Ever wonder what it’s like when a social worker calls a foster family about a potential placement of children into their home? Yesterday, the placement worker called us again, and this time we said yes!! Here’s how the conversation went.
Worker: Hi. This is [social worker] from foster agency. We’re looking for a two-week respite placement for three children. Would you be interested in hearing about them?
Worker: It’s three little babies – a two-year-old, a one-year-old, and a six-month-old. They are all boys.
Me: (laughing) I can see why someone would need respite. Three babies under the age of three! [At this point, I am thinking another foster family needs to take a break from fostering these babies, as usually this is what respite means.]
Worker: (laughing) Yes, that’s pretty much the response of everyone I’ve been calling today.
Me: Tell me more.
Worker: [She tells me boys’ birth dates and names.] We are not sure if they will be coming into foster care. A judge will decide in a few days. If they do come into care, it will be on [certain day]. [She tells me why mom might not be able to take care of babies.]
[At this point, I figure out that this isn’t typical respite care, where you temporarily care for children while their regular foster family takes a break. I switch gears mentally, thinking now more about situation leading to need for care.]
Me: Do they have any health issues?
Worker: They are healthy babies. The middle baby has [one very minor health issue] and is treated by [treatment].
Me: What is going on with dad?
Worker: [Explains why dad is not available to take care of babies.]
Me: Is there any history of abuse or neglect?
Worker: No known abuse or neglect.
We talk a little bit more about why judge might decide that kids need to be in foster care. Worker states that she has been working all day to find a home for these babies.
Me: How will you make a decision about which family you place the babies with?
Worker: We are hoping to find a foster family who can take all three babies. We also are hoping the family will be able to keep the babies not just for the two weeks of respite, but for longer term, if needed.
[Did you see how she just slides in here that this placement could be longer than a two weeks respite?]
Me: How long do you think this placement would be?
Worker: We are looking for a two week emergency respite. During this time, mom would still have legal custody and children would not be formally in foster care. If mom isn’t ready to take the children back at the end of the two weeks, then the respite would convert into foster care.
[We talk about the technical differences between this emergency respite care and foster care. For us as the foster family, it doesn’t sound like much of a difference. It’s more about pots of money, administrative differences for social workers, and legal custody.]
Me: Do you know their religion and race?
Worker: I don’t know their religion. They are biracial.
Me: What else haven’t I asked about that I should know? I mean, if you were me, what would you ask?
Worker: I’d ask if they have any known behavior issues and about schooling. But I don’t know of any behavior issues and I don’t think they have any schooling issues.
Me: How far away does mom live from us? What would visits look like?
Worker: [Says where mom lives.] We won’t know if visits with mom will be possible until after the judge makes the decision. I see from your home study that you and husband both work full-time. Will you need child care?
Me: I am off work for the next three weeks, so I’ll be at home. If the placement lasts longer than that, we’d need child care. Are the babies in daycare currently? Would we need to use their current daycare?
Worker: The babies currently are not in daycare, but it wouldn’t be a problem to arrange for daycare. Do you have a daycare near you that you’d prefer to use?
Me: We normally foster kids age 5-12. I’d need to look into local daycare. Ok. I can’t think of any more questions right now. I think we’ll say yes, but let me talk to my husband and call you back. When do you need our answer?
Worker: I will be going home in two hours. If you need more time, that’s ok. You can call me Monday morning, if you need to. Also, feel free to call me if you have any more questions. I’m happy to try to find answers.
We hang up. My husband, son Silent One, daughter Sassy, and I sit down together and talk about the placement. We talk about how our preferences were for older children and whether we can take on three babies. Since the babies are healthy and we are one of the few homes that have room for three siblings, we decide we are ok with going outside our normal age range. It’s really important to us to keep brothers and sisters together. We make a list of additional questions and then call back the social worker.
Me: Hi. Me again. We have a few more questions. Did mom use drugs while pregnant?
Worker: We don’t think so. There hasn’t been anything that would indicate drug use while she was pregnant.
Me: Can you tell us more about dad? Does he currently have visits with babies? Is he being considered for custody of the children?
Worker: I can call and ask and get back to you.
We hang up. About 20 minutes later, she calls back.
Worker: Dad currently has weekly visits. [Gives details on visit schedule, location.] Dad won’t be able to take children for quite some time. [After some back and forth, we figure out that the earliest babies could be reunited with dad is a year from now.]
Me: What would be the soonest mom could be reunited with babies?
Worker: It’s really up to the judge. Mom has had to go to court before, but this is the first time we think there is a decent chance that the judge will put babies into emergency respite care. We just won’t know until the day the judge decides.
Me: Would the babies come to our house immediately after the judge decides, if the judge decides that they need to be in care?
Worker: Maybe. Judge could decide that they will come into care immediately or the judge could decide to give mom 24 hours before babies come into care, if the decision is for children to go into emergency respite.
[I look at my husband, who has been listening in to the phone call. I give him a thumbs up. He nods.]
Husband: Ok. We are are onboard with taking these three boys.
Worker: You’ve made my day! We didn’t think we’d be able to find a family to take all three of them.
Me: We are not set up to take care of babies. We don’t have cribs, car seats, and other baby stuff. What would be the process for getting these items?
Worker: We have a lending “library” of items that foster families can borrow. I’ll give you the phone number on Monday.
Us: Great! Talk to you Monday!
Now, we wait to hear about the judge’s decision. Just imagine – in a handful of days we could have three babies. Or maybe none at all. The next few days will be strange and long. We can hardly stand not knowing!!
I hope this helps you envision how a call about placing foster children into a home might go.