To receive one training credit, please read the article below and answer the following questions.

Documentation – Are You Doing It?

The busiest people I know are foster parents. They have numerous roles, including: parent, teacher, counselor, friend, detective, cook, chauffeur, and mentor. With all these duties, I understand why foster parents miss documentation. Documentation is a very important duty that needs to be done to protect you when an emergency or unfortunate event occurs.

How to start: Purchase a notebook, write the foster child’s name on the front of the notebook (or for confidentiality, just initials), on the inside write the foster child’s name, their case manager’s name and phone number and the social worker (if foster child has one) and his/her phone number, number the pages (so you know if one page was removed), and keep the notebook accessible. Now you are ready to document. Back in school we were taught how to write a newspaper article. Ask yourself those five questions: how, why, when, who, and what. Next answer these questions in your notebook, starting with the date. This sounds like a lot of work, but like everything else, the more you do it the easier it gets.

How to document: Names of parties involved, time event took place, where event took place, what happened, use the exact words of the foster child if s/he is older. How did the foster child get that lump or bruise.

Why document: To remember dates, times, actions taken, cover foster parent’s actions, to repeat the event to the courts or the case manager accurately, or an investigator. Why are you taking the foster child to the doctor, or why are you meeting with the social worker.

When to document: Each time the medication is given, unusual behaviors after visit, any marks or bruises, foster child tells of abuse or problems occurring anywhere: foster home, biological home, extended family home, school, other place.

Who to document: All people involved; foster care child, visitation worker, biological parent, extended family of biological parent, biological siblings, foster parents and foster parent’s siblings. Who did the foster child visit with?

What to document: Name, time and amount of medications given, medication changes, medication side effects, medications added, medication directions, or abuse that occurred; whether emotional, physical, of sexual.

Example: Foster child’s name (who) was riding his bike in the driveway (where) on Tuesday, March 13th, 2007 between 3:00 and 4:00 (when). He avoided running over the dog and fell off his bike (how) scraping his knee (what). I washed the knee with soap and water and he applied an ice pack.

There are many reasons to document. The most important reason is we don’t have very good memories. You may already use a calendar of some kind to remember appointments. This is great. These acts make you more organized and efficient. Foster parents are very busy. Busy people cannot always depend on their memories to keep all the facts straight. Documentation is a great way to record events.

The second reason to document events is when the case manager or therapist asks you to give them certain information. If you document you are more able to answer questions intelligently and settle disputes. When your foster child has a bad day, the therapist will want details to figure out what happed. Another example -- we all know how much some teenagers like to argue. Now you can open the notebook and show them the last time they were grounded or what they did to loose privileges. The notebook is your paper witness to back you up on events.

The third reason to use documentation is in the event of an allegation against you.

Allegation means a statement by a party to a legal action of what the party undertakes to prove. Session II of PACE defines allegations: Things that are reported as being true but not yet proven. Writing things down, such as a foster child returning from a visit with their bio family and having bruises on their back will protect you. You will be able to call authorities and give accurate dates, the time, and the place the foster child went. This documentation will protect you from the troubled child that could report that you abused them. Your documentation of marks on a foster child, phone calls you made to report the marks who you spoke with and more will prove your innocence.

The last part of documentation is what should be documented. The answer is easy, everything. This sounds like a lot but foster parents are very vulnerable to allegations and misunder-standings. Writing down appointments on a calendar and listing phone calls made concerning the foster child is only a start. In order to remember dates at a later time, the documenting you do will establish where you were at a certain time and jog your memory to remember events. Start documenting now. Don’t wait until you are accused and must defend yourself to start to document. Make documenting a habit and it will go faster the more you do it.