There are two things I want to talk about in this post. Things you need to understand before accepting your first placement and what you can do before your first placement call to make things a little easier on everyone.
1. Understand that young children who have been sexually abused are very likely to act out the abuse on other children in the home. They require vigilant monitoring, regardless of what CPS tells you.
2. Understand that older children who are angry at the world do make false allegations against foster parents, which results in an investigation and depending on your county- your children may be separated from you until the investigation is completed.
3. Understand that no matter what you do, how hard you work or how good your intentions may be- it is a thankless job. Your reward will be the tentative trust on a child’s face, the smile when you tuck them in bed, and the hugs that they share with you. If that is not enough, you should rethink your desire to foster.
4. Understand that the system, for the most part, while designed to protect the children’s rights sometimes does a poor job of it. You will have no say and you will have no rights to decide the future of your foster children. Your opinion will not be asked, nor will it be welcomed with regards to case decisions. Period.
Things to do before your first placement:
1. The most important thing you can do is make a decision about what you can realistically handle in your home. Do you have young children? If so, you need to be honest with yourself about the types of behaviors that you will be able to deal with from a foster child.
2. For homes with young children, my agency really tried to encourage new foster families to only accept placements of foster children younger than their own children. It’s a much easier way to dive into the world of foster parenting. It’s easier to know what behaviors are age appropriate and what behaviors require intervention when you have already parented a child of that age and are familiar with that stage of development. Later, after you get your feet wet in the world of foster parenting, you can broaden your comfort level.
3. It can be overwhelming trying to decide how to set your parameters for placements. I would advise you to first decide on your age range. Let’s say you choose 0-5 years old. Some counties allow you to decide if you will accept a certain sex or race. My county would allow you to specify a certain sex if there were bedroom limitations but you could not specify a particular race. Once you’ve made those decisions, it’s time to think about the needs that a child may have. A newborn in the midst of drug withdrawals is probably not the ideal placement for someone who works full time. A 7 year old who acts out sexually is probably not a good fit for a family with 3 young children under age 5. It’s all about knowing your limits. As you get further into your fostering career, you’ll be able to broaden your limitations.
4. It’s always a good idea to have boundaries in place before you start receiving placement calls. It’s so tempting as a new foster parent to just say yes to the very first call that comes in. You need to make sure the child is a good fit for your family. It’s not fair to have a child removed two weeks later because you didn’t fully think the placement through before accepting. Be prepared to ask questions when you are called for a placement.