My name is Destiny Adams and I am caring for my two younger sisters who are in foster care. Previously, I shared my story here.
What I want to reflect on today is my experience participating in a Child and Family Team (CFT) meeting. California requires that a CFT meeting be held within 60 days of a child entering foster care.
Since my two sisters came to live with me, I have attended two CFT meetings. At these meetings, we felt empowered to express our concerns and we received services to support our needs as a result.
It was important for my family and me to understand the purpose of the CFT meeting before it was convened. Our team did a great job explaining the meeting’s purpose and our individual roles. We were prepared going into the meeting and knew what to expect.
Our team included a balanced mix of family, natural supports, and agency workers. It included my sisters, our father, my older sister’s wraparound team and supervisor, her social worker and her social worker’s supervisor, a behavioral specialist, a therapist, a parent partner, a facilitator and caregiver advocate.
Everyone was very supportive and had a role to play in these meetings. For example, when my older sister got anxious, the behavioral specialist walked her outside the room and helped calm her. The wraparound team spoke to my older sister’s special needs. Having an array of expertise in the room allowed us to have a holistic discussion to support my sisters.
There were many members of our team, so it was very important to have a neutral facilitator to ensure that everyone had equal time to speak and felt empowered to do so. I didn’t feel rushed and the facilitator documented everything, which made me feel like everything we said was important.
In the meetings, disagreements arose between my father and me regarding who should care for my sisters. The facilitator did an amazing job by giving us both time to speak and even asking my sisters for their opinions. The facilitator also did a great job by asking questions to help me discuss different things I otherwise may not have remembered to mention. For example, he brought up education and I was able to speak to my sisters’ achievements since they moved in with me.
I felt confident that the social worker and the supervisor had all the information they needed to make an informed decision in developing my sisters’ case plans. In the end, they decided it was better for my sisters to be with me.
Our CFT meeting included Sylvie de Toledo, a caregiver advocate from Alliance of Relative Caregivers (ARC), a family support group. Caregiver advocates like Sylvie are very knowledgeable about the services and programs available to us, and Sylvie knew exactly what to ask and how to ask for it. When we expressed our concerns and needs, Sylvie would ask the workers if they could connect us with the appropriate resources. For example, she helped us receive funding while I completed Resource Family Approval (RFA). She connected me with organizations to help with rent and in-home support services for my family. We had no idea services like this existed until Sylvie brought them up. The presence of a caregiver advocate was so crucial to securing services for my family because the workers often did not offer something unless Sylvie prompted them to do so.
I learned from Sylvie that we had to follow up after the meeting to ensure we received the services. Sylvie kept the workers accountable after the CFT meeting ended.
CFT meetings can be a powerful forum for families in developing the case plan and getting connected to programs and services. I hope that CFT meetings for other caregivers and families will be as beneficial and empowering as it has been for us.