For first-time foster parents, awaiting your first placement or the arrival of your foster child can be anxiety-inducing, exciting, emotional, scary, and everything in between. Unlike awaiting the birth of a child where have a grasp of what it will be like, it’s hard to know what to expect in a situation that is so out of the norm for most people- a situation that will likely feel very foreign to you.
Many foster families had no idea what to expect when they received their first placement call. Unlike a biological child where you grow up with them, these children are coming in with their own personal background- with stories and experiences, and likely, some very tough times that have impacted them in various ways. They’ve each already developed their personality and individuality that you’ll have to learn and get to know.
The world of foster care is ever-changing, and you should always be ready for the unexpected. That being said, here are several guidelines to help give you an idea of what life as a foster parent might be like, and what to expect when receiving a new placement.
- Be ready for placements to change. Placements fall through all the time, for a variety of reasons. When you receive a new placement, try to continue on with life as normal for the most part. While preparing for a child to arrive is important, do tasks that will be beneficial for you to do whether or not the child ends up staying in your home. Once you receive confirmation, you can begin preparing a room or taking out clothes.
- Expect little information. Within placements, there is the desire to protect the privacy of both the biological family and the foster family. It may be frustrating when your caseworker may not tell you all the details regarding the situation of your child, but just understand it’s because they’re likely not allowed to do so.
Usually, the system only knows why the child was removed, not all the background regarding any possible neglect, or medical conditions and behavioral issues they may suffer from on top of it. Most importantly, except for in rare instances, they truly don’t know how long the child will need to stay with you.
- Expect to ask for help. And expect to make great friends. A great thing about the journey of foster care is the community that you build along the way. You may expect that you’ll be able to do this alone, and though you may be capable, there will be instances where you need to ask for help, and it’s important to understand that there is no shame in doing so.
There may be visitations and appointments for your child that will be hard for you to transport them to, or a last-minute placement that you’re not able to properly prepare for. This is when having a support group that is ready to help is essential- whether it be friends, family or other foster parents you meet along the way.
Lastly, expect to figure things out as you go. Truthfully, each and every placement is different, just as each and every child is unique. Try to take things each day at a time, because foster care is not a one size fits all.