FIRST Program

Foster Intervention and Retention Support Team (FIRST) 

The FIRST Program provides neutral advice and support to foster parents statewide. Licensed foster parents may experience an investigation when someone makes an allegation against them. The Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) Licensing Division (LD) has a responsibility to look into these concerns. Most investigations do not result in a finding of abuse or neglect against a foster parent. However, these investigations can be a stressful time for you or your family. The FIRST Program is here to help you.  

 

How can they help? 

FIRST staff is accessible by telephone and can:

  •  Respond to your request for assistance within 12 hours.

  •  Explain the investigation process, including time frames. 

  •  Explain the difference between a Child Protective Service (CPS) investigation and a licensing complaint. 

  •  Listen to any anxieties you may have around the investigation process.  

  •  Assist you with ways to communicate your viewpoint to agency staff. 

  •  Talk to you and lend a supportive ear. 

  •  Meet with you by telephone at your request. 

  •  Advise you of community resources. 

 

Would you like to speak to a FIRST representative?
Call 866-393-6186 toll-free for FIRST support.
You can also view a printable brochure inEnglishorSpanish

 

FIRST staff are mandated reporters trained to advise and provide information to foster parents; however, they are not employed by DCYF. 

 

Resources

Although investigations are a necessary process, it puts the foster family under considerable emotional strain. FIRST line staff are here to speak with you! We also recognize the importance of support from fellow foster parents you are already connected with.  

 

Caregivers are often ready to jump in and assist others whenever they need it. However, we can struggle asking for that same support from others. This can be especially true when it involves an allegation related to the care we give our children. We do not always know what we need, especially in the middle of a difficult situation. Shame and fear can also play a role in avoiding asking for help. Knowing that foster parents undergo investigations at higher rates and normalizing the process for all can help alleviate some of the shame associated with allegations.  

 

The impact of the investigation may leave foster parents feeling extremely vulnerable and distressed. To avoid any conflicts of interest during the inquiry, service providers are not permitted to discuss the details of the investigation. It may feel like your social worker is withdrawing from reaching out, this should not be perceived as the social worker placing blame. Nonetheless, this can leave foster parents feelings isolated during the investigation process. Remember you are not alone. Reaching out to foster parents who are already a part of your support network is a vital resource. 

 

You are able to have a neutral third-party adult present during the interview to offer you moral and emotional support. If you wish for a person (outside your agency or FIRST line staff) to attend with you, they will need to complete this confidentiality form.   

This flyer will walk you through what happens after an allegation of a licensed foster home has been received by DCYF. Child Protective Services Investigations In State-Regulated Care 

 

What is LD/CPS investigating when they investigate Child Abuse and Neglect? Can I tell the investigator what happened from my point of view? What are the possible outcomes or findings of an investigation? 

These are just some of the questions answered in LD/CPS Foster Home Specific Frequently Asked Questions 

 

Here is a general resource site on DCYF’s page around Guidelines, Laws & Rules. At the bottom there are several Investigating Abuse and Neglect FAQGuidelines, Laws & Rules 

 

Ever wonder what some of your obligations and rights are as a foster parent? These documents give a brief overview of some RCWs and WACs related to reporting responsibilities and rights as foster parents. Check out the section on Licensing Infractions and Child Protective Services (CPS) Investigations. 

Foster Parent Rights and Responsibilities 

Reporting Responsibilities for Foster Parents 

 

Washington Administrative Code (WAC)

Revised Code of Washington (RCW)   

While it is impossible to protect yourself against investigations completely; trainings are excellent at mitigating the risk against allegations. Visit the Alliance for Child Welfare Excellence’s catalog for many offerings including trainings.  

These trainings can help prepare you to care for children who have experienced trauma: 

 •  Caregiving for Children with Physically Aggressive Behavior Concerns

 •  Understanding PTSD in Children

 •  Medication Management and Administration for Caregivers

 •  Infant Safety and Care for Caregivers

 

Despite your best efforts, foster kids sometimes get injured and allegations against the caregivers happen. 

These trainings are specific to investigations and allegations: 

 •  So You Have a New Placement … Now What?

 •  Introduction to the Investigative Process

 •  Paper Trail: Documentation Training for Caregivers

*Disclaimer: These resources are intended for general information only. Alliance CaRES does not provide specific direction, advice, or recommendations. Not all the information is pertinent to Washington State’s foster care system.  


 

Articles to share with those who are supporting you:  

How to Be Emotionally Supportive 

10 Simple Ways to Show Emotional Support to a Loved One in Need 

4 Tips to Effectively Ask for Help—and Get a Yes 

 

Articles to help manage the stress of investigations:

Allegations Happen: How to Prevent and Survive Them 

The author of this Foster Parent Journal blog post helps normalize the allegation process and offers strategies to help minimize stress. 

 

CPS: Implications for Foster Parents 

Fostering Perspectives, a publication dedicated to improving foster care and adoption in North Carolina. This article covers the real possibility for every foster parent of being investigated.  

 

Coping with Allegations 

Similarly, to foster partners, educators have higher rates of allegations. This document was developed by the Education Support Partnership of London to offer guidance for educators facing allegations. Pages 4 and 5 cover coping mechanisms that are helpful to read through.