Written by Washington Foster Team
Your first week as a foster parent may feel intimidating, exciting, and even overwhelming all at once. But it isn't as scary as you might think, especially if you know what's coming.
Family Team Decision Meeting
Within 72 hours of placement, a Family Team Decision Meeting (FTDM) occurs between your child's parents, caseworkers, and in some cases, a child's extended family or other caregivers.
Foster parents are not required to attend their child's FTDM, but the experience is invaluable for fostering connections with a child's biological family. FTDMs are intended to work out the details of education, housing, health insurance, and other critical components of care. But they're also an opportunity for foster parents to meet with a child's parents to learn more about how best to care for the child.
No less than five days after placement, a doctor's appointment is required for all children entering new care. As a foster parent, this is an opportunity to learn more about your child's medical needs and communicate those needs with caseworkers. This information is vital for you to be able to provide foster care for the child.
Beyond The First Week
After the first week, new foster parents fill their schedules with everything from regular meetings and phone calls with case workers to more specific tasks, like finding adequate daycare. During this period, successful foster parents focus on being flexible as they adapt to their family’s new routine.
The first few weeks also alert new foster parents to day-to-day challenges. For example, you may not know the child’s favorite bedtime story, or what kind of food they don't like. These early problems are opportunities to foster connections with the child's biological parents, so that you can learn more about the best way to care for the child who would be living in an unfamiliar place.
If available in your area, foster parents can work to arrange Family Connections meetings. These 45-minute sessions are facilitated by a caregiver and parent allies so that foster parents and biological parents can meet and share information. If Family Connections meetings aren’t available, do whatever you can to establish connections with biological parents, whether it’s through supervised meetings or even phone calls.
Most importantly, you should expect a whirlwind of emotions as you enter your first week and beyond. You'll likely have moments where you think you can't possibly do enough for a child, or wonder if you've made a mistake.
Understand that these feelings are completely normal, but there's more to discover. Because when you foster, you create an opportunity to make a connection with a child that's unlike any other.
Expect to be fulfilled by the work you do to care for that child. Expect to give love and have it returned. Learn what it takes to become a foster parent. Download our free resource, The Essential Guide To Becoming A Foster Parent In Washington State.