Our first placement was last May, 2008. Our case worker from Christian Homes called at 10am with a placement for us! So exciting! At 12 the CPS case worker was there with our new foster child! by 12:20 We had signed a lot of papers & everyone was gone! It doesn’t always happen quite that fast, but be prepared that it could.
Before you get a placement call …you need to know what types of placements you will take. My husband & I are continually talking & changing on this. First we said 2 kids, up to age 2. When we got our first placement we had an adjustment period & just stayed at 1 placement for a few months. Then we said we’d take another. Several months later we decided we could handle kids up to age 4 & that we could handle 3 kids (this is all in addition to our 2 biological kiddos)…& after 3 months with a sibling group of 3 we decided it is best for our family to take 2 foster kids at a time, not 3, & that they needed to be 3 & under. My point is, with each placement you may change what is best for your home & best for the foster kids in your home. SOOOO, before you get a call, make a clear decision on what type of placement you will take:
- How many kids? This may be determined by your home size, but even if you can fit 4 foster kids, it may be best to only take 1 or 2. Just keep talking about this & re-evaluating!
- What Race? You may be open to any race, but if your ultimate goal is adoption & your close relatives or family or even community would have a HARD time with a blended race family, then it may not be best for you to foster kids of other races.
- Age…Years ago when we were just starting to gather information we talked with a professor at the college we went to about fostering/adopting. He & his wife had done both & had adopted at least 3 kids & had some of their own. They both highly suggested that the oldest foster/adopt be 4 years younger than the youngest birth child…..now I’m not sure about that, but I do know for our family that we now try to keep a 2 year gap between our youngest & the oldest foster child. Our kids had a hard time with our last placement. There were some major issues, but a lot of it was that they were so close in age.
- Medical Issues….What medical issues can you handle? Some of this you’ll need to decide before you pick your agency. Our agency, Christian Homes, only does “basic” level kids, which means they really don’t have any “issues”. (We all snicker at this, as if there is anyone on this earth that has no issues! ha!! anyways, )
Your case worker will push your limits! We’ve gotten calls about kids way over the age we said & for more kids than we said we’d take. It is so hard to say no!! BUT, remember it’s best to keep your family semi-sane to best be able to take care of your foster placement! It really is best for everyone involved for you to stick to what you know is best for your family.
A Placement is needed…ok, so how I understand it, this is typically how things go from a kid being at home to being placed in a foster home:
- Someone reports that a child is being neglected/abused. (the hotline in TX is: 1-800-252-5400) Here’s the link to the state’s definition of abuse: http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/FA/htm/FA.261.htm Fall of 2008 the Texas Federal appeals court made a ruling that had a significant impact. It is called the Gates Ruling & came a few months after the massive removal from the Yearning for Zion Polygamist Colony. It wasn’t related to that, but was probably influenced by that. Click on the “Gates Ruling” & it’ll take you to an interesting article that explains it more.
- An Investigative Worker checks out the call. Not sure what all they do, but if the child is in danger they remove them from the home. Sometimes families have had plenty of warning & opportunities & they know it’s coming, sometimes they don’t. Generally a judge is involved & signs the papers to remove the child(ren).
- CPS usually calls their licensed foster parents first. Then if they can’t find a placement they call the private agencies. It took almost a year for me to learn this! The state has a daily reimbursement/allowance for each foster child & when they go through a private agency they have to pay more, to help cover the agency’s costs. Foster parents get the same amount no matter who you are licensed with. If you are with a private agency your worker from there will call you. You need to be able to give an answer right then if not in the next 2 minutes. Several times I’ve had my case worker on my land line & have been trying to call Robbie on my cell phone! If you can’t get ahold of your spouse you’ll need to be able to make a decision on your own. & I & some of my friends have had to do that! That’s why I stressed earlier continually re-evaluating & getting on the same page w/ what type of placement you’ll get! When they call they usually have the age, race, gender, maybe a little background on why the child is being removed & any major medical issues if there are any. I’ve rarely gotten any more info than that. & even if they give you a time line on how long they’ll be with you don’t get too settled on it. You never really know when someone is going to show up & take the kids, like a distant relative, godparent, or other family friends that didn’t know how bad the situation was. OR the parents may be doing really well with their program then they fall off the wagon. yet again, broken system for broken people.
- If you say yes they may be there within the hour, or it may be 7-8 hours. sometimes they have just picked up the kids & sometimes they have to drive a couple hours away to pick up the kids. If the parents are in one county & the kids are in another with say, their grandparents, then the official removal is from the parents so the case worker from that county will have to drive & get the kids, even if it’s 3-4 hours away!
BREATH!! please please don’t get overwhelmed!!! I’m giving tons of details. placements are NOT always difficult, I just want to really tell our experiences! & it all happens so fast that there’s no time to get overwhelmed or worried. It’s actually exciting when you get a call!!!!
