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Foster Parenting: What Case Workers May Not Tell You


Child Protective Services Case Workers

In a year, one of my foster children had four different caseworkers. Every time we had a new caseworker I had to go over... and over... my foster child’s case history, filling in missing and misunderstood information from my child’s case file.

Child Protective Services (CPS) case workers have a long history of career-related burnout mainly because of an overwhelming caseload, departmental budget cuts, and compassion fatigue. High worker turnover rates in the field create more problems in family case files already filled with chopped-up, missing, and sometimes just plain wrong information.

Don’t misunderstand. Case workers work hard for their money and put up with a ridiculous amount of aggravation, not just from their own bureaucratic agencies; but, from the families under their care, attorney and doctor offices, and even the foster children themselves.

Foster Children Learn the System Early

It doesn’t take a foster child long to learn to work the foster system; foster kids learn early how to be non-compliant, manipulative, and passive-aggressive. For them, these are positive goals; learned for emotional survival and to get their needs met. Usually, they begin to learn these first in their family home situation.

Case 1: Runaway

As a brand new foster parent, I had a foster daughter for one hour. At age 16, she had our county foster system in a mild panic for two months. She came to our home and we settled her into her room, showed her where everything was, and told her how much we were looking forward to having her with us.

A short while later; I went to check on her and she was n- o- w- h- e- r- e. I asked the other children where she was. Apparently, she had her boyfriend pick her up from our driveway. She got into his car and off they went. She was thoughtful and called her case worker from every state she visited to let her know she was okay! Several months later she was picked up and put into a group foster home for teen runaways.

What the case worker should have told us: This child was a habitual runaway. The case worker’s reasoning, though misguided, was based on the usual problem placing teens; the foster system in America is overrun with teenagers and there are not enough families for them.

Case 2: Oppositional Defiant Disorder

My son aged out in the foster care system. Twenty-five years ago, policies forcing an early resolution for parental negligence were not yet in place. Since he was part of a sibling group that was not available for adoption together, he made the decision against being adopted by us (though he is as much our child as our other children).

When he came to our door; red-headed, freckled, tears running, he stuck out his hand and introduced himself and asked if he could stay with us for a while. Yes, of course he had our hearts forever in that instant.

What the case worker should have told us: This wonderful young man, who became our son in one moment, had ODD...oppositional defiant disorder. A young boy without any control over life’s circumstances was developing into a young man who refused to allow anyone any control over his; good, bad, or otherwise.

He fought his way through his early life and later on, with us, through middle and high school. We got to know our local law enforcement officers. The case worker’s reasoning in failure to disclose his diagnosis was affection for the child, hope for a good home for him, and again, no available placements for a pre-teen boy with anger and behavioral challenges.

Case 3: Brain-Injury

Children’s hospitals are known for the stellar care they offer to children and their families. We learned this well over the period of a year when we accepted the placement of a newborn girl who had been abused physically. Weeks were spent with the nurses learning her complex feeding procedures, care of her newly implanted shunt that allowed cerebral fluid to flow out of her head and into her abdomen, and how to watch for symptoms that could cause brain damage and death.

We had two case workers for this child...a local county worker as well as the worker from our private Christian child services agency. When we arrived home, round the clock care was the order of the day. A precious time for us; we watched day by day new milestones in health and normal baby happiness in our girl.

We were told several times by the county case worker that she saw no reason for us to be unable to adopt our little foster child as the agency had begun the process to terminate parental rights (TPR). Months later she was placed with a relative. Our hearts broke.

What the case worker should have told us: CPS was contacted by the child’s aunt who requested a kinship foster placement with her, while the child was still in the hospital. Our private agency worker was as surprised by the news as we were.

The county case worker’s reasoning in failure to disclose this information was not really our business to be told. State agencies may give you the courtesy of knowing certain information, but they are under no obligation legally to give foster parents personal family information relative to a foster child or their family.

Your Goal as a Foster Parent

Be aware that CPS agencies may or may not provide you with relevant information on your foster child, nor are they always going to give you the motivation for their decisions. As a foster parent, your goal is to provide a child with love, a home, and protection to your best ability. Stay informed as much as possible and ask many questions to many people involved in the welfare of your foster child.


*Office on Child abuse and Neglect, Children’s Bureau., Salus, Marsha K. “Supervising Child Protective Services Caseworkers.”U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. 2004. <> (accessed August 2013)

Parenting Poll

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


savannah on August 11, 2020:

I really want to be a foster kid..dont ask me why because its a long and complicated story.. I moved away from my family to live in a different state..well, actually, I was moving to a different state just to visit a friend for a week..but when it was time for me to go back home covid interfered and now im stuck here..and as far as I know I wont be able to go back for a long time...even if I did go back I wouldn't have anywhere to live..i cant stay at my any of my step dads houses anymore becauses they are pedofile..I cant go to my mums house because apparently theres no room for me..i cant go live with my dad because my brother lives there and I cant live with my brother because we get into very bad fights that which involve police I guess there no place for me..i don really fit in the middle mum ditched dad ditched quite frankly theres no where for me to go..lots of people feel bad for me but ive just been told to suck it up and stop being a baby..well I wouldnt be acting like a baby if I at least got to visit someone from my family...sometimes I thinks its my fault that my family ditched me..afterall everyone tells me its my not trying to brag but at my school and around town im really a good way as well...but not everyone knows how I feel..i feel lonely and im in pain..and the good thing about being able to fake a smile its that no one knows when your torn apart..i could be in a whole crowd of people and still feel really it really my fault though? and in case I didn't mention this, im twelve years old and im in pain..i would actually enjoy it if I had someone to talk to..

