I had a request from a reader (Hi Melanie!) that I list out the questions we ask when we get a placement call. And since I actually do have a list that I refer to, this post will be a relatively easy one to write.
1. Age of the child(ren)?
2. Why are they in care -- or coming in to care?
3. If they are already in care, how long have they been in the system?
4. Have they been in the system before? What is their history of moves?
The more moves they have suffered through the more likely they will have "behaviors". Read up on attachment disorders. This is not a topic that was covered in any of my trainings. But learning what I have about actual therapeutic parenting has been a huge advantage as we parent kids from the hurt places.
5. What grade are they at in school? Do they receive special education services for any reason?
It doesn't have to be a big deal but it's a good idea to know if the kids are at grade level for their age even if they aren't receiving special ed services.
6. Any known behaviors?
This is a big question. It can affect who can sleep with who if there are sexualized behaviors. (Some kids have to be in their own room.) If they are older it's good to know if they have a history of running, alcohol or drug abuse, and more. Push to get as much information as you can. You'll learn how to read between the lines. You'll probably never get the full story but try to find out as much as you can about the kids. Keep in mind that YOU have to look out for yourself and your family! The workers, while they may have good intentions, really just need a bed for the child. They aren't as concerned about how good of a "fit" this child will be in your home.
7. Do they have any special needs? (Medical? Diet? etc.) Are they already in therapy? Are they on any medications?
If they are already on medications, I would look up what they are online if you're not already familiar. You're supposed to get the full story. But...you won't.
8. Are there other siblings? If so, where are they living?
9. How/where are visits being planned at this time? (with parents or siblings)
We have had placement calls where the visits were going to be scheduled an hour away from our home. If we had accepted the placement, we would have had to drive to the visit, sit and wait for two hours and then drive the hour home. This could have potentially eaten up two evenings every week or every single Saturday.
10. What is the case plan at this time? (Are they working towards reunification?)
11. Will they be OK with our dog?
I'll be honest, I forget to ask this question most of the time. (We've been getting calls for little ones mainly.) And I don't think any worker would tell me honestly because that isn't a common question. However, it's a good idea to double check stuff like this. Some kids with a more challenging background might not treat pets very kindly.
12. And, because of where we live... DO THEY SPEAK ENGLISH?
Know that you can ask ALL the questions in the world -- but you'll probably never get the full story. It really is a leap of faith. Know that if you get a placement that isn't a good fit, you aren't stuck forever. Of course you never want to move kids around if you can avoid it. They need consistency more than anything. But if you need to protect your family for safety reasons, you have every right to do that. (I can tell you our personal story with this if you weren't reading my old blog. Just email me if you're interested.)
If you're just starting out in fostering there is a lot to learn. The training you get barely scratches the surface. It is so much more than parenting and giving them love. I wish it was that easy! There are lots of rules and minimum standards to follow. I joke that we are basically glorified babysitters that have to do a lot of paperwork. But it is beautiful to love on a child that needs it. To support a bio family that is struggling. Or to offer respite to a foster family so they can have a break. Let me know if you have any other questions.