When they arrive at your house
- The CPS investigative worker will bring them & sometimes they’ll have a 2nd CPS case worker with them that they probably took with them to the removal just to not be alone. They will bring the kids in, check out where they are sleeping, have you sign Placement papers, Medical consent papers, & sometimes discipline policy papers. IF they don’t have you sign a discipline policy paper they will at least make sure you understand it….basically, no physical disciple….Then they’ll say goodbye to the kids & they’re gone! Maybe they’ll be in your home 10-20 min. If you come up with any questions, ask them while they are there!! They might have more information for you, like more on why the child was removed, what the next step is, etc. Before they leave make sure you have their work phone, cell phone, & maybe even their supervisor’s phone numbers! & maybe their emails. I’ve found several of my case workers to respond fairly well to email! & ask if they have the child’s medicaid number!!! It will probably take you quite awhile to get a Medicaid card, but if you have the number they should be covered for dr visits or if something crazy happens & you have to run to the ER. (I’ve never have had that happen, but always like to be prepared!!)
- They MAY have clothes, diapers, bottles, etc….but most likely they won’t have much of anything. or if they do have items with them they likely will be the wrong size, season, unwashed, etc… you may have to send a friend or family member to the store for some basics, or you may just have to go after the kids are asleep! Before you put whatever they do have away, make a list of everything they came with. CH requires this from us, so I usually do it right as I’m going through their things!
- You’ll just have to assess each child at each placement. Some might be dirty & in need of a bath immediately. Some may be emotionally & physically exhausted & just need to go to sleep. If they’re old enough, I introduce all of our family members, then show them their room, where they will be sleeping, where we sleep in case they need us at night, & where the bathroom is! I keep some new blankets & stuffed animals here in case they came with nothing special, then it’s like a little gift to them & becomes something they can cling to if they want.
14 Day Hearing…14 days after the placement there is almost always a hearing in front of a judge. The investigative worker attends, all the family involved, their lawyers, usually the kids attorney & CASA worker (court appointed special advocate). You can go to this, but don’t have to. Our CH case worker goes for us, makes notes, & lets us know what happened. AT this hearing the judge decides if the child stays in foster care & what the plan will be for the family to get their child back. At this hearing the case will be transferred to a conservatorship worker (?) basically, another CPS worker who will stick with the case until it’s all over. The initial Investigative worker is now out of the picture.
Things you may want to have on hand or at least access to: obviously this will all depend on what age range you are taking! you don’t have to have all of this….but maybe have a few friends who you know you can call & ask to borrow if the situation comes up! You’ll be amazed what you can make do with & without!
- Crib or pack ‘n play
- High Chair or booster seat
- Car Seats….infant, front facing 5-point buckle, booster seat
- Sippy cups
- A few diapers of several sizes
- Different types of bottles
- Extra toothbrushes!
A GREAT way to stock up on some of these basics if you leave anywhere near the East Texas Area is the bi-annual CCC sale! (Children’s Clothing Consignment) a couple of my friends run this & it is one of the things my friends & I look forward to each fall & spring!!! Or check garage sales once in awhile!
All the New people involved in your life!
- Case Worker from your private agency
- CPS investigative worker, then the
- Conservatorship worker (if your child is from a county that’s a ways a way you will have an ISEEYOU worker from your area who will do your monthly visits)
- CASA worker—-These are volunteers who go to court on behalf of the children & family; kind of an outsider giving their opinions on what’s best. I never met our first one, she called me one time before court. Then I had a great one who came 2 times & was on top of things! The last one we had started out great, then just never called or went to court. I hope to be a CASA worker when I’m all growed up! 😉
- ECI- Children under 3 are required to be assessed by Early Childhood Intervention…if any therapy is needed then you will have a therapist of some kind in your life at least once a month.
Phone Numbers that you will want to keep in easy reach!
- All the people listed above!
- Medicaid/StarHealth phone number. IF they call you to get basic info in their system about you & the kids get a name & a phone number of who to contact if you have any questions!
- WIC…If your child is under 4 they will qualify for WIC. This is wonderful!! especially if it’s an infant needing formula! Call them right away & set up an appointment!!
- Pediatrician-if you have one already check to make sure they will take your foster kids & that they take Medicaid. Our pediatrician has been wonderful about getting us in!!! They need to see a dr within 21 days of being placed….usually.
- Dentist- all kids over 1 need a dental appointment asap. There aren’t many dentists around here that take Medicaid. Ihave found Kool Smiles to be great with the kids & with squeezing us in! They are usually booked, but if you call once in awhile & see if they have cancellations they may work you in. 🙂 they have us!!
I know this sounds like a lot, but most of these things you’ll get used to very quickly & it’ll be like second nature! Please don’t let me overwhelm you!!!