You’ve recently made the life-altering decision to become a foster parent and have just completed all of your training and licensing requirements. Congratulations! You are entering into an incredible new world of love, emotion, and service. It won’t always be easy, but hopefully you will believe it’s worth it.
Or, maybe you’ve been doing this for a while and have just said a heartbreaking goodbye to a placement, but cannot wait for the joy that the next one will bring. You’re awaiting that call.
Either way, receiving a call from a caseworker asking if you’re willing to accept a new placement is huge, and it is so important to be prepared. It may feel exciting, daunting, or overwhelming, but we’re here to help with some ways you can process the call and make a clear and informed decision. It’s always important to know as much information as possible about a potential new addition to your family.
With emergency placements you may not be able to ask all of these, but here are some questions to ask when receiving the call to accept a foster placement:
- The basics: age, gender, and the number of children to be placed?
- Would I be their first placement?
- If not, how long have they been in foster care? What is their placement history?
- Why are they needing to be placed/coming into care?
- What is their legal status? Will it be a short or long-term placement?
- What can you tell me about the circumstances that led to their removal or transition? Are there safety concerns / behavioral issues that I should be aware of?
- Are they a runaway risk?
- What can you share about the family situation, parents’ information, and background?
- Do they have any siblings in or out of care?
- Do they have contact with their biological parents?
- What county are they from? What will bio family visits look like and where do they live?
- What are any upcoming important dates or appointments? Birthdays?
- Do they attend school or daycare? Will they be changing schools or districts if placed with me?
- What is their understanding of the reason that they are in foster care?
- Do they have any dietary restrictions or specific medical needs?
- What is their medical history? Are they up to date on medical/dental care?
- Will they be bringing anything with them that you know of?
- Any information on their likes and dislikes? What will make them feel most comfortable/at home?
- What is the next step if I were to accept? Will there be pre-placement visits?
- Is there anything else I should know?
- What type of formula do they need and what size diapers do they wear?
- Was there prenatal substance exposure?
- Will they be able to live with other children and/or animals in my home?
Remember: While you have many questions prepared, you may not be able to receive all of your desired answers. Make sure to know and stick to specific and predetermined limits and non-negotiables within your family. Finding the right fit for placement is in the child’s best interest, and it’s okay if that isn’t you. Saying yes is so exciting, and saying no leaves the door open to say yes later. Try to have a plan for ending the call, whether that is asking for time to discuss with your spouse or other members of your household, or making an informed decision right then and there.
- You can do harder things than you know, if fear is the only thing holding you back then we want to encourage you to lean into the fear and keep taking one step forward.
- Focus on the placement(s) and their needs, love them well and allow yourself to get attached.
- Always ask questions! Take care of yourself and your family as well.
- Remember that reunification is the ultimate goal.
- Try not to take things personally.
- If possible seek professional help, therapy is a beautiful and wonderful tool.
- Expect the unexpected.
- Remember that this experience will bring challenges, but also so much unexplainable joy!