You’ve done everything they’ve asked – you’re up to speed on all the trainings, you’ve filled out all the forms, making sure to dot every last i and cross every last t. You’re prepared to be a foster parent, but what you weren’t prepared for was the wait. Now you’re wondering, “Will I ever get that call?” Or maybe you’re fresh out of PRIDE training, having just arrived home from your session, and are excited to move forward. As you may have seen in our previous post about the foster care placement process, there are many factors which affect how long a foster care placement might take.
Foster Care Placement FAQ Contents
- I got my license, but I’ve been sitting by the phone for weeks! How long before I get a foster care placement?
- When I do get the call, what’s the process like?
- I didn’t think I’d have to wait so long to help a child in need. Can I speed up the foster care placement process?
- I’m a bit worried that my first foster care placement will be more than I can handle. Do I always have to accept a foster care placement?
- Is there any special training I should take that will help me get a foster care placement sooner?
I got my license, but I’ve been sitting by the phone for weeks! How long before I get a foster care placement?
“Each case is different and there are no set times for how long it will take for a placement to happen. The key is to be ready and prepared for that call; it can come at anytime and any day which is one of the reasons we send out FAFS’ ‘When The Phone Rings’ FAQ to all of the newly licensed parents.”
– Veronica Moore, FAFS Family Advocate
The simple fact is that no one can really be sure how quickly you’ll receive a placement. There are so many different factors that come into play, it would be too complicated to predict. The best advice we have is to prepare yourself as you wait. FAFS’ “When The Phone Rings” FAQ is a great resource you can use to get ready for that call. There, you’ll find a list of questions you’ll want to ask your caseworker when the call for a foster care placement finally comes.
When I do get the call, what’s the process like?
The Local DCP&P Office Facilitator will call you and provide you with information regarding the child to see if you are interested in accepting the foster care placement. When they call, make sure you’re given full disclosure about the child in need of placement (see FAFS’ “When The Phone Rings” FAQ for ideas on what kinds of questions to ask). This way, you can get a full understanding of the needs and challenges that child is facing, as well as any plans the state has in place to help the child. Assuming you agree to accept the placement, the child will be placed in your home shortly thereafter. The amount of time between acceptance and actual placement will depend on a number of other factors, such as how long it takes to handle and process:
- the child’s pre-placement physical
- the Foster Parent ID Card
- the Medicaid Card
- other issues that may arise prior to the placement
I didn’t think I’d have to wait so long to help a child in need. Can I speed up the foster care placement process?
There are a few things that will affect how quickly you might get a call. The most immediately obvious of these is the county of residence because different counties have different needs. For example, in New Jersey at the time this is published, Essex County has the most out-of-home placements, while Hunterdon and Sussex Counties have the least. Therefore, a foster parent waiting for a foster care placement in Hunterdon or Sussex should expect to wait longer than a foster parent in Essex.
Of course, there are other factors that affect how readily DCP&P will consider a foster parent for placement. The more open to different types of children you are, the more likely it is you’ll soon receive a foster care placement. The age range you want will affect how often you get a call: the largest age range for children in out of home foster care placement is 6-12 years, while the smallest is youth 18 years or older. Essentially, the type of child you want will affect how often you get a call. If you’re willing to invite any child into your home you will most likely get a call quickly. If you want a certain age, race, religion, health status or ability, you may not get a placement as quickly as foster parents whose criteria are more open.
You may also be more likely to receive a foster care placement if you take in children that others may consider difficult, like teens or children with special needs. While many foster parents do set some ground rules for placements, such as “no foster child older than my oldest biological child,” which is a fairly common one, many are open to helping as many children as they can. Once again, the more open to different types of children you are, the more likely you are to receive a quick placement.
Finally, it’s important to understand that DCP&P cannot provide you with an estimated time because the workers aren’t always aware when children are going to be removed from their home and in need of foster care placement. Remember, these children are being taken away from their biological parents and placed into foster care, and such situations are never easy or uncomplicated. The Division will always try to ensure that removal is a last resort and can enact measures such as a Safety Protection Plan and/or place the child into kinship care with a relative or close family friend.
“Another thing to consider is that the Division will often have large sibling groups that need to be placed together or children that are exposed to drugs or alcohol in-vitro. If a family is willing or able to accept these placements, they will be an asset to the Division.”
– Valerie Kerr, FAFS Family Advocate
To help you better understand the demographics of foster children so you may specify your desires for a foster care placement, you can view the DCF Quarterly Foster Care Demographic Survey.
I’m a bit worried that my first foster care placement will be more than I can handle. Do I always have to accept a foster care placement?
Quite simply, you should never take in a foster child you are certain won’t be a good fit for your family just because you want a placement. You always have the right to say no in the event you think that the placement you’re being offered is a bad match
Only you will know what your family can and cannot handle, and though you may be anxious for a fast placement, it’s important that you turn a placement down if you think you (or your family) are not prepared for it.
Is there any special training I should take that will help me get a foster care placement sooner?
As we mentioned previously, DCP&P is trying hard to avoid removal and prefers to place children in kinship homes – that is, with relatives like a grandmother or uncle, or in some cases, a close family friend. This represents a change in direction for DCP&P over the past few years. Foster parents who are trained in handling special cases, such as medically fragile children and teens, are more likely to get placements in this new environment. With this in mind, you may want to consider additional training that could make you more likely to be called when a child with needs that match your expertise is in need of foster care placement.
“I would also recommend the ‘Welcome to Your New Home’ training offered by FAFS. This will assist the resource parent in dealing with the new experience of bringing a child into their home, and will help you to not only make the child feel welcome but also to involve your family members to make the transition as smooth as possible for both parent and child.”
– Veronica Moore, FAFS Family Advocate
Frank Alvarez is the Digital Media Coordinator at Foster and Adoptive Family Services.