A Brief History of Resource Family Rates

For a long time, resource family rates in New Jersey were stagnant and did not correlate with the actual cost of raising a child. But with the help of FAFS and the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, rates are now linked to the USDA and are updated annually.

Resource Family RatesWe have a story we like to tell here at Foster and Adoptive Family Services.

It involves our co-founder Sue Dondiego. She was standing before the Legislature at the State House in Trenton in the 1970s to fight for increased resource family 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. 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.”

Foster Care Advocates Partner With State For Improved Services

Foster Care AdvocatesWhat started off as a partnership between three foster parents grew into a statewide group of foster care advocates.

One of the reasons Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS) has survived and thrived for forty years is our unique perspective as an organization. Some foster care organizations tend to be in conflict with child welfare agencies. FAFS strives to work with our state’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P, formerly DYFS) as foster care advocates to make sure kids in foster care get what they need – including capable and caring foster parents. Continue reading

Support Groups for Foster Parents in NJ: An Invaluable Resource

Support groups for foster parents in NJ are “invaluable” in their efforts to care for the state’s abused and neglected children.

support groups for foster parents in njI got involved in FAFS’ support groups for foster parents in New Jersey very early on. When I began fostering, I received a call from Carol, Ed Ciak’s (FAFS Board Member) wife. At the time, the Division had asked her to contact all new foster parents when they received their first placement. She asked how things were going, asked if I had received the paperwork I needed (Medicaid card, foster parent ID letter, initial clothing allowance, etc.) and then invited me to a New Jersey Foster Parent Association (now Foster and Adoptive Family Services, or FAFS) meeting.

I went, and have been going ever since.

FAFS’ county-based support groups for foster parents in NJ provide opportunities to gain and share information with others who are fostering children through the Division. The group is open to all licensed resource parents in NJ, whether they are foster parents, have adopted from foster care or have taken a relative or friend’s child into their home (kinship).

Get help from people who truly understand when you join support groups for foster parents in NJ.

Caring for a child of another family and co-parenting with DCP&P (formerly DYFS) are unique experiences that most in the general public don’t understand. The advice and support of other foster parents is invaluable. The best advice I’ve received as a foster parent was to 1) attend FAFS meetings and 2) to use the Division chain of command.

Free training for New Jersey foster parents is provided at the county meetings, often by speakers from community organizations. These trainings help foster families identify additional community supports and programs that might meet the needs of their foster children. Information is shared on a variety of topics, including discipline, life books, separation and loss, medical issues, long term effects of exposure to drugs and alcohol in utero, etc.

Attending Middlesex County FAFS’ support group for foster parents is invaluable to me. The speakers we bring in every month teach me about resources available in my community as well as about addressing some of the special needs of children in out-of-home-placement.

Support groups offer advice and empathy to foster parents in NJ.

However, the biggest benefit is the contact with other foster parents. From them, I have learned so much about navigating the system and about advocating for the children in my care. When I am dealing with an issue with one of my children, there has almost always been someone else who has faced that same issue with one of their own and can offer empathy and advice.

I believe it is the support and information I receive at these meetings that has allowed me and my family to foster for as long as we have.

In order to make it even easier for foster parents in NJ to participate in support groups, FAFS has taken them online! Online support networks allow foster adoptive and kinship parents to discuss the issues that matter most to them in a private social network just for them. Learn more about FAFS’ foster parent support groups in NJ.

NJ Foster Care History Timeline The 1980s

The 1980s were a time of growth and change that led to many positive developments for New Jersey’s foster families.

“We are proud of New Jersey’s distinction as the national model of partnership between a State child services agency and foster parents. Together we are setting an example for state agencies in recognizing the invaluable contribution that foster parents can have – not only in caring for thousands of children on a daily basis, but also in shaping the quality and diversity of substitute care services for the future.” Nicholas Scalera

NJ Foster Care History Timeline: The 1980s

1983 – Foster and Adoptive Family Services‘ partnership with DYFS as advocates, not adversaries, begins

1983 – NJFPA becomes the first state association to receive state funding for advocacy, in-service training and recruitment of foster homes

1983 – NJFPA receives DYFS policy regarding foster care for review and comment before implementation

1983 – Support Groups for Foster Parents (then known as Volunteer Committees) now in every county in NJ

1983 – Legislation on foster care programs/services amounting to over four million dollars introduced in Senate and Assembly

1983 –  Governor Thomas Kean designates May as Foster Parent Month in NJ

1986 –  Touch A Life (Become a Foster Parent) ad campaign debuts – created for NJFPA from donations of professional service through the NJ Council on Advertising.

1987 –  Liability insurance program for foster parents established

1987 –  Foster Parent support worker position introduced