Foster care is a beautiful thing and I love saying yes to these children who need a place to stay. However, one of the most important parts of fostering is knowing that you cannot handle everyone and everything; it’s knowing when you have to say no to a placement.
One of the first things I tell people to do when making their foster care plan is to talk about their limits and write those down. You are able to say yes or no to any placement phone call that comes to your phone, however sometimes this will give your caseworker a better idea of what kinds of placements to call you with. The five we had written in our foster care packet were:
For us, we originally had a “too old” and shockingly, a “too young” limit. The too old was not put in place by us as much as by DCF; I was only 22 when we began fostering and thus they didn’t want to allow any kids who were too close to my age. We ended up with one of our first placements being a 17 year old…but that’s a completely different story! We also wanted older than two, mainly because I am not a big newborn person. (I know, everyone is horrified to hear this!) You are able to dictate the ages of kids you wish to have placed with you.
2. Abuse/History Restrictions.
This one tends to make people uncomfortable, but you do have the ability to say no to placements based on their known abuse history. I have no shame in saying we would not take sexually abused children who had previously acted out after we already had another placement. For us, it was completely a safety thing; we did not want our already placed children to be in danger in our home. While not all sexually abused kids will act out, it’s always a possibility-especially if they have previously done it. Some people cannot handle the trauma that follows specific kinds of abuse. There is no shame in acknowledging your personal limits. It’s healthier for your family, it’s healthier for that child, it’s healthier for everyone.
3. Goals for the placement.
If you’re entering the foster care world in hopes to adopt-make that known. There are many children who are in need of forever homes. However, foster care is not always something that leads to this. There are many children who are in need of for; in fact the point of foster care is reunification! So make sure your caseworker knows if your goal is to adopt through the system. (adoptuskids.org is also a great thing to use when wanting to adopt children.)
4. Special needs limitations.
Some of the children who come into care have a variety of special needs. There are kids on the spectrum, kids who have FASD, kids who are medically fragile, etc. When first creating our foster care packet, I wanted to say yes to all the kids who fell into this category; sadly they are most often the ones who have a harder time finding short or long term placements because of the possible hardships with specific needs. I was quickly made aware however, that it wouldn’t be smart for either of us or the child. For medical reasons, where we lived before was not conducive. The hospital was a bit away, we were not medically trained at all. We could not take kids who were deaf or blind; well, we could but how much help could we really be if they needed it? And after we had our first four placements, I knew we couldn’t handle anymore intense behavioral symptoms because we already had our hands full. Saying no protects both you and the child.
5. Talk to the forever family in your home on what they do or don’t want.
A lot of other foster care providers will disagree with me on this one, but as a person who was a forever child in a fostering home, it’s one I am super passionate about. We don’t talk about it often, but part of the reason we closed our home is our children were ready to be done fostering, at least for awhile. We had just gone through a long adoption process with our younger two, we had a placement for a few months who went home, and we discussed if we wanted to continue and they did not. Even before we chose to close our home, we talked to some of the older kids about the ages they wanted, boy or girl, etc. Foster care is a family event. Your forever children will be challenged and changed by it-I promise. And I remember the heartbreak of saying good-bye every time a child left my parents home. It was 100% worth it for me, but I also know forever children in fostering families that were negatively impacted by it. Listen to your family. Please.
Foster care is wonderful, and I hope I never scare anyone away from it-but you also have choices and it’s best if you foster in the bet interest of you, your family, and the children coming into your world!
What’s one thing you think you would have to say no to a placement for?