Dee on October 07, 2018:

Anyone telling a foster kid, “glad you are here” W T H!!! This kid may or may not (and by the safe families act bonuses, most likely not) have been abused. Being taken cases children shame and most think it’s their fault. You are benefiting by having a foster kid, they definitely and statistically are not. Don’t tell a kid abused by child theft you are glad of it.

Robbed on July 21, 2018:

My son was taken 9 months ago. He has a rare genetic condition and his health is being neglected by cps. Youth service beareu is the exact name of the service that is destroying my sons well being. I let a neighbor hold him and she had given him a narcotic wile he was sleeping. I told ysb what she did and she refused to talk to them so not only is my sons health being neglected, hes been ripped from my arms and i took the very best care of him. Im tired of reading how great they are because im constantly harrassed and accused of something id never do and most foster parents are either lazy or child molestors. Ive been in foster care myself so i know first hand. And these weordos are trying to adopt my son and this service that "protects" children is destroying the life of my son whos had enough surgeries and the more hes neglected, the worse his health is. Not to mention his mental state...very sad!! Sorry to hear all these terrible stories. At the same time, its not surprising, i was once a product of the system. It shouldnt be glorified.

Jackie bertram on June 20, 2018:

My daughter has 3 girls who have been adopted out, she also has 2 children 11& 12 in long term foster care. She has unsupervised visits with the 2. It's been 2 years. She just had a baby both her and baby are clean. So why did they take her baby. She passed the house check.

Jackie bertram on June 20, 2018:

My daughter has 2 kids 11 & 12 in long term foster care. She also has 3 girls that ha

tabevans on May 18, 2018:

i cried out at the end of mine and my daughter's visit with her three children in the cps building on April 6, 2017 and for this reason they have not let me see my grandchildren...THE EVENTS THAT LED UP TO MY 2yr old granddaughter came screaming in the lobby door. her mother and i were waiting in a small room just inside of the lobby. our apptmt was set for Thursday 3pm the foster parent dropped them off at 3:15. mother looked out the door when she heard the cry to see her daughter running to her she had two fingernail size cuts on her nose(worker said the foster who has pointy sharp fingernails said she fell in the driveway pavement) in a previous visit her daughter had three fingernail cuts on either side of her stomache mother was trying her daughter's new shirt on and seen scratches. foster mother said she didn't know if it happened when she got her out of the swing at the park or when she was choking on a hotdog and grabbed her out of her highchair, as she stuffs her face with food since they took her. cps took her, her sister of 6 and brother 7yrs old after we called police to report 6 and 7 yr old telling us that the man who worked at their daycare touched 6yr old under the table and 7 yr old grandson cried after hearing his sister tell mommy that the same man raped him three times taping his mouth and hands behind his back. when mommy got upset with the officer/detective after he told her that her children were not telling police what the they told us(after a yr mommy was able to see videos of her son being interview, because detective denied her when she requested in writing to see the interviews) detective said their stories were different than what we told police they, she said you haven't even investigated this man, you haven't interviewed any of the other children at their daycare(grandson said that he seen the man doing things to other children) or taken a picture of my son's leg, as he said the man scratched his leg when bullying him. the detective pointed his finger in her face and said, i know my job, ill be right back. he returned with a piece of paper that would change our lives forever. he said i need for you to sign here, im taking your children from you and i'm going to investigate you. the end of our visit mommy took 2 yr old to the bathroom at the cps building. It was now 4:15 on a Thursday. When she returned she asked me to hold my granddaughter while she talked to the case worker, because her daughter said "ow mommy" when she wiped her privates after urinating. mommy said"whats wrong" daughter said, "hurt" mommy said, "who, who hurt you?" daughter said, "Name of the foster dad" Prior to this visit 6 yr old sister told us that her baby sister was sleeping with the foster parents in their bed. The day before this visit the children had a dental apptmt that mommy went to with them son got beside his mom and asked if she brought food. mommy said not today because i can't bring food in the dental office. he began to cry she asked him what was wrong he said "well i'm hungry but im affraid to ask for food.mommy confronted the foster mother with this and said to her please feed my children when they are hungry when he walked into the room where we visited on April 6 2017, he was sick and had a high fever he said, "mommy, why did tell her anything about that, she knew i was sick last night and she made me eat every noodle on my plate and i threw up!" i asked the case worker if the foster parents knew what his fever was because it was high. the case worker called and came back to say "i called the foster mom and she said that she didn't even know he was sick."

my daughter(mommy) asked me to hold her 2 yr old so she could tell the case worker what her daughter said in the bathroom, she returned with the worker following behind her. As my daughter walked into the room she told me that the worker was not going to do anything about it. when the worker got to the door she said, "okay kids it's time to go, say goodbye!" still holding my 2yr old grand daughter i asked worker what did she mean she wasn't going to do anything about this. worker said, i'm sorry it's not like we have emergency places for these types of things, we will get to it tomorrow and if not tomorrow, for sure by Monday. I said goodbye to my granddaughter and put her on the floor, she walked away slowly, but when she got to the door she turned and let out a screaming cry. That is when I lost control of my emotions and cried out.

