Questions to Ask Before Taking in a Foster Child

Waiting for a call about a foster child needing a home can be nerve-wracking, whether you are a veteran foster parent or a newbie. What will the worker be able to tell you about the child? There may be times when the worker calling you will not even know the child's name. Other times the information may be completely wrong. I've been told wrong ages and grades in the past. Be prepared for anything. Asking questions helps.

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    Age and Grade of the Child

    Boy with mother and step-father, boy's arm around man's shoulder
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    The age and grade of the child will dictate what other resources you will need to parent the child. If the child is school age does that fit better with your work schedule than a toddler? Daycare may be a need if the child is 0-5 and you work outside of the home. Do you have a daycare already lined up for future foster children?

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    Reason for Coming into Care

    Physical abuse, sexual abuse, truancy, lack of supervision, poor condition of the home, lack of food, lack of appropriate medical care, there are many reasons a child will come into foster care, know what you can and can not handle. Consider also the needs of the other children in the home. If you have a child in the home who sexually acts out, taking in a child who is a recent victim of sexual abuse may be a bad fit. Try not to set the kids up to fail.

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    Placed from Where

    Is the child coming into foster care from the birth home, a group home or another foster home? This answer will lead to more questions, such as why is the child being moved at this time?

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    There is a big difference between a child needing a new placement due to the foster parents moving and the child disrupting the home. If the later is the case, ask why the child is disrupting. If you decide to take the child as a placement ask to have the previous foster home give you a call. You can gain a wealth of information from the previous foster parent. This, of course, will depend on the situation and the social workers allowing the contact.

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    Number of Moves

    How many foster homes has the child been in? Has the child been in custody before? A child that has many disruptions, bouncing from foster home to foster home is obviously a child with a lot of needs. This child may also have attachment issues. Are you prepared to parent such a child? Also, a child who has been in foster care before may be a sign of a birth parent with a lot of needs.

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    Many families are willing to foster a child of a race other than their own and that is wonderful as there is a need for more foster homes that are open to a wide variety of needs. But that child and foster family will not be raised in a bubble. Take into account your community and the school district that the foster child will be entering. Will the child be the only person in the whole district that looks like her? Knowing what works in your home and community does not make you a racist, it...MORE makes you aware.

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    Special Needs

    Does the child have glasses, medication, allergies, or other physical needs?

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    Can you provide a home for the entire sibling set? If not, asking about siblings is just a good idea so that you know who the child is talking about. You can also begin thinking about ways to keep the children close; if that is appropriate with the case goals.

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    Known Behaviors

    Children express feelings through behaviors. For example: does this child hit when angry? Does the child sexually act out? How about open defiance? Ask the worker what behaviors the child has; they may know especially if the child is coming to you from another foster home.

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    School Needs

    Does the child have an Individualized Education Plan(IEP)? How about speech therapy? Is the child struggling in school? What school did the child attend previously? Has the child been held back? These are other good questions to ask if the child is coming from another foster home. The placement worker calling you will probably not know these things about a child who is coming into foster care for the first time.