Becoming emergency foster parents
I have been asked if I'm open to being emergency foster parents. The only thing they told me was that I could get calls at all hours. I'm fine with that and I do realize that these may be kids with no known history and very little information. I guess I'm wondering if there are other emergency foster parents out there and what their experiences have been like. And how different is it from regular foster parenting? Any advice you can give me would be appreciated, pros and cons, etc.
Thanks!
I am considered an emergency foster parent.

From my experience, the big difference between emergency fostering and regular fostering is that you can get calls at any time of the day or night (as you mentioned). In addition, you will probably get a placement sooner. My agency told me they love working with the emergency placement people because they can be more flexible.

As for the cases, this could be the children they found in a van in a park to a baby moses case that was dropped off at the local fire station. Of course, it depends on what ages you have been approved for.

As far as what they know about the children . . . even with regular fostering they may not know much. Plus, the information they give you could be inaccurate.

Welcome to the Fostering World!
Emergency Foster Parents are on-call 24/7 for new placements. You may very well get a call during business hours from your certifier, or you may get a call from the after-hours intake worker.

I have received calls at all hours of the day and night. One call was from an in-take worker who knew where I lived and he called at 11:30 PM from only 6 blocks away, on his way to my home. I hung up just in time to get a robe on and open the door.
Well, I can tell you what emergency placements are like where I live. It might differ in other areas.

Here, emergency kids can arrive at any time. And usually with almost no notice. More like "we have a 5 year old in the car, can we drop him off in 10 minutes?" Regardless of whether it's noon or 2 am. The 2 am ones are fastest, because there is no open DCF office for the child to hang out in for a couple hours while a placement is looked for, and the DCF worker who picked up the child wants to go home to bed ASAP.

They're the times that workers are most often wrong about the children. Names, ages, even genders. A child in diapers wearing a pink shirt will get called a girl. A preschooler with a crew cut will be called a boy. Things are just happening too fast for anyone to check anything.

They're also all too often the ones who just saw their parents get arrested. It takes a LOT to not have your removal into foster care be even slightly planned. The midnight drunk-driving arrest. The house fire with a stoned parent. The domestic violence report that turned out to be too bad a situation and both parties were arrested. Kids who need removed immediately are almost always more immediately traumatized than most.

(But not always, because there is also the Friday night toddler left alone while parents went out to party. And the apparantly healthy kid who was never picked up from daycare when it closed for the day.)

Emergency placements can last any amount of time. A relative could show up in minutes or hours. Or it could go to adoption. There is no telling, especially if the family had no prior history with DCF and the caseworker may not have even met the parents. I wouldn't believe a worker's guesstimate about an emergency placement, and would put much more emphasis on the results of the placement hearing than any worker's opinion.

Of course these are just "tendencies". There are always kids who break the mold. Unusual situations. And they apply to here. Hopefully you'll get several answers.
One thing to keep in mind...here if you sign up to be an emergency home, you HAVE to accept any placement they call you with. Given that we have 5 young children in the home, that was a risk we weren't wanting to take. Our first placement (now adopted) was not necessarily an emergency placement, but there was NO INFO about their names, guesses at ages, no clothes but the dirty ones they were wearing, head lice, sick as could be, etc. After they started to become a long term placement, we became more selective on what other placements we would take. If they would split it up like 0-5, 6-10, 11-18 or whatever, we'd be more willing, but we just don't have the resources at this time to take just any placement.

I'd at least find out if you sign up, if you are required to take the placement. Good luck with your decision.
We've received calls at midnight, 3 am, during the day.
It doesn't make a difference as to how long they stay. Some can stay a few days, other several months. It just depends on their case, just like all other foster situations.

We are never required to accept whatever they call us with, so I'd make sure with your agency. But we'd only get calls for the age/sib amount we wanted, so we'd always say yes anyways.

I do agree that you're more likely to get placements this way, and this is the way to meet more workers and network.
You guys have been very helpful! I checked with the agency who is licensing me and they said I could still turn down a placement even if its an emergency. I know there will probably be a lot of pressure to say yes in that kind of situation though. At least with your posts, I feel like I know a little more what I'm getting into. I decided to go for it for now and see what happens. Once I get a placement, I may ask to be taken off the list.
I'm so glad I found this forum for support and answers!
Emergency placements are the most fun I think. The worst part is that there is a few days where no one knows anything, no medical info or how long they will be with you. The first placement I had was a little girl the police found wandering around the streets alone. We got her on friday evening and didnt know anything until monday. By that time I let myself fall in love with her and started thinking that I might be able to keep her. That was hard.
But it is very exciting and you get to take them shopping for new clothes, and the little girls especially love that part!
We're currently increasing our training hours so that we can become an "official" emergency intake home. Until now we'd always told our family worker that we'd be willing to take kids in an emergency. So they put us down as backup people to call after they'd gone down their official emergency placement home list.

We would get calls at all times of the day or night. Often we'd be out grocery shopping or something and just have to swing by and pick up a couple new kids on the way home. Once they called while we were at church and then dropped them off with us between services. It was fun! It was a little annoying though when they'd call at 11 pm and ask us to take kids... and then not show up until 4 am. So I'm up all night waiting.

One difficult thing is that you have to have your house perfectly ready for company at all times of the day or night. Sometimes I'd have 10 minutes to get everything ready for an intake worker and kids to arrive. Sometimes I ran around frantically picking up, vacuuming, washing the last couple of dishes... only to find out they'd changed their minds and put them somewhere else.

When they first call, it's more like "will you consider taking them? Okay, we'll call a few more families so we can consider our options, and then call you back". Another tough part is that they so often arrive with absolutely nothing and so you have to go out and get them enough clothes and shoes and coats for the week at least, and then find out that they are leaving a day and a half later.

One piece of advice is that you should ALWAYS have a list of paperwork that you require them to give you before you will take custody of the kids. I expect them to have a medicaid number (which they do quickly on the computer at their office), paperwork allowing me to get them medical treatment and enroll them in school if need be, and the paper that says they have been legally placed with me. That's a bare minimum. I also keep my own extra copies of blank forms that I'll need in case the worker didn't include them in the file. Some of these people are on their first day of work when they place a kid with me. They make mistakes.

We'll officially be taking emergency placements starting at the end of October. The nice thing about being "official" is that we get a different pay rate and we won't be at the bottom of the call list anymore. Oh, and on weekends we always let them know via our family worker what ages and genders we'd be willing to take and if we're available or will be out of town.

Good luck!
Jess
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