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 will be prompted to leave a message, and someone will get back to you within 12 hours.
View the printable brochure in English or Spanish.
FIRST staff are mandated reporters trained to advise and provide information to foster parents; however, they are not employed by DCYF.
Investigations are stressful. Although they are a necessary process, it puts the foster family under considerable emotional strain. FIRST line staff are here to listen!
Foster and Kinship Caregivers are often ready to jump in and assist whenever it is needed. 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. Shame and fear can also play a role in avoiding asking for help. Speaking with others can normalize the process and help alleviate some of the shame associated with allegations. FIRST line staff are current and former foster parents, we’ve been there.
It may feel like your social worker is withdrawing from reaching out, this should not be perceived as the social worker placing blame. To avoid any conflicts of interest during the inquiry, service providers are not permitted to discuss the details of the investigation. Nonetheless, this can leave caregivers feeling isolated during the investigation process. Remember you are not alone. FIRST line staff are just a phone call away.
The impact of the investigation may leave caregivers feeling extremely vulnerable and distressed. Taking care of your self and family in the middle of an investigation can be a challenge. Join other foster and kinship caregivers in one (or both) of our Supportive Facilitated Discussions on self-care. We also recognize the importance of support from fellow caregivers. These groups can help you make connections and grow your vital support network.
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 FAQ. Guidelines, 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.
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:
• Fostering as Part of a Team: Supportive Facilitated Discussion
• Caregiving for Children with Physically Aggressive Behavior Concerns
• Caregiving for Children With Sexual Behavior Concerns
• Understanding PTSD in Children
• Medication Management and Administration for Caregivers
• Infant Safety and Care for Caregivers
• Prudent Parenting
Despite your best efforts, foster kids sometimes get injured and allegations against the caregivers happen.
These trainings are specific to investigations and allegations:
*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:
Articles to help manage the stress of investigations:
The author of this Foster Parent Journal blog post helps normalize the allegation process and offers strategies to help minimize stress.
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.