Donald Timmons on January 06, 2018:

Can my son get his younger brother back, cause I lost my rights. He has been in foster care for 15 months and they want to adopt him.But my son lives in another state,can my son adopt him?

Jessica on January 19, 2017:

Cps saints. Yeah right funny I'm kicked out of my house by cps because of fals accusations I'm tired of people seeing cps as perfect little angels

corinn on May 26, 2016:

You sound like a great person. We also adopted an out-of-control child (at the time) through foster care, and were NOT TOLD ABOUT 90 PERCENT OF THE HISTORY. We stuck it out, though, and through that, she has made tremendous progress.

LaurieNunley517 (author) from Deep South on January 28, 2016:

@smcopywrite thanks for your comments. You never know exactly what you may run into, but it's always best to know as much as you can. Ultimately, we gained a wonderful son. It was worth all of it!

smcopywrite from all over the web on January 27, 2016:

Thank you so much for such a wonderfully written and easy to understand hub. It answered countless questions which have plagued me and halted moving forward with the process of fostering a child.

I understood there were situations like these, but never imagined some of the examples given. Thanks again for the true nature of what the process will be like.

L.M. Hosler on November 23, 2013:

Very nice article and I admire you tremendously. It takes a special kind of person to take another's child and raise them. I live alone and have often thought about being a foster parent but I am not sure financially I could qualify. I also rent my home and not sure if my landlord would allow that. Background checks and all that I would have no problem with being as I have already worked with adults with special needs. Maybe someday.

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on November 17, 2013:

Nicely written. I had and have no idea about how the foster system works, but I always imagined it as a bit messy. I do know for certain that the people who choose this path have hearts of gold with the best interests of the child as their primary concern (or at least every person I know who has fostered has been that way). Thank you for sharing your stories here. :)

Yoleen Lucas from Big Island of Hawaii on September 21, 2013:

Here's the basis for another article: What Case Workers May Not Tell Foster Children:

1) People become foster parents because they are unfit for any other job. I know a case where the foster parents, after adopting, miraculously moved from the worst neighborhood to one of the best.

2) What is the background of the foster parents??? In the aforementioned couple, the man was a child molester. The agency figured he wouldn't mess with a girl under age 13, so they moved the kids out when she was 12 - but by then, she had already been molested.

3) Foster care is not the epitome of philanthropy - it is a meat market. The product - children - are judged by gender (boys are more desirable) - looks (attractive blonds have the best chance) age (the child's best chances are if they're under age 3) and health (they'd better not be handicapped in any way). If the child has siblings, they may have to be separated if they stand a chance of being adopted.

This puts a whole new spin on the topic, doesn't it???

FlourishAnyway from USA on September 21, 2013:

You are brave for continuing to get your heart broken and for loving and caring for these children as your own in spite of a system that does not always appreciate you or even cooperate with you. How sad. You must have a lot of patience.

LaurieNunley517 (author) from Deep South on August 07, 2013:

Yes, I know. It should be teamwork. It seems often to be the ideal and not the real world way. They have been and are a blessing. Thank you for your comment!

LaurieNunley517 (author) from Deep South on August 07, 2013:

Thank you Mary. I was not so much brave as blessed, but it was hard! Kudos for taking your grandchildren. You have given them stability and love. I know about them keeping you young...I've been raising children for 33 years. I have one teen at home now. Yes, there are horror stories...we have 2 little grandnieces that are in a bad situation...hmm...I may be raising children the rest of my life. I guess that's not a bad thing! Thank you for your comment and sharing!

LaurieNunley517 (author) from Deep South on August 07, 2013:

@Writer Fox Thanks so much...that's a nice thing to say. They have blessed me so much. God has always given me an abundance of people in my life to love! Blessings!

Shasta Matova from USA on August 07, 2013:

I've been a foster parent, and I naively thought that the case workers and I would be on the same team working on behalf of the children. I admire the work you have done with the kids.

Mary Hyatt from Florida on August 07, 2013:

You are a very brave woman. I don't think I would have fostered a teen aged girl like you did. I admire you for your work in fostering children. I was given custody of three of my grandchildren when their Mother could no longer care for them. I adopted all three. This was after my own four had grown up and left home. They have been a joy to me, and have kept me "young".

We hear of so many horror stories here in Fl. about foster parents who neglect the children; makes me very angry.

Voted this UP and will share.

Writer Fox from the wadi near the little river on August 07, 2013:

I think all of the children you have cared for have been fortunate to have been in your home, if only temporarily. Bless you and your household!