Retaining Foster Parents: The Exit Interview Process

A foster parent’s job isn’t easy.

exit interviewThe sheer amount of passion, vigilance and care a foster parent has to possess is exhausting on the best day, let alone on a day where you’ve had to fight tooth and nail for the appropriate medication or care for a child in your home. But before a foster parent succumbs to frustration and decides it’s time to close her home, it’s important to take a step back, breathe and remember that there are children out there that need you. Continue reading

A History of the Termination of Parental Rights

The landmark Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 ushered in a series of changes to the foster care system. The law was important for a litany of reasons, but perhaps none more so than giving clarity to the guidelines for the termination of parental rights.

termination of parental rightsPrior to the milestone act, states adhered to the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980. However, most states interpreted this law as requiring biological families be kept together, regardless of most situations.

That meant rather than terminating parental rights and allowing children to become part of new permanent families, many children in foster care spent their entire childhood in state custody, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Continue reading

5 Things That Came and Went in the 2000s While FAFS Continues On

The 2000s brought us Facebook, iPods and GPS along with a litany of other technology we continue to use today. It also brought us canceled television shows, discontinued sodas and failed football leagues. But throughout the ever changing landscape of the new millennium, Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS) continued on.

Here are 5 things that came and went in the 2000s while FAFS continued on. Continue reading

5 Things That Came and Went in the 1980s While FAFS Continues On

Forty-years is a long time. Four decades, full of their own fads, their own entertainment and their own technology have come and gone. Some of these things are remembered as a novelty, others are long forgotten.

But Foster and Adoptive Family Services, which was founded in 1974, continued to grow and provide support, training and advocacy to meet the special needs of foster, adoptive and kinship families in New Jersey before and after these popular ‘80s fads bit the dust.

Here are 5 things that came and went in the 1980s while FAFS continued on. Continue reading

Fighting for Foster Children: Mrs. Dondiego Goes to Trenton

She had never done this before, but that fact wasn’t going to stop her.

Sue Dondiego, our foster care organization’s founder and a stay-at-home foster mom, stood before legislators at the State House in Trenton in the 1970s, fighting for foster children’s rights.

“It was scary,” Dondiego said. “I was nervous as heck.”

Fighting for foster children’s rights

She was there to fight for increased board rates. At the time, the monthly clothing allowance for a child in foster care was about equal to one-third of the price of a new children’s coat.

She had the text of her speech all written out beforehand. After watching others give testimony before her, she realized that many of the speakers would use slashes in the text as places where they would breathe in order to slow down and be more effective.

She did the same.

“It’s cold outside,” Dondiego told the legislators. “What part of the coat would you like me to buy the child this month? The right sleeve? The left sleeve? The buttons?”

Fighting for foster children's rights

Learning how to fight

Dondiego read her testimony and quickly left. As she was walking out, she heard two voices yelling at her to come back.

They were Assemblywomen Mildred Barry Garvin and Jane Burgio, who would eventually become Secretary of State under Gov. Thomas Kean.

“They said to me where is it in the budget?” Dondiego said. “They showed me, this is the department’s budget, this is where we could put it. And they said you start now for next year. They really taught me.”

It was a lesson Dondiego would use often throughout her life fighting for foster children’s rights.

Her passionate testimony resulted in a 26 percent increase in board rates that year. She attended the appropriations committee meeting where the increase was passed.

“I stood up and asked them if I was allowed to say thank you,” Dondiego said. “They said no, but you’re welcome.”

It was one of the first victories Dondiego and Foster and Adoptive Family Services would have in the name of foster children and their resource parents.

“It felt good,” Dondiego said. “We’re getting things done.”

Continuing the fight

The victory emboldened Dondiego to continue fighting for foster children’s rights.

“Then I never shut up,” Dondiego said. “I got nervier. One year, I looked up the definition of child abuse and read it out loud. Then I looked at them and told them they were all guilty.”

She was a long way from the quiet young girl that the nuns in her Catholic school would often have to plead with to speak up during class, she said.

“If they could see me now,” Dondiego said.

She’d continue to testify in Trenton, always fighting for foster children and resource parents. Many times these sessions would go late into the night while her husband Bernie was home in Middlesex watching their children.

“He was the silent support structure,” Dondiego said. “He’s also a great cook. He’d have supper ready for me when I got back.”