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As part of your foster parent approval process, you’ll likely fill out a lengthy document outlining what type of children you feel most equipped to parent. You’ll cover things like age, number of siblings, race, gender, behavioral challenges, medical problems, and more.

Some of the parameters will be clear and obvious such as age range or gender. But others are hard to identify, such as the type of trauma or behaviors to expect. While your agency or department tries hard to place children in the right homes, they often don’t have much information on the children they’re asked to place.

Most children come into foster care unexpectedly and social workers aren’t given much context or time to find a placement. They can’t keep kids in limbo, so it’s important that they can find a safe place for the child quickly. They might not know if a child has a tendency toward violent behaviors or acting out in a sexual way. They’re not trying to hide information or trick a foster parent into accepting a placement, but they might not know exactly what they’re dealing with.

If a social worker calls you about a placement, it can be hard to think clearly and it’s even harder to say no to a potential child. But if you have a 9-year-old who wouldn’t be prepared to handle an older child in the home, remember why you set those parameters. If you get a phone call for a 10-year-old child, you might need to say no.

Try to be realistic about the number of children you could take into your home and think through time and space constraints. If you’re open to a sibling group, think about how you might be able to maximize your space through bunk beds and shared rooms. If you know your limited in the number of children you can take, be clear with your social worker.

Be prepared for your social worker to call you about potential placements that are outside of your parameters. Social workers have a tough job and they have to find homes for children in a short amount of time. If you’ve said you’re open to two kids between the ages of 5-10, don’t be surprised if you get a call about a sibling group of 3 aged 4-12. Most of the parameters are viewed as guidelines and they may call you about placements you’re not comfortable with. That’s ok!