLine Manager. She was responsible for managing the state’s 24/7 intake unit that responds to a large volume and variety of calls regarding the care of children, particularly reports of suspected child abuse or neglect. Haven also supervised Background Checks Units responsible for child abuse history clearances. She brings to PFSA an extensive knowledge of Pennsylvania’s Child Protective Services Law and has conducted many training sessions and written procedural manuals to ensure that legal requirements are met.

By Jill Whitmyer

Tips on Finding Trustworthy Child Care
By Haven Evans

If you are a parent, then you know that finding a trustworthy, responsible, and kind-hearted adult to take care of your child while you are at work, attending school, or even running errands is truly one of the most important and monumental decisions that you could ever make.

How do you decide who is “good enough” to take care of your child when you aren’t there?

At Pa Family Support Alliance, we know that children are our most precious resource. They need to be cherished, cared for, and loved. That is why our mission is to prevent child abuse through education.

When you leave your child for any period of time, you want to know that not only will your child remain safe, but that your child will be comfortable around the person you choose, regardless of whether you are hiring an occasional babysitter, a full-time nanny, or placing your child in daycare.

If you are embarking on this journey of trying to find a trustworthy individual to care for your child, first, know that you are not alone! There are thousands of other parents all across Pennsylvania right now who are trying to make this decision as well.

You probably have so many questions swirling through your mind, and while there is no “one size fits all” answer—every child, parent, and family dynamic is different—there are certain steps you can take to ensure that your child remains safe and protected.

We compiled a list of tips together to help you navigate this process.

♦ Know your child’s needs and educate yourself on what type of characteristics and qualities you would want this individual or daycare facility to possess.

♦ Sometimes the best place to look for a caregiver is in your own family, like a grandmother, aunt, or sister—but not always. Placing your child in someone’s care is a very personal decision, so you need to detach yourself from the idea that family equals safety and examine that individual accordingly. You should ask yourself, “If this individual wasn’t my _____ and was a complete stranger, would I hire her to care for my child?” If the answer is yes, then great! If the answer is maybe or no, then you might want to consider other options.

♦ Talk to your neighbors, coworkers, members of your religious organization, or fellow parents at a sibling’s school – see who they have found to be reliable, trustworthy caregivers.

♦ If looking at daycare facilities, be sure they are licensed daycare facilities. By only pursuing licensed daycare facilities, you will weed out those who are consistently using unsafe practices with kids (examples: too many kids with one staff, unsafe toys, caregivers with a history of abusing kids, etc). Daycare licenses, as well as licensing violations and statuses, are available to the public. In PA, daycare licensing information can be found at http://www.dhs.pa.gov/citizens/searchforprovider/childcareprovidersearch/index.htm

♦ Once you’ve come up with a list of potential caregivers or facilities, meet them and ask them any questions you want answered. Have the questions that you want to ask prepared ahead of time so you don’t forget to ask any pertinent ones. Here are a few suggested questions you can ask:

o Are you licensed?
o What are your teacher-to-child ratios?
o Is there a weekly learning plan?
o What are your policies on vacation/sick days/snow days/summer hours, etc?
o What are your rates?
o Who provides the meals and snacks?
o What is your discipline policy?
o Where do the kids nap and what time is naptime?

♦ If you believe you have found a trustworthy individual to care for your child, ask for references and make sure you call each and every one of them. Ask the references probing questions about the individual or daycare organization you are thinking about hiring.

♦ Check the individual’s qualifications by requesting that individual or staff provide you with their Child Abuse, Criminal and FBI background clearances. Wait till you see those clearances before making your decision.

♦ If you have decided on an individual that you want to hire as your child’s caregiver, invite the individual over to your home to meet your child. Observe and see how they interact together. If you have decided on a daycare facility to care for your child, spend a morning at the facility and allow your child to meet his/her teacher and interact in the room with the other children. Do not let the first time you leave your child in their care be the first time your child meets this person. If the interactions appear off or something feels very wrong, trust your gut and don’t place your child in their care.

♦ If you hire an individual to watch your child at your home, make sure you establish what your family’s rules are and put ANY and ALL emergency contact information easily accessible, should it be needed.

♦ Consider arriving early to pick up your child or drop by randomly during the day to check in without the caregiver expecting you. Think of it as a surprise visit! Be observant when you do this – is your child being supervised appropriately? Does your child appear clean and happy? If your child is old enough to talk on a phone, call your child on the phone and ask how things are going.

♦ Once you are home with your child without the caregiver, ask your child questions—both direct and open-ended questions about their day. See how your child thought the time went without you and if your child seems comfortable with you being gone. If your child is non-verbal, watch for changes in their behaviors – especially acting-out behaviors or behaviors that appear to be driven by an unseen or misplaced fear. Those types of behaviors are warning signs that something may be causing fear or anxiety in your child.

♦ Lastly, don’t be afraid to change a caregiver because you have concerns with how they are caring for your child. Your child’s health and safety is more    important than the feelings of that caregiver.

For more information on childcare resources in your area, click here: http://www.dhs.pa.gov/citizens/searchforprovider/childcareprovidersearch/index.htm

On how to recognize the signs of abuse and neglect, visit our website at https://www.pa-fsa.org/About-Us/Understanding-Child-Abuse-Neglect-in-Pennsylvania/Recognizing-Abuse-Neglect