Free Child Care and Summer Camps for Foster Kids

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Two years ago my partner and I went from being childless (by choice) to parents to five children (by choice). It had always been a life goal of mine to foster and we were finally in a place where we could make that happen. In the last two years we have learned enough to fill five editions of a “Dummy’s Guide to Foster Parenting,” and one of the first chapters would be on how to use this extraordinary support provided by the State of Missouri called free child care! As magical as it sounds, the frustrations that accompany it may have made us bang our head against the wall a few times. This blog post is dedicated to my 31 year-old, newbie foster parent self. Anything to make this journey easier!

How to Qualify: Fully-funded child care is provided to foster children ages newborn up to 13 years old placed with foster parents who “have a valid need for child care.”[i] IE- both parents or the single parent working full-time or in school full-time. The foster parent(s) then fill out the Child Care Schedule Verification Form and submit it to their licensing worker to be processed. If a child is 13 years old or older and requires child care, the case worker can have the therapist or psychiatrist of the child fill out a form to get an exception made – the challenge there is finding child care providers who are licensed for children 13 and older, difficult, but not impossible (i.e. Boys and Girls Club).

Where to Find Providers: The child care provider must be both licensed by the Department of Health and Senior Services, and have a valid contract with DSS for foster children. Any provider that is eligible must have a Departmental Vendor Number (DVN) issued by DHSS, but note: not every provider with a DVN is contracted with DSS for foster children. Foster parents are responsible for identifying child care facilities that meet the requirements for this benefit. When calling the child care facility, it is important to ask if they are licensed and contracted with the state – specifically for foster children. Some facilities are licensed but not contracted and some facilities are licensed and contracted, but only contracted for child care subsidy and not for foster children (*head banging against wall*). Child care providers are paid 25% of their full rate for foster children, so unfortunately, the majority of child care facilities choose not to be contracted for foster children. Providers can be found here.

In the rare case that a licensed child care provider is not available, the child’s case manager can submit a waver for a non-licensed and/or non-contracted child care provider.

How to Enroll: After the foster families have been approved, and a child care facility has been identified, the child’s case worker must authorize the child for child care at the elected child care facility. The case worker needs the DVN of the facility which is confirmed with an Authorization Notice sent to the foster parents. Occasionally, the child care facility requests the Authorization Notice before enrolling the child, yet the Authorization Notice can take weeks to arrive (*more banging of the head*); therefore, the case worker can take a screen shot of the authorization in the database and that has proven sufficient for child care facilities. The child care providers will be paid directly by the Children’s Division with a Child Care Vendor Invoice that the case worker handles. Note: Child care providers are NOT ALLOWED to charge foster families additional fees above the reimbursement paid by Children’s Division, unless it is for opt-in activities, like field trips.

Summer Specific: Child care over the summer is the same process as above, but some challenges may arise. Some helpful search engines can be found here and here, but beware that they are not foster child specific. Some reliable summer camp resources for foster kids include the Boys and Girls Club, the Salvation Army, KinderCare, and occasionally the YMCA  And a HUGE shout out to Zoo Camp, which has an amazing scholarship program and is very accessible for children with special needs.

Hopefully, for the newbie foster parent, this can be a starting point for a very complicated and frustrating system that allows many of us to foster some pretty amazing kiddos. Any tips and tricks I missed? Add them in the comments below!

More information can be found here and here.

[i] MO Resource Parent Handbook, Department of Social Services Children’s Division, Feb 2015

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Zoe is fulfilling her dream of being a foster mom of three (sometimes five, sometimes two) who, on the side, works full-time for an international corporation. Challenges and chaos are embraced and there is always time for more commitments, and, usually, her partner acquiesces. Zoe’s favorite activity is advocating for her foster kiddos and least favorite activity is managing the guilt of a working traveling mom. Her favorite splurges involve her neighborhood tea and pie shops and a soak in the tub. Zoe is learning the tricks of this (foster) parenting trade, one humiliating lesson at a time.