5 Qs to Ask at the Start of a New Placement

Last week, I posted a new video on YouTube in which I shared five questions I would not have thought to ask at the start of a new placement, but, over time, I have learned to ask. Those questions are:

  1. Has this child (or these children) been in care before?
  2. When is the child’s birthday?
  3. Are their parents involved and engaged in services?
  4. Could you give the parent my phone number?
  5. Where does the child go to school, and are McKinney-Vento services in place?

I encourage you to watch the video for the full scoop on why I ask these questions—the first story will break your heart (but don’t worry—it has a happy ending!)

But I wanted to take it a step further in this blog post, because a seasoned foster parent who watched my video offered some additional suggestions for questions to ask. I’m grateful for her input, and wanted to share it here!

A viewer named Emily shared,

We also ask about how they are with animals because we have animals in our home. We ask about how many visits they have and what the transportation expectation is. We have said no to a placement because the kids had 2 visits with mom and 2 visits with dad each week; it’s great for kids to see their parents, but we couldn’t transport to 4 visits a week.

Emily makes two fantastic points.

First, if you are a home with dogs, and the child you are being asked to take is afraid of dogs, it would only add to their trauma to bring them into your home. You are not the right placement for them.

Second, Emily is so right—we all have a limited capacity, and while we support reunification efforts, including parental visits, four visits a week is a big ask—especially if you as a foster parent are expected to provide transportation. It’s sad when it comes down to that, but it is important to be realistic and honest about what you have the capacity for and make decisions about placements accordingly.

I’m curious to know what you would add to this list? Please share in the comments below!

From Cuddler to CASA

I have lost count of the number of times someone has told me that they really want to be involvd in foster care, and they really care about foster youth,  but they are not in a season of life where they can be foster parents. They wonder how they can help.

How can you make a difference in the life of a foster youth without being a foster parent?

There are a number of ways to answer that question, and my guest in Episode 17 of A Fostered Life Podcast talks about two of them. Laura was a volunteer cuddler in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for years before being introduced to a desperate need in the foster care system after caring for one particular baby for several months. She went through the training and eventually became a CASA – a Court Appointed Special Advocate.

Over the six-plus years Laura has spent as a CASA, she has served over twenty-three children, and in today’s episode, she’s going to share what that experience has been like and what you might expect if you are considering becoming a CASA.

I am so grateful for the work that Laura and others have done and I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did!

How Do We Decide to Say “Yes” When the Placement Desk Calls?

We are licensed directly through our state, not with a private agency. This means that we receive the daily email distribution listing briefs on every child in our county (and sometimes beyond) in need of a foster home. We also receive frequent phone calls from the placement desk (and after-hours placement) asking if we can take a(nother) child, “even just for the night.”

As you may guess, we want to say “yes” to them all! But obviously that’s not possible. A couple of years ago, I came up with a simple rubric to help us decide whether we can say “yes” (or whether we need to say “no”) when the placement desk calls.

To get the full scoop, watch this sixteen-minute video. If you don’t have time for that, here’s the gist of what we take into consideration when deciding whether to add another child to our home when those sweet social workers call:

  1. Are we licensed for a child or children that age? This may seem like a ‘no-brainer,’ but it’s not! We’ve said ‘yes’ to the placement desk and taken a child who was older than what we are licensed for. (We got in some trouble for that!)
  2. How are we (my husband and me) doing? How is our health? How is our emotional well-being? How is our relationship?
  3. How are our kids doing? Is it the right season of life for our kids to have the disruption of another child added to the mix? Are our kids in a place emotionally where they can handle our attention being even more divided than usual?
  4. What do we know about that child? Do we have good reason to think that bringing them into our home will not put our own kids in any kind of risk? Does the child have any fear of dogs (we have a big, loud dog!) What do we know about how they will fit in with our own children?
  5. What does our gut say? This might be the most important thing of all! We have gone with our gut every single time except one, and that one turned out to not be a good fit for us. (He moved to a single foster parent with no other children and has absolutely thrived in her care! He is now reunified with his mom, but his foster mom remains a significant presence in his life and he sees her often.)

If you are a foster parent, I’d love to know how you decide whether or not to say “yes” when you get “the call.” Please share your thoughts below!