13 days ago we found out we were finally licensed. It was Friday, May 1st and we got the email while we were eating dinner, and we were so excited. SO excited. We cheered out loud, and when we were in bed talking that night, we talked about when we thought it would happen, and (half) joked that we hoped we wouldn’t get a placement call that weekend because we had picnic plans on Saturday and Avengers in theaters on Sunday. The following Tuesday we got our first call while at MC (Missional Community or small group for church) and it was nerve-wracking, but ultimately pretty painless. It didn’t end up working out and we haven’t gotten a call since. So, we are licensed. Now what? We’ve gotten a lot of questions from people about how this all works, and it seems that mostly people are a little fuzzy about how it all works, so here it is!
No really, that’s how this part goes. We wait and wait for a placement call, and in the meantime nothing much happens. The placement call is kind of a vetting process. Basically a child comes into a new foster home two ways. Either they are already in foster care with another family and that family has to “disrupt the placement” or they are coming into foster care for the first time because of a myriad of reasons. Sometimes those placements are overnight (emergency placements) or a few days or a few months or even years. You rarely know how long you will be with the child when they come into your home, and even emergency placements can end up being longer term sometimes. The placement call is usually not only to one foster home. Usually the caseworker assigned to the child(ren) calls or at least attempts to call several families who might be a good fit and finds out if they are willing to take the placement. Your willingness to take that placement might depend on age, amount of kids already in your home, their history and whether you are equipped to care for their particular needs, amount of kids in the placement and the room in your home, when the placement will take place, how far away they need to travel for school, visits or therapy, and many other things. After they find out which families can do it, they pick the family that they believe will be the best fit for that child or group. So getting a call is only the first step, it doesn’t mean you’ll get a child in your home.
When you do find out you’ll be placed with a child or sibling group, you could have a half hour’s notice or weeks ahead of time, depending on the situation. If a child has just come into care suddenly or is an emergency placement while they seek out family members (like in the case of a serious accident), you might get them VERY quickly, even in the middle of the night. If your child is coming from another home who cannot keep them, but it isn’t because of an emergency, you may have a lot more time, and maybe even a transition period, although those are usually for adoptive placements. Adoptive placements don’t happen as often because if a child becomes available for adoption, the first people they ask are the current foster parents. Only if they say no do they look for foster homes that might want to adopt. You can see now why the process could take a very long time! Most of the time my understanding is that you might have a day’s notice once you get the call.
So that’s how it works! Once you get a child or children in your home there are a lot of things to do. For placements that are new to the system you have three days to go to a doctor and get a physical, you have a month to go to the dentist, and of course there is figuring out the school situation and such for older kids. You aren’t allowed to homeschool foster kids so that won’t be an option. A lot of kids come into the system with very very little, sometimes only the clothes on their back, so those first few days can be kind of hectic. Plus, of course, you need to bond with the child. Grand trips to the zoo are out, and play dates right away are definitely not helpful. Time in the home to get used to everything, establish a rhythm and bond are incredibly important. I’ll hopefully be making some freezer meals in anticipation of this!
One more thing. I’ve been a part of several foster care groups in Facebook since December and have learned a lot from them. One thing that I think is not too obvious and I wanted to share with my friends and family is that it is not proper or kind to call the kids “foster kids” around them. If strangers compliment me on their smile I will simply say “thank you,” I won’t correct them. If you see me in church with a new child and am trying to register for Sunday school, ask me their name, but that’s about it. I can’t and wouldn’t share intimate details with you about their lives, and of course you wouldn’t want them to feel weird about just popping in. The most important thing is for me to treat them exactly as I would a biological child, and for you to do the same. I have an amazing group of friends, church family and regular family 😉 and I am not worried about this even a tiny bit, but I would be remiss to write this blog about what to expect and not say it. I can’t wait to welcome a new child into our home, whether they stay a short while or forever! I can’t wait to immerse them in the wonderful life that we have, and to do whatever we can to make them feel loved. I am so excited that I have so many friends who want to help and babysit and contribute and I am so so thankful. Here we go!