What is a Foster Care MDT Meeting? and How Can I Thrive in One?
Intimidated by MDT meetings?
You shouldn't be! These are just meetings to discover what is in the BEST interest of the child and move forward with the case. Let's see what we, as foster parents, can do to be the perfect advocate for our foster children. This post is a part of my larger professional series; check out this post for more information on professionalism as a foster parent: https://impressingminds.com/professional-foster-parenting/
What is a Foster Care MDT meeting?
An MDT meeting is a "multidisciplinary team meeting"; many disciplines come together to discuss the progress of the case. The invited members discuss the upcoming court case and the recommendations for the judge. Most likely the progress of the parents and how they are doing in relation to their objectives in order to move forward with reunification are clarified at this meeting. Biological parents are in attendance. Find out more about CASA workers by clicking on the adoption.org website. https://adoption.org/what-is-a-casa-worker#:~:text=A%20CASA%20worker%20is%20a,have%20an%20overload%20of%20cases.
Members of the Foster Care MDT meeting
Firstly, an MDT meeting has several lawyers present, a case manager, social workers, foster parents, and anyone representing the children, such as a CASA worker. A CASA worker is a court-appointed special advocate who stands up for the child. This position is voluntary and assists in the overworked social services arena by advocating for the child. Find out more about a CASA worker by clicking this link:
Secondly, know that lawyers are present to represent their clients, the parents. Some lawyers represent only one parent. Another lawyer would represent the child in the case. The lawyer representing the child is called the Guardian et Litem or GAL (which literally means "child advocate"). It is a guardian that has an interest in protecting the child legally and otherwise. The guardian may focus on legal issues only if there is a CASA worker involved. CASA workers are not available in all areas.
These overworked lawyers work for much less than their normal wage compared to their normal hourly earnings, yet perform the services out of the kindness of their hearts.
Thirdly, An MDT meeting may have someone from the school in attendance as well. A teacher may be invited because of something specific, academically, that needs to be addressed. Lastly, there may be anyone who has observed the interactions with the visits; these semi-professionals are there to give a report of how the parenting skills have improved. The prosecuting attorney or assistant prosecuting attorney may also be present.
Foster Care MDT meetings usually take place in a room at the social services building or near the courthouse. In order to have a successful meeting, a medium to a large room that holds eight to 10 people is necessary and must be booked in advance.
Because there are many professionals in the meeting, it is often important to be assertive if you want to be heard or have something worth sharing. These people are busy and have many cases that often get mixed up in their minds because of the overload they possess in the field of child protective services; they could rely on you to clarify which case is which.
Therefore, if you want to be heard in the foster care MDT meeting, I suggest coming to the meeting in a professional manner and arrive early. This will give you a flare of value that most foster parents do not experience. Personally, and through no fault of theirs, I was overlooked by lawyers, the prosecutor, and others in the room. The foster mom seemed to be the least important person in the room to everyone except me.
Unfortunately, I could not figure that out because I did have them 24/7 for most of the week. Knowing almost everything about their daily lives, I could answer about their appetite, their bedwetting, their fight at school last week, Etc. I knew they cried before a visit and got McDonald's Happy Meals on the way home from each visit also. My home was the safe haven that the kids needed and felt comfortable. My family was the one who provided the stability to the kids; I had a voice that needed to be heard.
A strategy for me would be to practice what I was going to say. I also did several other things.
Ways to become a professional at the Foster Care MDT meetings: AND BE HEARD!
Arrive on time. Do not be more than 10 minutes early. Never be late.
Dress professionally. Once I was mistaken for a lawyer at the MDT meeting. I knew I had the right outfit on and was on my way to make a great first impression with these new people.
As you walk in, introduce yourself with eye contact with each person. Say your name and that you are the foster parent of XYZ's children. Have a way to take notes - preferably not on your phone, and take the notes that affect the kids - not other notes. Sometimes I would write other notes when I got home and the meeting was fresh in my mind. I did that to add to their life books. This way they'd know more information from the meeting when they are older.
Stay off your phone.
Sit up straight, with good posture, next to the guardian if you know which one that is. You are on the same side of the meeting - the children's side. The other lawyers are advocating for the parents and sometimes there is a conflict. You could also sit near the social worker if you are familiar with him/her.
Maintain eye contact with the speaker of the conversation the entire time.
Look for a good spot to interject your assessment of the child(ren) for this month. I have created a form to use that will give you a guide as to how to give a report to the team. Check that out at the bottom of the post. Watch my YouTube video on how to give an excellent monthly report to a social worker during her visit and at the MDT meeting.
When the meeting is over, thank the social workers and other members of the team for what they do for the children of their county, district, or parish. This is a thankless job. Showing appreciation would be a change from typical interactions and could leave a lasting impression.
Professional Attire for the Foster Care MDT Meeting
After the MDT meeting is over, the social worker will create a complete report from the discussions at the meeting. You will not get this report. I suggest giving your notes to her prior to leaving the meeting so she can utilize them to assist with accurate documentation. You should make a copy for your records! The judge will obtain the final meeting report. Put a copy of the report into the child's life book as well. (I hope you have a copier at home!)
If you want to be a professional team member, it takes a little effort and a little time. This time and effort will set you up as a valuable member of the MDT. This professionalism will mean elevating foster parents to the respected position they should be in.
A Word about the Online Foster Care MDT Meeting
When the MDT meeting is online, like a Zoom format, there is really no difference in the methodology. First, you still need to dress professionally for the camera. Secondly, provide the children with a quiet activity in the house -try to anyway (I know, I know...). Next, remember to mute yourself unless speaking. Prepare in advance what you are going to say in the form of an oral report just like you would if it were in person. Use the form to guide you. Lastly, don't forget that you can mail or email the form to the worker as a summary.
Next, speak clearly and professionally. Here are some tips for utilizing Zoom meetings. https://it.umn.edu/services-technologies/how-tos/zoom-best-practices-in-meeting-one-page
Thriving in an Online Foster Care MDT meeting
Download my monthly foster report form. Head over to YouTube to hear how to complete the form and communicate even more effectively for the meeting. https://youtu.be/vL55Zu0W9uc
What is your biggest issue at the MDT proceedings? How have you been treated? What was your first experience like? AND, how did you react? Will this form help you? Let me know the answers to these questions in the comments!