We recently had the opportunity to interview Don Sheets, who began working at 211 Info as the foster parent support coordinator earlier this year. The 211Info Foster Parent Support Line is open 24/7 as a source of support for Oregon DHS foster parents. Don very generously agreed to answer a few questions about what the support line provides and the relationship between 211 Info and DHS caseworkers.
What do you think of as common situations encountered via the support line, and/or perhaps the most frequent topic of
concern prompting foster parents to call the support line and receive support?
Since my time at 211Info as the Foster Care Coordinator there are three themes that
are fairly consistent:
One is the need for daycare/childcare. Foster parents are looking for resources
near where they live geographically or where may work. Often, we are able to direct
them to resources meeting their needs. There is of course the challenges of finding
affordable care. Hopefully, the new DHS Child Welfare stipend for childcare helps offset
some of the costs.
The second is for respite providers. This is more of a challenge. Primarily, DHS
Child Welfare puts the responsibility on the foster parent to develop respite resources.
We are able to recommend some childcare resources. We recommend to the foster
parent to contact the certifier or the DHS caseworker. Multnomah County has a respite
line, but their resources are limited.
The third is for help with a child/youth who may be experiencing a challenging
behavioral and/or mental health event. We also help when a foster child/youth is
reported as a runaway. My observation is the individual answering for 211Info will listen
to the caller allowing the caller to express their needs and often, their frustration. Once
the caller has expressed their concerns, 211Info will inform the caller of resources.
Often, the call requires, what we describe as a warm hand-off, to the appropriate DHS
on-call staff. In addition, if it is determined it needs to be reported to the Child Abuse
Hotline, we will warm transfer directly to the hotline.
Is there any sort of follow-up by the staff when someone
makes contact with the support line? Do you have the ability to provide consistent check-ins to families who are interested?
Normally, once the call is transferred to DHS or the resource(s) is provided, we
would not do a follow-up. We do encourage the caller to call again if .more information
is needed. An exception to this is if the nature of the call would indicate follow-up may
be warranted. For example, we received a call from a relative of a an adult youth who is involved in the Washington Child Welfare System and has moved to Oregon. I will be
following up with this caller to see if they were able to find resources.
It sounds like parents are welcome to call and ask for help with
contacting caseworkers and better understanding parent roles and
responsibilities as determined by the DHS. Do you report communications you receive from parents to DHS/their specific caseworker(s)?
211Info has an excellent relationship/partnership with DHS. Often, DHS
Caseworkers will refer their providers to 211Info for resources. We are always
developing resources that can be provided to the caller to give further insight to their
roles as a foster parent. We also are able to provide information to foster children/youth
if or when they call 211Info. We often ask the caller if they would like for us to call the
case worker. Often, they will accept this offer. We gather information and provide at the
state level the types of calls we receive and our responses. Of course, if we believe it
needs to be reported to the DHS Child Abuse Hotline, as mandatory reporters, we will
make this call. For every call, we fill out a form that gets sent to local district contacts
with information about the caller and what the call was about.
Thank you once again to Donald Sheets!
How to reach a foster parent support specialist:
Dial 211 and listen for the parenting option
Text the keyword foster to 898211