True confession: I’ve never said no to a foster placement because of the answer to one of these questions. I have said no when I knew that a new placement would not work for our family at that time. But I like to know as much as I can about the children who are coming into my home. Over my five years as a foster parent, I’ve had five placements. With the first three, I got a lot of information before I met them. With the last two, I got very little. But it never hurts to ask.
So, here’s my short list of questions to ask when I get “the call.” Social workers may have enough information to answer them all. Likely, they will not, but they may be able to get some of the information if you specifically request it.
How long has she been in care? Typically, you will be able to get more information about a child if she has been in care for a while. If she is just coming into care, see if you can attend all court hearings and doctor’s appointments. You can get a lot of information this way.
Why did he come into care? You may not get specific details about this, but you should be able to have a general idea. Information about prenatal substance exposure or suspected sexual abuse can help point you in the direction of getting your child appropriate assistance quickly.
Why is she being moved from her current placement? It’s true that sometimes placements just don’t work out. You might want to probe a bit to see if there are specific behaviors or needs that led to a change in placement. This way you can line up services and make a plan quickly. The fewer surprises, the better.
Does he have any allergies or medical conditions? You’d think this would be an obvious one, but it is really important to ask. Make sure you feel prepared to handle any identified special needs your child may have.
Is she taking any medications? Make sure you have enough of a supply to last until the next business day. Make sure you get the child’s insurance card (and any required forms/signatures to obtain medicine for her). And make friends with your pharmacist . . . a good relationship can go a long way in helping to make complicated situations less frustrating for you.
Where does he go to school or daycare? Think about whether he can continue there—at least until the next natural break in the year. Often having fewer changes in a child’s life is good. Sometimes transportation is provided.
Does she receive special services at school? Getting as much information about this as possible can help you prepare to support her educationally and also find additional resources for her outside of school.
What is his permanency plan? If the plan is reunification, can you support his family as they work to regain custody? If the plan is adoption, can you be an adoptive resource for him? Keep in mind that plans change, but this is certainly something to ask even before placement.
What is the plan for visitation with her family? Think about whether you can commit to the time required to transport/supervise/support visitation (depending on the situation). Ask if there are other siblings in care with whom visits will need to be arranged.
Is there anything else I should know about him or his case? You may get a lot of information from this question, or you may get very little. But if the social worker already has a relationship with the child, definitely let them know that you are open to learning all you can.
These are a few of the questions that I ask when I get a call about a potential placement. Foster parents, what would you add?