TAGS: Fostering Basics
Written by Washington Foster Team
When you’re thinking about fostering a child or are starting down that path, there are a lot of unknowns. And it’s normal to have many questions, from what the licensing and training process is like to how to navigate some of the inevitable complexities of parenting someone else’s child.
One of the most common questions potential foster parents have is whether and to what extent they can choose who is placed in their care. And more generally, what are some of the considerations caseworkers and child placement agencies (CPAs) take into account when determining where to place foster kids? This article is meant to answer some of the common questions surrounding this part of the placement process.
Can You Choose Your Foster Child?
The short answer is: Yes and no.
The longer answer is that throughout the licensing process, you and the CPA you’ve partnered with will continually revisit the question of what kind of foster child and situation will fit well with your family.
It’s not a box-checking exercise. But as a foster parent, you will have a say in what age group you’re considered for, what types of behaviors or medical needs you’re comfortable with and trained to handle, and, overall, what kids will fit well within your existing family structure and routine.
For instance, many foster parents have young kids of their own, so it’s natural to feel more comfortable caring for a foster child within that same age range. But just as that’s taken into account, so too is whether you have the bandwidth as a parent and as a family to care for one more. That is, if you already have young kids in your household, would it truly be a good fit to add an infant to the mix, or one who is medically fragile?
These questions and more are explored during the licensing process so that when you’re ready to take in a foster child, it’s more likely you’ll match well right off the bat.
How Are Placements Decided?
While the placement selection process is individualized, many factors are considered when determining what kind of child your home would be best suited to host. These include:
- What age groups the foster parent is licensed to care for
This is, of course, the big one. If a foster parent is licensed for ages 0 through 6, that’s the age group you’ll be considered for.
However, according to Laurie Anderson at Skookum Kids, a non-profit child placing agency in Bellingham, they encourage parents to get licensed for ages 0–18, even if they’re currently only interested in a specific age group. That way, there’s no need to go through the licensing process again as parents get more comfortable with fostering.
This also eliminates the possibility that a child will be placed in their care and then have to be moved as they get older. And finally, this opens foster parents up to the possibility of taking in siblings of different ages — which addresses a huge need within the foster care system, as every effort is made to keep siblings together.
- What expertise or experience do they have?
This is related to a foster family’s comfort level and preferences because those evolve as foster parents become more familiar with foster parenting.
But CPAs also look to see what types of foster parenting you’ve had exposure to, such as respite care, emergency placements, or behavioral rehabilitative services. And they consider what other experience you may have — for example, if foster parents have worked in education or health care and have experience with children who have developmental disabilities or medical needs.
- What kind of home layout do they have?
There are rules and guidelines CPAs must follow when it comes to what ages and types of kids can be in certain rooms. For example, a child must have a bedroom once they reach the age of 1. And for children under 5, that bedroom must be within easy hearing distance of the foster parent’s room.
Foster family placements are not taken lightly and require an open, two-way dialogue between the foster parent and CPA. After all, placements are about placing a child into a temporary, yet stable home where that child can heal and thrive until they can be reunified with their parents. That can only happen if both the child and family are happy and healthy.